ABSTUDY Guide for Indigenous law students


ABSTUDY is a set of payments from the government for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices. It is open to students at all levels from primary – doctorate study.

ABSTUDY for full-time tertiary students

Generally, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  tertiary students studying full time are eligible for ABSTUDY and may be eligible for more than one payment type.

ABSTUDY offers the below payments:

ABSTUDY Living Allowance is a fortnightly payment to students. You must be a full-time student. The amount paid will depend on certain factors.

The amount of Living Allowance you are entitled will depend on your circumstances, such as:

  • your age,
  • the level of study you are enrolled,
  • whether you are independent or a dependent,*
  • whether you live away from home,
  • if you have a partner and
  • your personal income.

*You are found to be a dependent if you are under 21 years old. You may be found to be independent through exceptional circumstances.  Dependent means that your parent or guardian’s income will be used to assess your eligibility for ABSTUDY.

If you are 22 or older, you are automatically found to be independent. If you are independent, your personal assets and income will be used to assess your eligibility. Your partner’s income may also be assessed.

How much can you receive? 

If you are a full-time tertiary student and under the age of 21, the maximum fortnightly payment you may receive is $354.60. However, if you are living away from home you may be entitled up to $512.50.

If you are 22 or older the maximum you may receive is $629.50 a fortnight.

If you have dependent children, the maximum fortnightly payment is $512.50 if you are younger than 22 and $573.30 if you are older.

If you are a masters or doctorate student of any age the maximum fortnightly payment is $1096.90

ABSTUDY Incidentals Allowance is a one-off yearly payment to assist with the costs of starting or continuing study.

You may receive the incidentals Allowance if you are a student and eligible for the living allowance. You can be part-time or full time enrolled to receive this payment. This payment is usually automatically provided by ABSTUDY yearly. The amount you receive wlil depend on the length of your course per year.

If this allowance is not provided to you automatically, it is best to get in contact with ABSTUDY.

Additional Incidentals Allowance is an additional allowance if you have essential course costs over prescribed amounts and if all students in the course incur the costs.

You may be entitled for an additional incidentals allowance if you have essential course costs that all students in your course must cover.  The amount you are eligible for will depend on the length of your course. This incidentals allowance will not be awarded automatically, and you will need to contact ABSTUDY and inform them of your compulsory extra costs to receive this allowance.

Additional Assistance is additional allowances if you are in severe financial distress and at risk of dropping your studies.

ABSTUDY Fares Allowance is an allowance to cover the costs of travel while you study.

The Fares Allowance may be used to cover the costs of travel between your home and the place of study if you live away from home. This payment is regularly used by students who utilise RCO as they live on campus throughout the academic year and return home during university breaks.

You must be studying full time and ABSTUDY will work out the most reasonable travel option for you. They will take into account, cost and time when making their decision. You can travel via train, bus, plane, car or ferry. ABSTUDY will book the ticket for your travel after receiving relevant details from you.

You will only be covered for two trips per year. This is usually used for travel to uni at the beginning of the year and the cost of the trip back home at the end of the year.

 You may also be eligible for extra travel costs in certain circumstances such as excess baggage fees. Before your trip you should discuss all options with the ABSTUDY service provider to ensure your trip goes smoothly.

The Residential Cost Option is available to full time students who live in student accommodation away from home to study. ABSTUDY will pay the education institution, college or hostel directly for costs such as accommodation, meals if provided and compulsory fees. The payment does not cover rental bonds. 

Put simply, this option will allow you to live in student accommodation for free* if you are a full-time student and eligible for ABSTUDY living allowance payments. It should be noted that this option will reduce the maximum living allowance payment you are entitled. You will only be eligible to receive approximately $48 maximum fortnightly. This may affect your income entitlements if you work or receive other scholarships.

You can only access this option if the university is over 1.5 hours travel from your home (i.e. parent’s house) if you are a dependent.

Unfortunately, you cannot access RCO if you have a Relocation Scholarship, Indigenous Commonwealth Accommodation Scholarship or an Indigenous Student Success Program. This is because these scholarships are intended for accommodation costs. Other scholarships for accommodation may also affect your eligibility for RCO. It is important to check the requirements of your scholarships and how they may affect your ABSTUDY entitlements.

How to apply (step-by-step guide)

You may claim payments online, in person or over the phone. It is easier to do this online or over the phone. 

If claiming online, you will need a MyGov account that is linked to Centrelink. If you do not have a MyGov account, you will need to set it up. You will need a Customer Reference Number (CRN) to link your Centrelink online account to MyGov. If you have received any form of Centrelink payment you will have a CRN, however if you do not you may apply for one through MyGov after verifying your identity.

