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Accessing your super: serious illness or injury

Being diagnosed with a serious illness, injury or experiencing severe financial hardship, may enable you to access your super before you retire. 

Accessing your super due to having a terminal medical condition

There are strict requirements that you must meet however to qualify for under these conditions.

We take a look at them in more detail, including what you need to provide to show you’re eligible.

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or injury which results in a life expectancy of no more than two years, you may be eligible to access your super early in the form of a lump sum, tax free.

There are specific requirements you’ll have to meet though, including providing the required documentation from at least two registered medical practitioners.

Accessing your super due to a temporary or permanent incapacity

If you suffer from a medical condition or injury which prevents you from working for a period of time or permanently, you may be able to access your super under either the temporary or permanent incapacity conditions of release.

Temporary incapacity

If you’re temporarily unable to work due to sickness or injury, you may be able to access your super as a regular income stream. Usually this will be funded by specific insurance (such as income protection insurance) held within your super account. This means you’ll be able to supplement or replace your salary while you’re not working.

Permanent incapacity

If you’re diagnosed with a condition that makes it unlikely you’ll be able to return to work in a job that you’re qualified to do, you may be able to access your super under permanent incapacity condition of release.

Under this condition of release, there is the option to access your super as either a lump sum or a regular income stream but you will be required to provide relevant medical documentation to prove you’re eligible.

Accessing your super under compassionate grounds

Medical/disability needs

If you or a dependant have a serious illness or are severely disabled, you may be able to access your super early under compassionate grounds to cover things such as medical treatment or to modify your home or vehicle to accommodate the disability.


The compassionate grounds condition of release also allows you to access your super to pay for certain expenses if you do not have the financial capacity to do so. For example, you may be able to access your super to make a loan repayment to prevent foreclosure of a mortgage.

How much can you access?

This really depends on your situation but it’s important to be aware that you may be taxed on the sum of money you receive from your super. This is generally between 17–22 per cent1 if you’re under the age of 60. However, if you are over 60 years old you won’t have to pay tax on the amount withdrawn.

Access your super under severe financial hardship

If you are still unable to cover your immediate living expenses despite having received eligible Australian Commonwealth income support payments (e.g. JobSeeker, Age Pension) for specific timeframes, you may be able to access your super early under severe financial hardship condition of release.

Speak to a financial expert and your super fund

If you are considering accessing your super early, you may want to speak to your super fund as they may have specific rules which prohibit you from accessing some of these conditions.

You may also want to consider seeking financial advice to understand how this may impact your financial situation over the long-term and in retirement. 

Things you should know

This article was prepared by BT, a part of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141, AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714. This information is current as at 9 December 2020 .  

1 This article provides an overview or summary only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such.  It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to these factors before acting on it. This information may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. BT cannot give tax advice. Any tax considerations outlined in this article are general statements, based on an interpretation of the current tax law, and do not constitute tax advice. As such, you should not place reliance on any such taxation considerations as a basis for making your decision with respect to the product.

Superannuation is a means of saving for retirement, which is, in part, compulsory. The government has placed restrictions on when you can access your investment held in superannuation. There will be tax consequences if you breach these caps. For more detail, speak with a financial adviser or visit the ATO website.