Teacher, whose center link was cut after winning the lottery, was held hostage by killers

A disabled teacher whose Centrelink payments were cut after winning the lottery received a pension for being held hostage by convicted murderers.

Craig Hill, 61, hit the modest $60,000 minor league win on Oct. 14 and will be paid $5,000 a month for a year from The Lott’s Set For Life game.

However, he was shocked to find that his disability pension would be reduced from $821.20 to $328.20 for two weeks because Centrelink considered him a “professional gambler”.

Mr Hill received a pension because he suffered severe mental damage when he was held hostage by inmates at Townsville Prison in 2019.

Craig Hill, 61, won the Lott’s Set For Life game, which pays out $5,000 a month for a year, but because the payments are recurring rather than a lump sum, Centrelink will match its fortnightly payments of $821.20 dollars to $328.20 every two weeks

He was teaching hardened criminals to read and write when a riot broke out in the main part of the prison and his nine students threatened him with their pens.

“They’re usually pretty well behaved, but one of the guards thought it would be funny to tell them I’m a former prison officer and I’m spying on them,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.

“It had a pretty detrimental effect, these guys are living for murder for a reason, they’re not super smart.”

Mr Hill said the prisoners prevented him from leaving the room, telling him: “If we have to kill someone because you are a former prison officer, you will be the first.”

The inmates brandished their pens like knives and threatened to stab him for the hour he was trapped in the classroom.

“A pen can do a lot of damage if you stick it in the carotid artery. I knew, OK, this is serious, it scared the shit out of me,” he said.

Mr Hill (pictured with his family) received a pension after suffering severe mental damage when he was held hostage by inmates at Townsville Prison in 2019.

Mr Hill (pictured with his family) received a pension after suffering severe mental damage when he was held hostage by inmates at Townsville Prison in 2019.

Two prison guards were stationed outside the room but appeared unaware of what was going on inside, leaving Mr Hill to draw on his decades of prison training.

“I made my excuses by telling them that they were really willing to give up their lives, even if they were going to live for life for murder, thinking they had nothing to lose,” he said.

“Because the unwritten rule is that if you harm a hostage, you don’t get out alive.

“Even though I was scared, I couldn’t show fear, if you show fear, they have power over you.”

After a terrifying hour, the inmates gave up and went back to their cells, leaving Mr Hill unharmed.

He flew straight back to his home in Brisbane but was towed back for the last five days under threat of being sued for breach of contract.

Luckily there were no more problems, but he was extremely stressed because he had to spend more time in prison.

Mr Hill had suffered from PTSD and schizophrenia, diagnosed a decade later in 2003, for three years as a prison officer at Goulburn Prison, and the hostage situation aggravated it to the point that he can no longer teach

Mr Hill had suffered from PTSD and schizophrenia, diagnosed a decade later in 2003, for three years as a prison officer at Goulburn Prison, and the hostage situation aggravated it to the point that he can no longer teach

Mr Hill said he also suffered horrific bullying from other prison staff, particularly one officer whose harassment began immediately.

“He told me teachers don’t earn meals and are forced to eat their lunches in the computer lab,” he said.

“He told us that teachers are ‘non-persons’.”

Mr Hill had suffered from PTSD and schizophrenia for three years as a prison officer at Goulburn Prison, and was diagnosed a decade later in 2003.

He said the hostage situation aggravated his PTSD, rendering him unable to continue as a teacher and rarely leaving the house.

“After a few weeks I couldn’t concentrate, I have a lot of stress and anxiety, I get panic attacks, especially when I leave the house,” he said.

“About once a month I have a good day and can go out, maybe to the local pub for a bite, but after a few hours I have a panic attack and have to go home.

“I have nightmares about prison, I wake up in a cold sweat.”

Mr Hill was approved for WorkCover just 18 days after his application, after Queensland Corrective Services dealt with it, but it expired after two years.

Since then he has been able to get by on his pension and his wife’s care allowance, as he depends on them to cope with the outside world.

Mr Hill claimed, after asking for a review, that Centrelink officials had also cut his wife's care allowance (pictured with him) by around the same amount as his pension

Mr Hill claimed, after asking for a review, that Centrelink officials had also cut his wife’s care allowance (pictured with him) by around the same amount as his pension

So when he won the $60,000 prize, he thought he’d finally taken a break, only for Centrelink to immediately cut his payments.

The Australian Taxation Office confirmed that his winnings were not taxable income, as is the case with all gambling payouts to the average player.

Mr Hill claimed, after asking for a review, that Centrelink officials had also cut his wife’s care allowance by around the same amount as his pension.

“I did the right thing and contacted Centrelink and they told me it counts as gambling income because it’s paid monthly,” he said.

“So I asked if I could deduct all my gambling losses for the last 20 years and they said no, you only become a professional gambler the day you win.

“If I won $600,000 playing Powerball it wouldn’t affect my pension, but since it’s paid monthly, I’m a professional player, it’s ridiculous.”

Since his WorkCover expired, he's been making ends meet on his pension and his wife's caregiver pay, as he relies on her to cope with the outside world

Since his WorkCover expired, he’s been making ends meet on his pension and his wife’s caregiver pay, as he relies on her to cope with the outside world

Mr Hill claimed Centrelink officials told him he could take the dispute to the Administrative Court of Appeal but then his entire pension for the past seven years could be examined.

“There’s a culture in some of these departments where they see customers as enemies, but if they didn’t have customers, they wouldn’t have jobs,” he said.

Mr Hill said he is far from a professional player, he only plays Powerball when the jackpot is high and has been buying Set For Life regularly since 2015.

“I don’t bet on the horses or go to the casino, I might have a little whip on the poker machines every now and then,” he said.

Mr Hill, a former Australian Democrat vice president, said Government Services Secretary Bill Shorten could intervene but his office had not been cooperative.

He also asked The Lott to ask if the winnings could be paid out all at once to avoid the issue, but he claims the company declined and gave no reason.

“Everyone has the ability to solve the problem, but nobody wants it,” he said.

He does sporadic office work from home, which he reports on a profit and loss statement that he files with Centrelink every three months.

The Lott’s Set For Life lottery has a grand prize of $20,000 per month for 20 years. Mr. Hill won a lower league paying $5,000 a month for a year

The Department of Social Services said unless specifically exempted by law, few amounts of income are excluded from welfare calculations.

“Lotto winnings that are received on a regular basis, for example monthly indefinitely, are assessed as income for the period to which they relate,” it told Daily Mail Australia.

“This is in line with the principle of targeting aid to those who need it most. A periodic lottery win is an ongoing source of income that can be used for self-sufficiency.’

The department acknowledged that if Mr Hill had received the payout as a lump sum, it would not have counted as income.

However, any valueable assets purchased with it and any current income – such as rent from a property or bank interest – would be.

Mr Hill said he is far from a professional player, he only plays Powerball when the jackpot is high and has been buying Set For Life regularly since 2015

Mr Hill said he is far from a professional player, he only plays Powerball when the jackpot is high and has been buying Set For Life regularly since 2015

Just because the lottery winnings were tax-free didn’t make a difference whether they could be assessed as income.

“The social security system measures a person’s need for income support and their ability to contribute to their own livelihood,” it said.

The department said Mr Hill’s wife’s carer payment was affected because the retirement income test uses the gross income of both partners, even if one of the partners is not receiving a pension.

“This is based on the principle that couples can pool their resources for mutual benefit,” it said.

“Accordingly, each spouse’s income is assessed for Social Security retirement income testing purposes.”

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