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.
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.