In 2016, Centrelink began reconciling welfare recipients' records against data from the Australian Taxation Office. In a process that had previously seen 20,000 debt recovery letters issued per year, this new automated data-matching technique, with less human oversight,[4] saw that number increase to 169,000 letters during July-Dec 2016.[5] Opponents of the automated process - known colloquially as 'robo-debt' - say that errors in the system have led to welfare recipients paying nonexistent debts or debts that are larger than what they actually owe. Some welfare recipients have been required to make payments while contesting their debts.[6]

Centrelink commenced initially as a government agency of the Department of Social Security under the trading name of the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency in early 1997. Following the passage of the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Act 1997, the Centrelink brand name came into effect in late 1997. Offices were established nationally to manage services to people in need of social security payments.

On 1 July 2011, Centrelink, together with Medicare Australia, was integrated into the Department of Human Services as a result of the Human Services Act, 2011 (Cth), with the department retaining the brand name as part of its set of master programs.

In 2016 Concentrix, a business services company and subsidiary of U.S.-based SYNNEX Corporation, was one of the companies awarded a contract to operate call centres for Centrelink.[2]

Another company awarded a call centre operating contract by Centrelink is Stellar, a subsidiary of the Nevada-registered U.S. company Stellar LLC.[3]

Following the re-election of the Morrison Federal Government in May 2019, the Department of Human Services was renamed Services Australia.

Automated debt recovery controversy