A lack of checks on the allocation of flood disaster payments is fuelling widespread rorting of the system, with fraudsters boasting publicly about the ‘free money’, a Central News investigation can reveal.

About $1.8 billion has been paid out by the Coalition and Labor governments since March, with only $28.9 million reclaimed after fraud investigations relating to the March flood grants.

During the recent June to July flood payments, $10.7 million has so far been investigated for fraud, but numerous people Central News spoke to told of rorting with impunity.

Flood victims say they should be getting more financial support, rather than the cash lining the pockets of those who don’t need it and don’t qualify for it.

Reports of fraudulent applications have surfaced across social media with claims that people have allegedly been applying for flood disaster payments despite being unaffected by flooding. 

It only took about 15 minutes to fill out then I got the money ($1,000) in about two days.

The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is a lump sum payment to help those significantly affected by NSW floods in July 2022. During March there were many allegations of fraud within NSW when claiming the flood payments. With the return of the payments in July, claims of people scamming the payments have returned. 

Despite only allowing those who live in LGA affected areas to apply for the payment, many young people have allegedly been entering their old home addresses as they are within the specific affected LGAs.   

One 22-year-old Sydney university student who wished to remain anonymous said he and his friends successfully claimed a federal $1,000 grant just weeks ago despite being unaffected.  

“I moved to Sydney for university about three years ago and I live in the city,” he said “Because one of my residential addresses is still in Nambucca, I was able to claim $1,000. Because my house has been affected before I just answered the questions by describing previous instances.  

“It only took about 15 minutes to fill out then I got the money in about two days.”


A Reddit user complaining about family members illicitly claiming flood relief payments.

The university student also said he was also able to help a friend receive the $1,000 payment. 

 “Yes, my house back home was affected but my parents were able to claim their own money so I also let my best mate put down my address so he could get $1000 too by claiming he was my roommate,” he added. 

As of July 21, the NSW Government recorded $168.1 million had been paid out in flood disaster grants since flooding returned earlier in July. Previously, more than $1.7 billion was paid out in Federal Government emergency support for victims of the flooding disasters earlier in March and April.  

The government also recorded that 8,809 ineligible applications had been declined, valued at $83.2 million. According to Service NSW, the applications that were declined are under review for possible fraud.

Amongst social media, many Australians have been posting Tik Toks joking about fake plans to fraudulently claim the flood payments.  

Comedians like Jon Bernard Kairouz have posted videos of themselves damaging home items and furniture as ‘proof’ they deserve to be paid. 


Popular Tik Tok comedian Jon Bernard Kairouz throwing a TV into a pool for viral video

NSW resident humorously hosing her backyard to create a ‘flood’

While there is no suggestion that the comedians have made fake claims, commenters either ackowledged the humour or were concerned about influencers normalising welfare fraud.  

Comments include: “You’re hosing in the wrong place do it inside.” 

“Oh nooo don’t expose what we were doing to Centrelink.”

“This is funny I’ll admit but seriously those who rort the government for these payments when they don’t need it is outright wrong.”

Despite efforts to stop fraudulent applications, many are allegedly getting away with their money, leaving victims of the floods angry and disappointed. 

One anonymous regional NSW resident told Central News she and her family were ‘devastated’ about their home damage earlier in April. 

“Water started seeping through our walls causing our furniture to swell, ruining our floors and carpets which has created a substantial amount of mould,” she said.   

She also complained about those scamming the government relief.

“It really does make me and my family upset seeing people who aren’t in need of the money, or people who weren’t eligible for payments claim them so easily,” she added.  

It angers me hearing them boasting about their ‘free money’, which they still have when I have my family, who have now had to renovate their homes out of their own pockets.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten recently warned Australians thinking of defrauding the Government that Services Australia had a sophisticated fraud-detection method in place.  

He told Yahoo Finance “intelligence and investigation capabilities mean if you are fraudulently claiming disaster payments, you will be caught and may be prosecuted, people who try to take advantage of this support by committing fraud is about the lowest of low behaviour”.  

 Despite the Governments “sophisticated intelligence and investigation capabilities”, Service NSW fraud services struggled during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2021.

Service NSW CEO Damon Rees told a parliamentary inquiry into state government grants that $40 million worth of COVID 19 grants were blocked on suspicion, yet out of 3.6 billion payments paid to applicants, the only funds that were recovered relating to fraud included $40,350.

Many flood affected victims like Cooper Stokes believe the lack of COVID-19 fraudulent funds recovered  will be prevalent in the flood disaster payments.

Stokes, a NSW resident whose family was severely affected by the floods, accused the government of failing to properly address the fraud.

He told Central News: “I know several people who live in my suburb that claimed the payment despite our area being pretty much flood free. 

“It angers me hearing them boasting about their ‘free money’, which they still have when I have my family, who have now had to renovate their homes out of their own pockets. $1,000 is not enough for those severely affected. I have barely heard anything on the news as the government continues to focus on the payments as a resource and not the fraud involved.

“If the government actually cared about the floods and us as affected Australians, they could recover the fraudulent money and give it back to those like my family who actually need it.” 


Original photo of family home in Hawkesbury City Council by Cooper Stokes.

Despite pressure on Scott Morrison in the lead-up to the federal election in May, little action appeared to have been taken to stop fraudulent applicants. 

Another Reddit user questioned the Morrison government’s lack of response to fraudulent applications after their family members got away with their illicit payments during the March floods.

Reddit user questioning the government

Flood affected residents in Regional Queensland reported during the March floods they received letters from government agencies addressed to their home yet in a stranger’s name, suggesting scammers were applying for the disaster payments using flood affected home addresses to receive their payments.  

Gympie pensioner Len Kippax told ABC news he had received more than 30 letters addressed to different names during April. 

“I’ve lived here for 20 years and I’ve never heard of these people, I think there’s a bit of a scheme going on” Mr Kippax said. 

General manager of Services Australia also told ABC news that several false claims from people outside flood zones had been detected and that they would be prosecuted. 

“Not only will they then be required to repay the money that we’ve paid, but in addition to that, they could very well face prosecution with severe penalties under the Crimes Act,” Mr Jongen said. 

It is currently unknown if these false claims have been resolved by Service NSW and if those who committed fraud have been prosecuted.  

Anyone with information about disaster assistance fraud is urged to contact the Services Australia fraud tip-off line on 131 524. 

Main image by Cooper Stokes.