Nurse fronts Launceston Magistrates Court over $33,000 Centrelink fraud

An East Coast nurse who defrauded Centrelink to the tune of $33,000 is expected to be sentenced next week.

Christine Louise Dawson appeared in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with two counts of obtaining a financial advantage.

The 37-year-old mother of six pleaded guilty at an earlier appearance.

The charges related to over-payments of her Newstart Allowance and single parent payments, spanning more than two years, from 2012 to 2014.

The court heard Dawson made a number of dishonest Centrelink claims while employed in two different jobs, one being the Department of Health and Human Services.

She declared no income on some of her fortnightly claims and under-declared others. The over-payments were detected by an Australian Taxation Office data match.

Dawson has so far paid back nearly $12,000 of the more than $33,000 in over-payments.

Defence lawyer James Oxley told the court his client still had four dependent children living with her.

He said she was on maternity leave but was ready to return to work as a nurse at St Mary’s Hospital pending the results of the court case.

Mr Oxley said the offending started after the breakdown of Dawson’s 17-year marriage in 2012. Her husband had been a contractor for Gunns before the timber company’s downfall.

After the relationship ended, Dawson was left in a “poor financial state”, Mr Oxley said.

She had credit card debts of about $20,000 and was paying off her car.

The court was told she found it “extremely difficult” to meet her minimum debt repayments while “keeping her head above water”.

Mr Oxley said Dawson’s motivation was providing for her children and paying off her debts.

He said she felt “stupid and embarrassed” by her conduct.

The prosecutor told the court the Commonwealth was seeking reparation for the remaining money, which amounted to about $21,000. 

She said a term of imprisonment would be appropriate for the crime because it was sustained over the course of more than two years and involved a significant amount of money.

Magistrate Ken Stanton adjourned the matter for sentence on July 20. 

“I’m going to think very carefully about this matter,” he said.