Two victims of the unlawful robodebt scheme have shared the terror and trauma of being hit with huge Centrelink debts due to faulty calculations.
Fronting the robodebt royal commission on Monday, Ricky Aik spoke of the "worst period of my life" after being chased for a $5250 Centrelink debt he alleged accrued while on the dole.
Mr Aik fell victim to Centrelink's robodebt income averaging method that used annual tax information to determine average fortnightly earnings and automatically calculated welfare debts.
The 61-year-old was unemployed for almost six months in 2014 when he accessed benefits.
The system wrongly recovered more than $750 million from 381,000 people and led to several people taking their lives while being pursued for false debts.
Mr Aik knew he couldn't have accrued such a huge debt, admitting he was "not a chance" of paying it back to debt collectors appointed by Centrelink.
"It was hard to sleep, hard to concentrate on work, always thinking about the debt and driving past the road I should have turned into," he said.
While disputing his debt, Mr Aik said a Centrelink official admitted their methods were inaccurate and encouraged him to provide bank statements and pay slips as "it would be more accurate than what we've done".
His debt was wiped in July 2020 and repayments were refunded.
"It was like the weather changed ... a dark, cloudy day to pure sunshine," Mr Aik said.
"I wouldn't wish it upon anybody ... it was so hard to be yourself, it made you withdrawn and scared."
Rosemary Gay recounted the "very dark period" where the government agency chased her up for a $65,000 debt they later ruled she did not owe.
The 76-year-old said debt collectors were taking money from her pension despite having lodged a dispute, and a senior official acknowledged there was "no way you can possibly owe that money".
Ms Gay, who worked part-time at a transport and logistics company, had her reported income effectively doubled between 2010 and 2016 to create the false debt.
When told she had to pay back the $65,000 in less than a month, Ms Gay said she was shocked and surprised, given her meticulous methods of reporting income to Centrelink.
Having lodged the dispute with Centrelink and being told by a senior department figure - nicknamed God - a glitch in the system had triggered the debt, $133 a week began being taken from her pension as repayments.
"It turned my life upside down, it was just sheer terror that I owed a figure that was just such a huge amount," Ms Gay told the royal commission.
A manual reassessment of her debt saw the figure reduced to $6683, before she disputed that claim and it was eventually scrapped altogether.
"It was just immoral it took them that time to admit they made that mistake ... they only admitted they did because of the groundswell of victims," she said.
Former ministers Christian Porter and Alan Tudge are due to give evidence to the royal commission next week.