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with shopping, cooking, cleaning, dressing and bathing. 1. In February 2003 the Other Party, Ms Pillsbury, moved from Adelaide
to Melbourne to study nursing. A mutual friend, Ms Sue Sylvester, introduced her to Mr Schuester and on 20 February 2003 Ms Pillsbury moved in with Mr Schuester. Because of Ms Pillsbury’s studies, she was in a position to assist Mr Schuester with his medical needs. They reached an agreement where she would provide care to him in return for board and lodging. 2. In June 2006, Mr Schuester moved from Melbourne to Adelaide, and
Ms Pillsbury moved with him. 3. Mr Schuester has been in receipt of Disability Support Pension (DSP)
since 2001. Between 3 March 2003 and 1 June 2006, Ms Pillsbury received a Carer’s Payment (CP) in respect of the care she provided to Mr Schuester. 4. On 3 August 2009, Centrelink received an anonymous tip-off stating
that Mr Schuester and Ms Pillsbury were deliberately misleading Centrelink about their relationship and that they were, in fact, members of a couple. This sparked an investigation into their living arrangements. On 11 September 2009, a Centrelink officer decided that Mr Schuester and Ms Pillsbury were members of a couple and had been so since 20 February 2003. On 12
October 2009, a Centrelink officer made a decision to raise and recover from Mr Schuester a debt in respect of DSP paid for the period 20 February 2003 to 10 September 2009. On 4 January 2010, a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer (ARO) affirmed both decisions under review. Mr Schuester challenged these decisions in the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) and on 23 April 2010 the SSAT decided to also affirm the decisions under review.
On 10 May 2010 Mr Schuester applied to this Tribunal for review of the
SSAT’s decisions and on 14 May 2010 Ms Pillsbury was made a party to the proceedings. 6. Mr Schuester and Ms Pillsbury gave the following unchallenged
evidence at the hearing. (a) Mr Schuester moved to Adelaide in June 2006. (b) Ms Pillsbury moved to Adelaide at around about the same time as Mr Schuester in order to be closer to her family and friends. (c) Since they were both living in the same city once more they decided to resume their previous living arrangements, although Ms Pillsbury now paid rent. (d) From June 2006 to December 2009 Mr Schuester and Ms Pillsbury continued to share accommodation in Adelaide. (e) In December 2006 they took a holiday together to Thailand. (f) At no time did they have joint ownership of any major assets or any joint debts. (g) They paid bills jointly. During the time that they lived together Ms Pillsbury had access to Mr Schuester’s bank accounts and withdrew money from his account to pay for rent, groceries and other bills. (h) Due to Mr Schuester’s medical condition, Ms Pillsbury took responsibility for all cooking and cleaning during the time that they lived together. (i) In all the houses in which they lived they had separate bedrooms.
Their relationship has always been one of carer and caree and they have never viewed themselves as members of a couple. In particular, there has never been a sexual relationship between them.
(k) In 2008, Mr Schuester was admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and listed Ms Pillsbury as his ‘partner’ in the hospital’s admission forms. When questioned about this, he said that he had done this because he was worried that Ms Pillsbury would be restricted as to the hours at which she could visit him. (l) Ms Pillsbury also gave evidence that she moved out from the house she shared with Mr Schuester when the Centrelink debt was raised. She said that she was, however, still contributing to Mr Schuester’s grocery bill because she ate meals with him on a regular basis. When asked why she ate with Mr Schuester, she stated that she continued to cook and care for Mr Schuester. 7. Ms Sylvester also gave the following evidence to the Tribunal. (a) She introduced Ms Pillsbury to Mr Schuester in 2003 and suggested that it might be mutually beneficial for Ms Pillsbury and Mr Schuester to live together. (b) She has remained friends with both of them and she has seen them attend social functions together when these involved mutual friends. She has also seen them socialise separately to each other. (c) In the time she has known them they have never presented as a couple to their social circle.
ISSUES BEFORE THE TRIBUNAL 8. (a) The issues before the Tribunal are as follows: whether Mr Schuester and Ms Pillsbury are members of a couple for the purposes of the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth); and (b) if so, the period during which Mr Schuester and Ms Pillsbury were members of a couple.