If you’re experiencing personal difficulties, you could be eligible to access your super to cover unpaid expenses on compassionate grounds.

You may be able to withdraw part or all of your super before reaching preservation age. Your preservation age is simply the age at which you’re allowed to withdraw your super, which is different depending on when you were born – anywhere from 55 to 60 years of age.

To access your super early on compassionate grounds, you must apply to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) first. The ATO, not Aware Super, is responsible for granting you early access to your super.

If the ATO approves the early release of your super, you then apply to Aware Super for payment of your super.

The government’s Early Release Scheme to support members through COVID-19 is no longer available.

Compassionate grounds for the release of super

Your super may be used to fund medical or dental expenses that aren’t readily available through the public health system or covered by your health insurance.

To satisfy the ATO's requirements, the condition must be either:

  • life-threatening
  • acute or chronic physical pain
  • acute or chronic mental illness.

Payments may be used to cover the costs of transportation to and from treatment for one of the above conditions.

If you’re at risk of having your house sold by the mortgage lender, you may be able to access your super on compassionate grounds. 

You won’t be able to access your super if you can’t pay your rent, or if: 

  • you’re not behind on your mortgage payments yet 
  • you’re behind on your mortgage payments, but the lender hasn’t decided to sell yet 
  • your mortgage repayments are for a property that belongs to your dependant, other family member or a friend
  • your mortgage repaments are for any property other than your primary home (i.e. this doesn’t include investment properties or second homes).

Your super may be accessed to pay for modifications to your car or home that are needed to support the special needs of someone with a severe disability. This includes both you and your dependants.

If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, you can apply for the immediate release of your super through your fund, tax free. Your super can also be used to cover the costs of a death in the family, such as funeral expenses, burial or cremation. This covers only your immediate dependants.  

Tax on withdrawals

Any super you receive before reaching your preservation age will generally not be tax-free. Depending on your age and whether you’ve given us your tax file number, super payments made to you have a taxable and non-taxable component.

The taxable component of a payment made before your preservation age is taxed at 20%, plus any applicable levies.

Am I eligible to apply?


The ATO will decide if you are eligible for early release of your super on compassionate grounds when you apply.

If you believe that your situation matches one of the grounds described above, follow these steps to access your super on compassionate grounds. To avoid delays in processing your application it is important to complete each step correctly and include all required supporting documentation.

How to apply

The evidence needed to access your super early is different for each of the grounds. Full details of the evidence required for each ground to access your super early can be found on the Australian Tax Office website. 

  • The process takes up to 14 days for online applications, and up to 28 days for paper applications 
  • Once your application has been assessed, an SMS is sent to you letting you know the results, and a letter is sent within 72 hours to your My Gov Inbox – this may take longer if the letter is issued via post 
  • The ATO will advise Aware Super if your application is successful. 

If your application to the ATO has been successful, continue to 'What to do once your applcation has been approved.'

What to do once your application has been approved

If your application to the ATO has been successful, complete the early release application.

Download form

With your application form, you will also need to include:

  • The ATO letter of approval 
  • Proof of identity documents as outlined on the application form, unless you have already provided certified copies of these documents to us  
  • A copy of your bank statement, if you would like us to pay your super directly to your bank account. 

Make sure the declaration on the form is signed and dated before submitting your application.

  • Once we receive your application form, it is matched with the ATO approval advice 
  • If any information is missing or incomplete, it can be sent via post or email with the case ID attached. The email must be sent from the email address we have recorded on your account. 
  • Please allow for 3 to 5 business days to process your application, which will depend on the payment processing time of your bank