‘As a single pensioner in Australia, I feel like I’m always begging for scraps’

Dec 27, 2021
Fran is tired of being made to feel like a third-rate citizen. Source: Getty

I thought I was handling being on my own and pretty broke quite well. I’ve been on my own now for nearly 10 years. I haven’t worked in the last five, apart for a couple of casual jobs, which did not last long.
It seems I’m either too old or my health issues stop me, not my choice. Anyway, I am content with most things and better off than many.

It took me a while to admit to myself that I was not going to be financially equipped to live in private rentals for the remainder in my life. I applied for various housing options as long ago as five years and still nothing is available, as there are now more being bought than rented out. Finally, after resisting for a while, I also applied for state housing. In Tasmania, I have over 3,000 names ahead of mine. What has been a shock to me, is that I am made to feel like a third-rate citizen because of my situation.

I was financially abused by my former husband and because I could only earn superannuation for the last years of my working life, I am in this predicament.

I have worked hard in this country all my life.

I am over 65 years old, I have a medical condition that will get worse and I am female. Regardless of how many men jump up and down, that makes me an underdog.

In Tasmania, there are less than 500 private rentals across the state. This is not me guessing, but official figures from the government. Covid-19 made matters worse for many. There are those who have nowhere to live. Landlords have put up rents, so they make a fortune when one leaves and a new tenant arrives.

My rent takes nearly 70 per cent of my income. One more hike and I will have two choices – pay it and try to eat less, or leave. If I leave, I will have nowhere to go because of the small amount of rentals available; they are snatched up by people who can afford them and landlords are taking those with much higher incomes than mine.

The government doesn’t have enough affordable housing and its promises are empty.

In the meantime, I beg for people to help me with the government application to get my name higher on the list for housing, as you have to have a medical assessment to move up the ladder if you are already ‘lucky’ enough to have a roof over your head. You have to prove that your grandchildren come to stay overnight frequently. How can you tell how many hours your grandchildren will be with you every week?

I need to exercise to keep my lungs working and in a state with much uneven ground and a lot of windy weather, my best bet is exercise inside, so I have equipment. You see though, it’s not classed as medical equipment, so the government has me begging my doctor to explain why I need it. I seem to be doing a lot of grovelling lately, to the government, health professionals and some family members, just so I can have a place to live that I can afford.

I do not begrudge others getting government assistance either. It should be a basic right that we all have a place to live. The thing is, I never wanted my husband to be such a conniving so-and-so. I never wanted to be ill or be classed as too old. I certainly hate being on a pension. It seems, that even though I pay the same amount of money to turn on a light, I, as a single person, still get less government assistance.

The truth is, I’d like a job or to win the lotto. I don’t see either happening in the future, so this country needs to stop trying to make me and others like me feel as though they are doing us a big favour. We are grateful. What happened to compassion and caring?

Do you think the government needs to do more for older Aussies?

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