Belinda Marsh

The Top Five things that piss me off about Centrelink

Dealing with Centrelink can be a frustrating and demoralising experience. Those seeking assistance are not always bogans cheating the system but often rather people in need of social support as they’re trying to live their lives to the best of their ability.

For most, it’s a temporary situation, but for some it’s permanent.

Which leads me to my Top Five things that piss me off about Centrelink…

No 5. Centrelink benefits are simply not enough to survive on
Depressingly, it is very difficult to live on $250 a week. I know, I know, it’s only supposed to be short-term, but with a six percent unemployment rate it’s getting harder to find a job. Hell, I have to write for free because paid writing jobs are rarer than a Russian athlete coming out at Sochi. So some of us are staring down the long-term unemployment line, despite the degrees, work skills and life experience we possess. How does someone pay rent, feed themselves, pay the bills and pay for transportation to the weekly Job Search Agency meeting? The simple answer is – we don’t. We struggle from week to week, relying on friends and family, sharing rental housing with crazy cat ladies, eating baked beans on white bread and wearing the same shoes we’ve had since pre-Newstart days.

No 4. The time spent on hold should come with better music
Apparently we dole bludgers have more than enough time to sit on the phone, listening to supposedly ‘calming’ classical music, waiting in a queue which, no matter what time of the day you call, is never shorter than 90 minutes. One memorable time I waited for only 80 minutes and was so shocked that instead of pressing the button to turn the loudspeaker off I accidently hung up. I was so distraught that before hitting redial I had to make myself a cup of tea to calm down… with a re-used teabag and watered-down milk, of course, because I can’t afford to be frivolous. When I did get in contact with an actual human being she apologised for the delay and paused, waiting for the abusive torrent she usually gets. I asked her how her day was going because it doesn’t cost anything to be nice…

No 3. The stressed Centrelink workers make you wonder if you really want a job after all
Centrelink workers look like they’re waiting to be stabbed, shot or bombed at any given moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are wearing flak jackets under their politically-correct office clothing. There is always some customer yelling at one of them about the computers not working properly, or sighing with frustration because they’ve been instructed to use the customer service phones even though there are real people in the office to speak to, or angry at having to wait more than an hour with twenty other poor souls who are empty shells of non-existent self-esteem stuck watching Ellen on a TV that could have fed us all for a month. The air is tense, the surroundings despondent and the staff are more demoralised and wretched than the clients. If that is what a real job is, you could forgive some of us for perhaps not wanting one.

No 2. Going to the Job Search Agency aka “A futile waste of my life”
I think we dole bludgers make the collective mistake of treating JSA staff like careers counsellors at high school. This is not the time to decide what you want to be when you grow up. They just want you to get a job, any bloody job, as soon as possible, so that they get paid by the government. I told mine I wanted to be a writer instead of working in hospitality, and she immediately left the room to share the laughs with her mates down the hall. She then returned to tell me that there was a job in the next town an hour’s drive away at a dodgy fish and chip shop where they mysteriously and constantly go through loads of staff but still I had to apply anyway. I did as she said, much to my humiliation, only to discover they hired a pimply 17-year-old because he was cheaper.

No 1. The humiliating and devastating impact all of the above has on our self-esteem, only to be blamed for our situation by politicians and the general public
I dare politicians to walk a mile in our shoes. Whinge and complain all you like, but YOU try living on next to nothing for six months and see how you go, you arrogant, nasty, inhumane bastards.

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So, in conclusion, there is only so much rejection people can take before they wonder what the hell is wrong with them. It is mortifying not to have a job that makes you feel happy inside, as well as proud and happy on the outside, and to feel like a productive member of society. And if we can’t find a job for a while, at least give us enough to live on so that we can survive decently while we’re trying to find our way.

Belinda Marsh

If Belinda could be a superhero, she would be Apostrophe Woman, using her powers to change misplaced and abused apostrophes. She has been known to explode in red-headed rages, so it’s best to be nice to her (offerings of chocolate have been known to help, albeit temporarily). Belinda likes to think she’s a writer, and has recently been thinking about a Masters. She has added this to her to-do list, somewhere after ‘buy more chocolate’ and ‘shave underarm hair’.

