Dealing with debt: a legal guide to personal debt in NSW

Book cover showing bills, a calculator and a magnifying glass

by Christina Pirina, Macarthur Legal Centre
State Library of NSW, 2022

If your debts are piling up, you are being hounded about repayments, or court action is being taken against you ... this clear, easy-to-read guide is essential reading.

This book is also part of the Find Legal Answers Tool Kit at your local public library.


Macarthur Legal Centre works on the land of the Tharawal people. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. 

Dealing with Debt is a legal guide for those weighed down by debt in New South Wales. It is the latest iteration of a community legal centre classic, The Debtors’ Guide to Local Courts in New South Wales, which went through three editions under the stewardship of Macarthur Legal Centre. 

The first edition was published in 1991 by Redfern Legal Centre Publishing. The authors were Paul Batley, Natalie Ross and Bernie Shipp. The second edition came out in 1998. It was written by Elizabeth Moley and edited by Catherine Gray. Maria Girdler managed the production process. Linda Meynes wrote the third edition which was published by The Federation Press in 2004. We are grateful to all those who produced the Debtors’ Guide through its three editions. We stand on their shoulders. 

The primary writer and editor of Dealing with Debt is Christina Pirina. Christina is the Principal Solicitor of Macarthur Legal Centre and a part-time Member of NCAT. She has been working with clients who have lost hope because of their finances for years. This coalface experience has resulted in a practical, comprehensive guide to dealing with debt. Christina has been assisted by other staff members of Macarthur Legal Centre — Stephen Karanfilovski, Laura Sutton, Melisa Coveney and Robert Pelletier. We also acknowledge assistance from Legal Aid NSW and Revenue NSW on Dealing with Debt

Macarthur Legal Centre is grateful to the Law and Justice Foundation. The Foundation provided a grant which has enabled us to take into account all the developments in legal process and substantive law that have taken place since 2004. The Foundation has been instrumental in making access to justice a reality through its grants program. We have been delighted to work with Geoff Mulherin, the CEO of the Foundation for 21 years and a champion of this project; Jane Kenny, the former Grants Manager and more recently, Richard Wood, who has seen this project to completion for the Foundation. 

We are also grateful to the State Library of New South Wales, our publisher. It has been a great pleasure to work with Philippa Scarf, Catherine Bryant, Cathy Hammer and Rosie Handley who have worked tirelessly to edit, design, format, print and distribute this work so it can have the widest possible impact. 

Online updates

This online book was updated in May 2023 to reflect changes to the terminology used by Revenue NSW in relation to fines.


Chapter one

Getting help

Chapter three

Debt collection

Chapter four


Chapter five

Government debt


Dealing with debt: a legal guide to personal debt in NSW by Christina Pirina, Macarthur Legal Centre. Published by the State Library of New South Wales, 2022.

The laws contained here are those that apply in New South Wales as at 1 May 2022. While every effort has been made to ensure the information is up-to-date and accurate, it is not a substitute for legal advice. Use this book as a guide only and wherever possible get legal advice for your particular problem.

This online book was updated in May 2023 to reflect changes to the terminology used by Revenue NSW in relation to fines.

© Macarthur Legal Centre, 2022. Material contained herein may be copied for the non-commercial purpose of study or research subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).