Fake Relationship Rorts Targeted by Centrelink

Minister for Human Services Marise PayneHundreds of couples are claiming false marital and relationship status to rort millions of dollars from Centrelink.

In one case a couple claiming to be separated but who were living under the same roof were found to be lying when they announced on Facebook they were expecting a baby.

“Welfare recipients who deliberately fail to declare a new or existing relationship to the Department of Human Services are breaking the law,” Minister for Human Services Marise Payne said.

Last year, 634 people were ordered to pay back $7 million after they were caught falsely declaring their relationship status to get additional payments from Centrelink.

“The consequences of welfare fraud are serious. Sentences can include jail time and people will be forced to repay the benefits they were not entitled to,” Ms Payne said.

Investigators last year conducted 120 investigations into people suspected of being an undeclared member of a couple and 16 were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Half have gone to court.

Rorters are also going online and coaching others on what forms to fill out and what to say in order to claim the extra benefits that go with being separated but living under the same roof.

Tania Sharp was living in the same house with Darren O’Brien, the father of her two youngest children, but was claiming a single parenting payment because she said they were not a de facto couple.

But in January last year she put a message on Facebook saying: “To all of our family and friends … We are expecting a little girl in August. Fingers crossed all goes well xxx — with Darren O’Brien.”

After friends posted their congratulations she wrote: “We had two miscarriages last year so this is the best news. Thanks. we are over the moon!!”

Four months later Centrelink cancelled Ms Sharp’s single parenting payment on the basis they were a couple.

Ms Sharp made several appeals against the decision, arguing the pregnancy was the result of a one-night stand with her ex-partner.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal member Regina Perton said the Facebook messages about the pregnancy “all seem to point to a desired baby that both her parents-to-be were excited about”.

Unlike with their first child, Mr O’Brien also attended the birth of the baby girl.

Ms Perton said Ms Sharp’s claims to be financially independent from Mr O’Brien were also not as clear cut as argued.

“Ms Sharp would not have been living in that property had Mr O’Brien not paid the deposit,” she said. “The tribunal finds Ms Sharp was a member of a couple (when Centrelink cancelled the payment).’’

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Four Italian girls’ Mother cries Wolf one more time


Four Italian sisters with their mother, Laura Kate, in Italy

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!

Perhaps the only one who can accept blame for no longer being believed by anyone is the Australian mother, Laura Kate, at the centre of this sordid affair.

The extent of her deception is by now well known to most, especially after it was revealed in sordid detail in a 60 Minutes special last year.

Well, to re-inforce this point, 60 Minutes did a follow up interview with the two eldest daughters, aired last Sunday.

To which it was clear that there was no sign of any abuse of the daughters, abuse which Laura Kate claimed permeated their whole family, do the degree where the father was alleged to have also sexually abused the girls.

All these allegations were nothing more than convenient lies.

In fact the girls claimed that they were happy, and they felt loved.

In any case Laura Kate, who initiated the resulting international media frenzy by making sordid allegations against the father via the media, and by encouraging the girls to repeat these allegations on video, all of a sudden believes that exposing her daughters to the shear light of the media is not good for them.

Hmm, some would argue of course that perhaps it has more to do with the girls current happy-ness, which only underlines the extent of the mother’s deception.

Laura Kate wrote to 60 MInutes and Channel 9, pleading with them not to air the interview with the girls on national television.

The letter reads:


My lawyers have advised me to contact you with regard to the entertainment piece you propose to air on 60 Minutes as they are unable to represent me in Australia…

I am currently in Italy spending the last few days of some very precious time with my daughters and it was brought to my attention only yesterday that you had interviewed my daughters without my knowledge or consent.

As a mother to a young child, I’m sure you can appreciate my concern over the disrespect to me as their parent and would certainly not allow anyone to approach your child to appear in a tv segment to be shown internationally without your knowledge or consent.

Not only that, the girls were bribed with money and when they said no, offered even more money, which is simply an unconscionable act. How dare anyone!

Perhaps you [believed] I had authorised or consented to the girls being interviewed prior to having my lawyers intervene.

As their parent with active custodial rights I did not consent to the girls being interviewed and I would never consent to them being interviewed, particularly when they’ve only recently spoken to a judge in a pending case about their future.

In addition, both parties have been court ordered to not speak with or make statements to the media as part of previous rulings.

As the commercials started to air yesterday and the hate campaigners came back out in force (many on the 60 Minutes Facebook page – how do you think the girls will feel to read those nasty, hurtful comments?), my daughters told me the truth about what had happened.