Apply online:

  1. Sign in to myGov and go to Centrelink
  2. Select Payments and Claims from the menu, then Claims, then Make a Claim.
  3. Under students, trainees and apprentices, select Get Started.
  4. Answer all the questions and submit your supporting documents and other forms.
  5. Submit your claim.

Apply by post

If you cannot submit your claim online, you may print a claim form and answer all questions and submit supporting documents. You may then upload the documents online or send it by post to: 

Services Australia Student Services
Reply Paid
Canberra BC ACT 2610

You can track your claim online or ring ABSTUDY for an estimated completion date of your application. The outcome of your claim will be sent online to your myGov Inbox or to you in the mail if you have not enabled emails.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of your claim you can review the decision if you believe ABSTUDY has made a mistake.

You will need supporting documents to be approved for ABSTUDY payments and to demonstrate your eligibility.

These forms include:

  • Your tax file number (TFN). If you do not have one you can apply for one for free on the ATO website.
  • Details of your assets and income, including bank accounts, investments, and savings balances. If you are dependent, details of your parent or guardians’ assets and income may be required.
  • If applicable, information on your partner including citizenship, study, work, and income details.
  • Details regarding your income from employment, including pay slips.
  • Confirmation of your study, scholarship details, academic transcripts etc.

You may not be asked for all these documents, but you should be prepared to provide them. You may also be required to establish Aboriginal or Torres Islander status. Usually Centrelink will accept your declaration and self-identification when applying for ABSTUDY, however they may require evidence of status.

If ABSTUDY or Centrelink require evidence of your Aboriginality or Torres Strait Islander status, you may provide birth records or a Certificate of Aboriginality or genealogies verified by a suitable authority or letters signed by the Chairperson of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisation or through signing an affirmation if you do not have documentation.

Personal Income Test

Your gross income (before any tax deductions) may affect how much ABSTUDY payment you are entitled.

 If you earn $437 or less fortnightly, there will be no effect on your payment.

If you earn between $437 and $524 a fortnight, your payment will be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar you earn over $437.

If you earn $524 or more your payment will be reduced by $43.50 plus 60 cents for every dollar over $524.

Each year you are entitled an Income Bank balance of $10,000. This means that you can earn this amount per year without your payments being affected. 

You must be entitled to receive $1 of ABSTUDY a fortnight to receive RCO. If you earn too high of an income you will no longer be eligible for any ABSTUDY allowance.

Parental Income Test

If your parents earn below $55,626, there will be no effect on payments.

If they earn higher than this amount payments will be reduced by 20 cents for every dollar. Parent income will not be assessment if they receive at least $1 of an income support payment.

Income is assessed for the tax year.

After your application has been approved, Centrelink will enable online reporting of your income. You will need to set this up over the phone with a service employee. Once this is done, you will be able to report your income fortnightly online. It should only take a few minutes per fortnight.

Scholarships may need to be reported as income. Please check with your scholarship provider or ABSTUDY if you are unsure of your responsibilities.

If you do not have the online portal set up or something goes wrong, ABSTUDY support workers will be able to assist you via phone.

  1. Have your proof of enrolment handy and other supporting documents ready before applying on the phone or online.

  2. Be prepared to wait for your payments to be approved. You will be back-paid for the time you spent waiting if you have already started your study.

  3. You may be entitled to more than one payment, so research your eligibility before you apply so that you can get the full amount of benefits you’re entitled.

  4. Before accepting a scholarship, check if the scholarship allows for you to receive ABSTUDY payments alongside scholarship payments.

For more information please see the Services Australia website for ABSTUDY or ABSTUDY videos on YouTube.

Your University Indigenous Centre is also a good place of contact for ABSTUDY information.

If you cannot find an answer online, do not hesitate to ring the ABSTUDY line at 1800 132 317. This is a free call.

ABSTUDY for part-time tertiary students & post-graduate students

(i) Part-time tertiary students

If you are a part time student you are only eligible for the Incidentals Allowances, Fares Allowance, and an Away from Base Assistance (help if you need to be away from home or your study location).

You will NOT be eligible for the living allowance or the residential costs option. External scholarships may also be affected and not applicable to part-time enrolled students.

(ii) Masters and doctorate students

As a masters and doctorate student you may be entitled to an ABSTUDY Thesis Allowance on top of the other payments. You can claim this allowance if you have costs associated with producing your thesis. These costs include printing, publishing, and binding your thesis. ABSTUDY will pay up to $420 for a master’s course thesis and $840 for a doctorate course thesis.

You may apply for this allowance after paying these costs yourself by sending the receipts to ABSTUDY or in advance if you can detail the costs in writing. You must be receiving the ABSTUDY living allowance to receive this allowance and must be full time.


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