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11 Comments

  1. dl.flsxzkmrkyrzk said:

    But watch out- if you get a job you might get hit with accusations of tax fraud because of the dodgy automatic fraud detection system and end up oweing 1000s of dollars

  2. holly said:

    Sorry Belinda, I’M the Apostrophe Lady. Have been since Year Dot and I’m a lot older than you so I win the top spot 😀

  3. holly said:

    …”like the rest of us” hey? So according to you we all have jobs, whoever “the rest of us” are. Well i don’t and not many do. You don’t live in the real world Mel. Go suck eggs.

  4. holly said:

    So true re the music! Classical, but over-the-top classical. Lots of screeching violins and happy music, it all makes me feel very adhd (which I don’t have) and nervy. It’s definitely not calming. And even less calming when centrelink throws me off with nothing but silence after sitting here waiting to be put through for 30 mins (not long sadly on centrelink’s call calendar!!). I’ve been sitting here a further 15 mins now on a new call (after trying to apply for self-service in which the recorded voice didn’t accept my maiden name because it wasn’t pronounced “right” (it’s Dutch!) so I pronounced it phonetically and it was accepted. Wha?? And then they wanted my health care card number, which card I do not have yet having just signed up (again) a few weeks ago. What a sad sad organisation. Sucks. My stomach hurts!

  5. James McLoving said:

    Whenever I apply they always ask me about assets. I have to give an estimate of what I could get if I sold my assets. I always say $500. The truth? Zero. I have nothing of value, nothing I can pawn. I have a lot of paperbacks and hardbacks that I once tried to sell, but the bookshop guy wouldn’t buy.. I was a bit stunned by that. Apparently, people donate stuff. But if you don’t give solid answers, they get suspicious. Centrelink staff are okay – it is the job network agencies that are horrible.

    I’m about to apply after nearly a month of no income and they will ask how I supported myself. I didn’t – and I fear they will not understand this, as they likely think we all want to suck the govt teat. I’m worried they will think that I am lying. All I can do is take my bank statements in and explain I wanted to avoid Newstart as long as I could (I have $9 left).

    I’m surprised this puts you off working. Every time I come out of Centrelink I find myself wishing to God that I worked. I would LOVE to have a job. Full time though, not that ‘part time, on call, you may be working tomorrow’ crap (because it is awful and you STILL have to deal with Centrelink). Next time I will make an extra effort to keep my job. I’ll save and buy a car, too, just to make myself employable. I will try and get a forklift license, for the same reason. I’ve given up asking agencies to get me one, so I will save up and on the weekend one day get my forklift license.. assuming I can get a job, that is.

    I am going to try for a cleaning job that I have a chance at and if I can’t get that then I will try for fruit picking… even though Centrelink frown on this… then failing that (I have no car and they won’t let me apply for work more than 90 minutes away) I will stand on street corners in Melbourne selling the Big Issue (I will actually HAVE TO if I can’t get the dole). It is $5 now and I can’t see many buying it, but it gives some hope. I’ll give it a go if I have to.

  6. John said:

    It sounds to me like she WOULD like to get a job, Mel, but there aren’t many jobs out there to get. Much easier said than done. Not many people want to be on Newstart in the long-term, but it seems the majority have no choice.

  7. Steven said:

    Belinda you said you want a job that makes you ‘feel happy on the inside’. I say, grow up. Very few people have jobs that make us ‘happy on the inside’ yet we get on with it, pay our bills and support ourselves and family.

  8. Clifford said:

    Belinda. Firstly, I am not a typical right wing free-marketeer nutcase like Gina Rinehart. I do legitimately believe that there is need for the truly disabled and unfortunate to receive welfare. You, however, do not appear to fit in this category. You (apparently) are able bodied and relatively intelligent. You do, though, seem to feel that the rest of the tax paying public should subsidise your writing dream which has not come to fruition yet. My advice: get a job. It will only broaden your writing and what’s more, leave enough welfare dollars for those who actually need it. Stop milking the system – you are part of the problem.

  9. Topher said:

    I think it is odd you feel you shouldn’t have to do other work just cos you want to be a writer. I want to be a singer but it doesn’t mean I am going to bludge on centrelink for years till I make it! No, I have had to work in offices I hate to carry my own weight – you should try it!

  10. Rainer the cabbie said:

    Maybe the music should be a continuing loop of “Les Miserables “. But wait, I have a better idea, switch the callers through to Mel before transferring them to a stressed out caseworker.

  11. Mel said:

    shut up and get a job belinda like the rest of us

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