The girls were advised … not to tell me that they’d spoken to the media or participated in staged interviews ….

I have spent much of the last 24 hours consoling all four girls ……. They’re distraught and in an extreme state of stress ……….

Contrary to what [you may have been told] he did proceed with criminal charges against me and tried to have my parental rights removed entirely.

What [they] may not have also advised is that we’re still in the middle of custody and divorce proceedings that are still being decided.

Claire and Emily Vincenti, two of the four Italian sisters at the centre of a custody battle talk to 60 Minutes.

Claire and Emily Vincenti, two of the four Italian sisters at the centre of a custody battle talk to 60 Minutes.

Allowing your segment to go ahead is a violation of the court ruling regarding no media involvement and simply adds additional stress to the girls’ lives which is not necessary and extremely hurtful to them as children.

Tara Brown, you and 60 Minutes have already put our family and my children through hell with your previous one-sided, inaccurate story which aired solely for ratings and for the entertainment of people who do not give a damn about my children and their physical or emotional welfare.

I ask that you do not do this again. Perhaps your intent is to fully destroy and discredit me and my family, but I doubt you’ve taken one second to consider how that affects the girls now that they realise they were manipulated and used simply because they’re a good ‘story’.

On behalf of my four daughters, and as a mother who is deeply concerned for how they will cope when I am not there to support them and they are left to their own devices to cope with the fallout from the segment airing, I ask that you show some humanity and compassion, put your ego aside, and leave me, them and our family alone.

It is traumatic enough that the court system has been so slow to rule in each case. Don’t make it worse for the girls because you want to attempt to destroy my reputation once again, because it’s your ‘job’.

Being a good human is a far more important job; one I would hope you’re teaching your son.

Please consider this my formal request to not air the segment you’ve produced involving my daughters.”

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A Child’s Right to be Heard

children speak upThe welfare of a child is a “paramount consideration” when making any decision that may affect them. This fundamental principle is formalised by the Family Law Act 1957 (‘FLA’), echoing the requirements of the Convention of the Rights of the Child to give children a voice in court, either directly or through a representative.

When directly participating in litigation, children are vulnerable to becoming a weapon of their parents’ disputes, used to achieve one party’s desired outcome.

Even when children act on their own interests, their insight may be limited by their age or maturity.

As a result, Australian courts prohibit children from being present at their parents’ court proceedings unless called upon by a court order.

Instead, their long-term needs are determined and expressed through a medium or representative – commonly a family consultant’s report, expert witness or independent children’s lawyer.

This considers the ‘best interests’ of the child while minimising distress.

Following a court order or individual application, children’s views are captured by ‘family reports’ in 60% of cases.

They are often required where the children are mature enough to express their own wishes or are victims of abuse.

Written by family consultants who must “ascertain” and “include the views of the child”, family reports are the second most referenced documents in judgements.

Therefore, both the child’s current wishes and future needs are articulated, strongly influencing the outcome.

If a family report is insufficient and specialist knowledge is required, experts may be employed to represent the child’s stance.

Either by application or court order, the expert will be selected through mutual agreement of the parties or the court. Restrictions on expert examinations are in place to ensure children are not traumatised by excessive interviewing.

Additionally, assessors may aid the judge’s understanding of expert evidence but are rarely appointed. Other mediums that may complement expert or family reports include “affidavit, video conference, closed circuit television or other electronic communication” as suggested by Family Law Rules 2004.

Although the reports are prepared for trial, they can encourage settlement in the 95% of family disputes that do not go to court.

If early settlement occurs, one can only hope that the warring parents have agreed on an arrangement that respects their child’s needs.

Parenting plans are written agreements about each parents’ responsibilities. This may include the child’s residence, time with each parent, maintenance and contact with others.

The FLAencourages but does not require parents to regard “the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration”. Fortunately a dysfunctional parenting plan can be altered by subsequent agreement.

Further, it has minimal legal value apart from overriding earlier court orders and becoming evidence for later court cases. Only a judge’s parenting orders are legally enforceable.

Overall, family courts have shifted towards a less adversarial approach. The whole procedure is simplified and negotiation-based with discussion guided by judges rather than parties.

At his own motion, the judge can question witnesses and call for evidence. If the judge excessively intervenes with the conduct of counsel and subsequent outcome, the decision can later be overturned.

Contrary to the win-lose mentality generated by an adversarial system, this co-operative model focuses on the child’s welfare.

Amid a complex adult conflict, it is easy for a child’s small voice to be warped or lost. The Family Court of Australia provides a representative network and procedural safeguards that both protect and involve the innocent third party.

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