Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex de facto couples and their families have the same entitlements as opposite-sex de facto couples and their families.

Removing discrimination

The Government's same-sex law reform package passed through Parliament in November 2008.

The reform removed  discrimination against same-sex de facto couples and their families in areas such as taxation, superannuation, social security and family assistance, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net and the Medicare Safety Net, aged care, veterans' entitlements, immigration, citizenship and child support and family law.

For more information on the same-sex law reform package go to the Attorney-General's Department website.

Equal treatment

The changed laws  mean some same-sex couples and their families are now entitled to receive benefits previously not accessible.

Entitlements may include:

  • partner concession card benefits
  • bereavement benefits if a partner dies
  • exemption of the family home from the assets test when one partner enters nursing home care and the other partner continues to reside there
  • recognition as independent for Youth Allowance if in a same-sex relationship for over 12 months
  • lesbian relationships recognised as a qualifying relationship for Widow Allowance
  • War Widow or widowers pension
  • access to the Child Support Scheme
  • access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare safety nets as a family
  • allowing private sector superannuation trustees to make same-sex couples and their children eligible for reversionary benefits
  • enabling reversionary benefits from Commonwealth (defined benefit) superannuation schemes to be conferred on same-sex partners and the children of same-sex relationships
  • tax concessions.

Some same-sex couples and their families may have their benefits reduced to the same entitlements received by opposite-sex couples and their families in the same circumstances.

Social security and family assistance

From 1 July 2009 changes to social security and family assistance legislation mean that all couples are recognised, regardless the gender of a partner.

Same-sex couples now receive the same entitlements, are assessed in the same way, and have the same obligations, as opposite-sex couples.

Social security and family assistance payments may be affected depending on individual circumstances and the type of payment received. Most payments are assessed based on the combined income and assets of both partners.

If you are in a same-sex relationship and are living together, or usually live together as a same-sex couple you need  to advise Centrelink or the Family Assistance Office. If you don’t advise Centrelink your entitlements might be overpaid and will have to be repaid.

The Centrelink Financial Information Service (FIS) is a free, confidential service that can help you make informed financial decisions. FIS officers can provide information over the phone, at personal interviews, and through financial-education seminars held in a range of locations across Australia. To find out more go to the Department of Human Services website.

A Department of Human Services (Centrelink) social worker can provide short-term counselling, support and information, and can also direct you to other supports and services to assist you. You can ask to speak to a social worker by phoning 13 28 50 (Mon to Fri 8am-5pm) or by visiting your local DHS Service Centre. To find out more go to the Department of Human Services website.

Dad and partner pay

Dad and Partner Pay is a new payment under the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme. It’s now available to eligible working dads or partners (including adopting parents and same-sex partners) who care for a child born or adopted from 1 January 2013.

It provides up to two weeks of government-funded pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage (currently about $606 per week before tax). For more information go to the The Departments website.

Child support

If you are a parent, or non-parent carer, and have children from a previous same-sex relationship you may be eligible for child support.

If you have a child from a previous same-sex relationship you must take reasonable action to obtain child support to get more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A for that child. If you do not take reasonable action, you may have to repay some of your Family Tax Benefit Part A.

For more information go to the Child Support Agency website.

Frequently asked questions

What is a member of a couple for social security and family assistance purposes?

A person is regarded a member of a couple if they live with (or usually live with) their partner, and are either:

  • married
  • in a registered relationship (opposite-sex or same-sex)
  • in a de facto relationship (opposite-sex or same-sex).

What is a registered relationship?

What is a defacto relationship?

What are the factors that are considered when assessing members of a couple?

For more information and answers to these questions go to  the Department of Human Services website.

For more information on social security legislation and a member of a couple definitions go to Social Security Guide

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