Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia

  • Hamilton and Secretary, Department of Social Services (Social services second review) [2020] AATA 1918 (26 June 2020) – Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia
    Covid-19 pandemic’ – ‘Domestic violence’ – ‘Financial abuse’ – ‘New start allowance’ – ‘Special circumstances’ – ‘Workers compensation

    Case type: Review

    Facts: The female applicant sought review of the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Social Services and Child Support Division, which affirmed the decision of the Department of Human Services rejecting her new start allowance claim because she had a compensation lump sum preclusion period from 2 March 2010 to 21 April 2025. The applicant had received a workers compensation lump sum payment for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. Her evidence was that she suffered severe financial hardship as her abusive male ex-partner had accessed and gambled her savings. She terminated the relationship and had to sell her home due to her financial difficulties, retaining about $400,000. The relationship resumed and he used her ATM card to take money from her bank account threatening to beat her if she did not provide access to her funds. The applicant finally terminated the relationship and said he had taken all the money which she had following the sale of her house which represented all that remained of the settlement sum she had received ([67]). The applicant was unable to obtain continuous employment and was experiencing severe financial hardship ([79]).

    Issue: Whether special circumstances exist.

    Held: The Tribunal set aside the decision and held that the applicant’s circumstances were "special" pursuant to s 1184K, such that much of her compensation payment should be treated as not having been made so as to reduce the preclusion period applicable to her compensation payment so that it ended on 21 May 2020 ([82]). The special circumstances in accordance with s 1184K(1) related to the totality of the applicant’s circumstances, including her financial hardship, her injuries, her financial deprivation following domestic violence and financial abuse ([79]).

    The hearing was conducted via telephone in accordance with the provisions of the Tribunal’s COVID-19 Special Measures Practice Direction - Freedom of Information, General and Veterans’ Appeals Divisions ([29]).