On November 19, 2019, a landmark case between Victoria Legal Aid (who represented Deanna Amato) and the Federal Government, ruled that the income-averaging actions of the DHS were unlawful. In this case, debt notifications were issued on the basis of how much a recipient state they earn on a fortnightly basis, and not according to their exact annual income. While the DHS state Jarrad’s case was not part of an income-averaging error, the government has since halted this method of calculating debt.
In a statement to Mamamia, the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie, calls this automated debt-recovery system an “abuse of government”.
“Robo-debts hit people even when they’re at their most vulnerable. Robo-debt is an abuse of government power, and it should have never seen the light of day,” she says.
“We have repeatedly warned the government that robo-debt is grossly unfair and contrary to basic legal principles, especially the use of automated averaging to calculate debts, and the reversal of onus of proof, which has led to inaccurate assessments and people being pursued for debts they do not owe.
“While we’re relieved to hear that the government is finally halting the use of averaging to calculate debts, we call on the government to replace the entire error-ridden program with a humane form of debt recovery. “
For Kath, Jarrad’s death has left her with an enduring sense of anxiety and sadness.
“I don’t have a partner, I don’t have anyone else, he was just my everything. Everything I did was just for him,” she says.
“Jarrad was someone that without a doubt gave me the happiest times of my life. He was so loving and protective of me and just the sight of him made me so proud to be his mother. He represented state in swimming. Won a gold medal for the nationals in volleyball. He did well in every sport he played. Did well at school, and was a high achiever.
“He is and always will be the best human I have known and I feel so blessed to call him my son.”
If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. If you are struggling with debt, you can also contact the National Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007 who will help you get back on track.