Centrelink has apologised after a Brisbane mother received an automated message refusing to recognise her same-sex marriage earlier this week.
Lorraine Pacey told Fairfax Media she was attempting to apply for a childcare rebate and change her marital status through the Centrelink website, but was refused on the basis that her marriage was not legally recognised.
“You indicated that your relationship status is married and recorded your partner’s sex as the same sex as yourself,” the website message read.
“Under Australian law, marriages between same-sex couples are not recognised.
“Please ensure that you have selected the appropriate sex or relationship status for your relationship.”
Pacey, whose 2014 New Zealand marriage to her wife is legally recognised in Australia from last month, said she was upset by the message.
“I was surprised at my emotional reaction to it,” she told Fairfax Media.
“I took that message as being quite disrespectful and offensive.”
She said the department only needed to replace the message with one explaining the system was yet to be updated to reflect the new legislation.
A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services, which is in charge of Centrelink, said the online systems were updated overnight to remove the error message.
“We’d like to apologise to anybody who was distressed or offended by the message before it was removed,” a spokesperson said.
“Customers can be reassured that further work to update our systems to allow the department to record same-sex marriages is under way and we hope to have this rectified early next month.
“Unfortunately our current IT system houses layers of complex business rules and processes which means seemingly simple changes take time to work through to ensure they don’t have unforeseen impacts on other parts of the system.”
The spokesperson said the department had been recognising same-sex relationships for the purposes of social security and family assistance since July 2009.