6.2.1 Information need not be in writing
Generally, the Registrar or delegated officer in Services Australia will accept information in other than written form wherever it is practical to do so. Exceptions to this policy occur where:
- there are legal or other requirements that the information be taken in writing
- there are specific circumstances that suggest information should be taken in writing.
This page also describes the different forms of information that the Registrar may receive and consider and certain information that cannot be considered.
CSA Act section 80C, section 80E, section 98B(1), section 150A, section 151B
CSRC Act section 16A, section 80, section 82, section 86, section 86A
Electronic Transactions Act 1999 section 8
Electronic Transactions Regulations 2000 Schedule 1
On this page
- Legal or other requirements that information be provided in writing
- Specific circumstances that suggest information should be provided in writing
- Consideration of photographic & other forms of information
Legal or other requirements that information be provided in writing
Legislative or other requirements mean that the types of information listed below must be taken in writing.
- Child support agreements: Child support agreements must be in writing and be signed by both parties (CSA Act section 80C and section 80E). A parent's application for acceptance of their child support agreement does not have to be in writing. However, where parents want to extend an agreement to the end of a school year in which a child turns 18, both parents must sign the application (CSA Act section 151B(2)).
- Application for change of assessment: An application for a change of assessment must be made in writing (CSA Act section 98B(1)).
- Objections and associated notices and applications for extension of time: An objection and a response by the other parent must be made in writing (CSRC Act section 80 and section 86). However, an objection to a care percentage decision and a response by the other parent are not required to be lodged in writing (CSRC Act section 80(6) and section 86A).
- Statutory declarations: Statutory declarations are required to be made in writing and to be sworn before a witness authorised under the relevant state legislation.
A person can provide information to the Registrar in writing by sending it to Services Australia in the mail, sending it by facsimile, or arranging for it to be personally delivered to a Services Australia office. A person can also send written information to the Registrar by email or through the Services Australia website (Electronic Transactions Act 1999 section 8). If sending an application for a change of assessment via online services, the form must be signed before it is scanned and sent.
Specific circumstances that suggest information should be provided in writing
Apart from the situations mentioned above, the Registrar can specify how an application, notice, election or reply must be made (CSA Act section 150A and CSRC Act section 16A).
Services Australia will accept information in other than written form (apart from information that must be taken in writing) except where specific circumstances suggest the information should be provided in writing.
Specific factors related to the case or the context in which the information is being provided may mean that information that will generally be accepted in other than written form should be requested in writing. Services Australia will consider the following:
- The parties exchanging the information must be comfortable with giving the information in other than written form. Services Australia officers will not insist that information be provided in other than written form. It is an option for parents. Parents who prefer to provide information in writing are able to do so. Services Australia officers may suggest that completing the appropriate form would be a better option in circumstances where there are communication difficulties.
- The parties exchanging the information must be confident that the information is reliable. When making a record of information provided in a form other than in writing, Services Australia officers may read back to the person the information they have provided and ask the person to confirm it. Services Australia officers will explain how the information being provided by a parent may affect their child support assessment or obligations. Where a parent has provided information other than in writing in the past, but has later retracted or amended the information, Services Australia officers may suggest that the information would be better provided in writing.
- The parties exchanging the information must be confident that the information is readily capable of being understood. Complex factual situations may be best dealt with in writing. In many complicated situations, conversation helps to clarify the situation. In other situations, it is better to deal with the issue in writing. Services Australia officers will exercise judgment to decide whether the situation is complex and whether it is best dealt with in writing, by discussion, or by a combination of both.
The parties exchanging the information should be confident that the information is not being given under duress. Services Australia officers will not accept information from a person where it seems that they have provided the information under duress. The officer receiving the information should be confident that the person providing the information fully understands the effect that the information will have on their child support assessment or obligations. Before accepting information, the officer will explain to the person how the information will affect their child support assessment or obligations, and the extent and manner of any disclosure to the other parent. The officer will assist with obtaining advice on how the information provided may affect their Centrelink benefits. Services Australia officers will suggest that parents seek independent legal advice where appropriate.
Services Australia officers will check a parent's identity (6.3) when obtaining information.
Where an application or election can be made other than in written form, the effect of the Registrar accepting the information in another form is the same as the person making a written application or election. The date that all of the relevant information was obtained is the date of lodgement of that application or election.
Services Australia officers will arrange to have the appropriate form sent to a parent where it is not practical to take the information in a form other than in writing.
Consideration of photographic & other forms of information
Services Australia receives information in many forms although it is usually received in either written or oral form. In some cases, a person may provide photographic or other forms of information as evidence in support of their claims. In general, Services Australia will consider all information provided regardless of its form.
There is no law or regulation that states that evidence must be provided in any particular form. All information, whether documentary, oral, or photographic in nature, falls within the scope of evidence and records for the purposes of Commonwealth operations.
Screen-captures and prints of internet pages (e.g. a person's business website or Facebook page, YouTube videos, LinkedIn pages, etc.) may also be relevant information that Services Australia may consider.
As with information of all kinds, photographic or video evidence may be relevant, although may not be conclusive of anything. The Registrar will consider a photograph or video that purports to be evidence of something as no less authoritative than a written statement making the same assertion. A decision-maker considering such evidence will take the same steps and conduct the same enquiries as for any other evidence to satisfy themselves of the relevance, accuracy, and veracity of the information provided.
Services Australia will exchange information (whether photographic or otherwise) with the other party where required by law or to ensure that procedural fairness is afforded to both parties (e.g. during a change of assessment (2.6.5) or objection process (4.1.6)).