Although you might not think it, a CRN (Customer Reference Number) from Centrelink is required for anyone looking to send their child to childcare. 

Find out how to get a CRN, what you can do with your reference number and why it’s so important. 

What is a Customer Reference Number (CRN)?

A Customer Reference Number (CRN) is a 10-character code given to you by Centrelink. It is made up of nine numbers followed by one letter. 

This CRN is unique to you and every person in Australia. It is used by Centrelink to identify you and make sure they are dealing with the right person and the right data. 

A CRN is required for many things, such as getting welfare payments, linking Centrelink with myGov and more. 

Why do you need it for childcare?

One of the many requirements of a Customer Reference Number is when you enrol your children into childcare. There are several reasons for needing a CRN, including enrolment requirements, payments and services, receiving Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and making claims.

To save time and to make sure you don’t miss out on any payments, it’s recommended that you organise your CRN ahead of time.

If you’ve ever had any dealings with Centrelink, it’s likely you already have one, but some parents may need to register. 

Learning through play in childcare


Not only do you need a Customer Reference Number for your role in childcare services, but your child needs their own one too.

When you enrol your child at a centre, you’ll have to provide their CRN and birthdate (along with yours). 

If you have multiple children going to childcare, even if it’s at the same centre, they’ll each need their own customer reference number. These can be obtained when they’re born and will be helpful throughout their entire lives.

Payments and services

It’s no secret that children are expensive to look after. From everyday costs to services like child care, there’s a lot you have to pay for. 

Thankfully, a CRN opens you up to payment and subsidy options to help make family life that little bit more affordable

Child Care Subsidy (CCS)

Every child care centre has daily fees for attending children which can quickly add up for some families. Thankfully, the federal government has a child care subsidy (CCS) offer in place where most parents get part of their fees paid for. 

This works on a sliding scale, with up to 85% of the daily fee possible as a subsidy. 

Making claims

Your CRN also allows you submit your claim online through the Centrelink portal. This helpful option can be found on the drop-down menu under ‘Payments and Claims’. 

The types of claims in here are relevant to Centrelink payments such as parental leave, family tax benefit and single income family supplement.

Mother organising claims and information for her Centrelink

Recording and updating personal information

When you have a child in childcare, your details must be up to date. Rather than doing this through your child care provider, it can all be done through Centrelink. This automatically means your child care subsidies and other payments go to the right place. 

Updating your details in one place means you can update several services at the same time rather than making contact one at a time.


A CRN is a unique identifier for every person in Australia who has one. This avoids mix ups with payment and other childcare features, especially for people with common names who can easily get confused. 

As a customer reference number is unique to each person, there’s no chance of any mix ups with this system. 

How do you obtain a CRN?

If you don’t already have a Customer Reference Number, you’ll need to apply to get one. You can do this in a couple of different ways, either by going to a Centrelink office or online through myGov. 

Both methods require you to have two forms of relevant ID. 

The first has to be either an Australian birth certificate, an Australian citizenship certificate, a current Australian passport or an Australian visa. 

The second has to be one of Australian driver licence, Australian Citizenship by Descent certificate or an ImmiCard. 

Creating a Centrelink account

To create a Centrelink account online, you must first have a myGov account. With this set up, you can follow the online prompts in the ‘services’ section of the home page. 

Once you have your account set up, you’ll need to link it to your myGov account (you only have to do this the first time you log in). Once done, you can log into your Centrelink account through the myGov portal.

Creating a myGov account

A myGov account allows you to access a wide range of government services through one page, including Centrelink, Medicare, ATO and more. 

To get started, go to the link and click on ‘Create a myGov account’ on the home page. You’ll need to submit identification and verify details like name, email address and phone number to get started. 

Once done, you can log in using your email address and, ideally, two factor authentication on your phone. This extra security setting is a useful link between you and your account, letting the portal correctly identify you.

Father and daughter having fun together

Other tasks to do before enrolment

While registering for a CRN and having it handy for your childcare centre is an important step, it’s one of many things you need to do to get ready for your child’s first step into education. 

Other important jobs include checking your eligibility for child care subsidy, getting information ready for the centre’s educators and getting your child ready for the big day. 

Check eligibility for CCS

Many parents are eligible for some form of CCS, with up to 85% of childcare fees covered in some instances.

Find out if you’re eligible, use your reference number and make a claim within 28 days of your child starting to make sure you don’t miss out. 

Information for educators

Educators can do their job best when they know more about your child. Giving information about allergies and medication is vital, but giving them information about hobbies and interests is also important. 

If your child has a nap or two during the day, giving information about when they normally go down and any routines they have will also help. 

Preparing your child

While childcare is an important step in your child’s development, it’s not necessarily an easy one. For many children, this will be the longest they spend apart from their parents so they may need some preparation. 

One thing to do is take them to the childcare centre so they can see where they’ll be going and to meet some of the educators.

Another idea is to start dropping them off in the morning with a friend or relative so they understand that you leaving them somewhere isn’t a permanent thing. 

Finding the Right Childcare

Picking the right childcare centre is important for both you and your family.

Make a list of things that are important to you, speak to friends and organise a few tours to make sure you secure a space at the best facility for your needs.

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