First, a good news story. After people heard about Kathryn’s plight - she had to hock the 'tools of her trade' computer to pay for schoolbooks - many of you immediately offered to assist her. She has been overwhelmed by your generosity and thoughtfulness. We are pleased to say that through the kindness of two wonderful people, Kathryn will have her computer back.
I finish my challenge at the end of tomorrow. I'll finish today almost $20 in debt, with only enough petrol to get me to the Pride march tomorrow in St. Kilda (a priority in the quest for equal rights), and have very little food in my cupboard. Some have said one week is not enough to really experience the full brunt of Newstart induced poverty, and I agree. I did this primarily to draw attention to the low level of Newstart and get support for the Greens' push for a $50/week boost. But as one of the posts on my Facebook said: “Yes, he will go back to his usual, more affluent existence, but he will take much more learning with him.”
I would like, at this point, to thank the hundreds of people who have taught me so much this week by posting your experiences on Facebook. Your stories are humbling, inspiring and also motivate me to campaign as hard I can for an increase to Newstart and improvements to the support offered to single parents. Thank you for being part of this week, and the ongoing campaign.
The issue of transport has prompted debate on Facebook - and in my office! How is someone on Newstart meant to get around?
My staff spoke with Jodie Willmer who is the CEO of Travellers Aid Australia. She is also President of Victorian Peak Body Emergency Relief. Jodie explained that TAA’s goal is to make everyday travel possible for all people. TAA provides an emergency relief service for travel.
Jodie talked about transport as a vital link to economic and social inclusion and participation. People need to travel for interviews, appointments, court appearances, to visit friends and family, for education and training and more. TAA helps people to travel with a valid ticket so that they are not at risk of fines – and hence further hardship. The organisation helps people subject to domestic violence travel to access services. It helps people with tickets to get to places they can sleep – or crisis accommodation. It also helps people who are victims of crime and have no money to get home.
There are intake offices at Flinders St Station and Southern Cross Stations. Or you can have a look at http://www.travellersaid.org.au/our-services/emergency-relief
There are many ways in which we could make transport more accessible for people in hardship. Single use Myki tickets are one way. Others have suggested free public transport (given the costs of enforcement for non-ticket holders. Like food, housing and education, transport is a life-essential that needs to be accessible to all regardless of income.
Others have commented:
“Let’s see the look of cold horror and fear on their faces when their first power bill comes in, followed by the gas bill 10 days later, and how the look gets even more sickened when they realise the car rego is due just a couple of dole payments after that. Let’s see what happens when a car tyre gets a puncture and that $25 they’d saved was going to buy their child a birthday present. Better still, let’s see what happens when two tyres are bald and need replacing, the car is 15,000 overdue for a tune up, the brakes screech, and the insurance is due. Let’s hear their decision making process when there’s a choice between re-charging the data stick so their child can do their research homework, versus buying groceries for the fortnight. Then let’s throw in a medical problem and see what happens. And would they make the choice to be in bed by 7pm each night in winter because they still remember the chill of that first power bill very very vividly? And I’m not exaggerating – all those things happen within a year, and more!” [name with-held]
“Rural and regional, even outer suburban areas do not have the same level of services as Melbourne or Sydney. Being a welfare recipient has different geographic specific challenges.” [Alisi]
"As for the reality about living off Newstart, this is from my own experience: Assume you have no assets and nothing to sell and no one to borrow from. Newstart is a subsistence payment deposited fortnightly, not weekly. So, usually for the first week, you find you have enough, enough more than enough to just get by, but the shadow of the second week always hangs over you. It's in the second week of the pay period that you go broke and start to really "hang out" for the next pay day. It has always been in the dying days of the Newstart fortnight; day 11, 12, 13; that I've been so totally broke I have resorted to things like rice and tomato sauce. Then another payment comes in and all is well for a day or three." [Daniel]