I recently saw a news article about how baby boomers are struggling to make ends meet on the Newstart allowance. Centrelink would have to be my absolute favourite government organisation. I think not!
In 2008, I had to resign from a job I loved due to ill health. I was hospitalised for almost six weeks and whatever sick leave/holiday leave I had accumulated had run out. ‘No mon, no fun’ as the saying goes. I contacted Centrelink to apply for some benefit (so I could pay my rent and eat), but was told until I had been unemployed for 13 weeks, I wasn’t entitled. (At this point, I used that four letter word starting with ‘F’.) I couldn’t access my superannuation; I was accumulating more debt on cards, in order to pay my rent and bills.
Eventually, I was granted a Newstart allowance – what a joke when you have a weekly rental of $270. I was also still unwell and finding it difficult to ‘jump through the hoops’ that Centrelink expected of me. I spoke to my careworker from the hospital and between the two of us, we put in an application for a Disability Support Pension. The ‘hoops’ got even bigger!
Because of the basis of my application – ‘treatment resistant, severe clinical depression’ I was obliged to attend an interview with a Centrelink psychiatrist. My careworker came with me. The psychiatrist was a really nice woman and at the end of the assessment she concluded I was eligible. It still took another six weeks before I received my first fortnightly payment.
In the meantime, my 12-month lease was up for renewal and the rent was increasing. With no confirmation of a fixed source of income, I had no choice but to leave. I had visions of living in a tent in someone’s backyard! My sister, who lived in a complex on the other side of the city, said I could stay with them until I could find something affordable to rent, and as much as I love my sister, living with her and her husband was not one of my better life experiences.
It was two weeks later when a home became available in the ‘rental’ area of the complex. It was so small, but it was freshly painted, had new carpet laid and would accommodate most of my furniture (stored in a storage unit facility and not for free). The rest would have to go underneath my son’s house.
I am extremely grateful that I live in a country that offers financial support for those in need, but as someone who has worked in this country since I was 16 years old for almost 40 years, and considering the taxes I’ve paid, I feel I have contributed to Australia’s growth. I may be privileged but, I also believe I am ‘entitled’ and shouldn’t have to deal with so much bureaucratic nonsense to get what I am rightfully entitled to.