A GYMPIE woman appeared in court this week on a charge of falsely reporting earnings to obtain more than $18,000 in Austudy payments.
Gabrielle Rebecca Calder, 30, pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage by declaring less than she earnt over a two-and-a-half-year period while studying for a master's degree.
She was convicted and fined and given a suspended jail sentence, along with a stern lecture from the magistrate.
Between February 26, 2010 and June 29, 2012, Calder reported earnings online every fortnight that totalled $14,110 over the period.
The figure was well below the student's actual earnings of $47,422 for the period, which she made while working at a Byron Bay bookshop.
This resulted in an Austudy overpayment of $18,981.
The prosecution told Gympie Magistrates Court on Thursday that crimes against social security were serious even though they were easy to commit and hard to detect.
Calder's defence lawyer Rachel Tierney said the defendant had been under considerable financial stress at the time and described it as a crime of need, not greed.
She described Calder as a contributing member of society who had already voluntarily repaid $11,260.
Gympie magistrate M. Baldwin said there had to be a serious deterrent in such cases.
"Our social security is a safety net not a hammock," she said.
"Australia has a social security system that many would consider is second to none and we have to protect that."
Calder was sentenced to six months imprisonment, to be released immediately and issued a two year good behaviour bond with a recognisance of $2000.
A conviction was recorded and reparation of $7721 was ordered.