"What it feels like to have paid employment."
We asked one of our employees what it was like having paid work after being on Centrelink for many years. Here is her response:
I have been on some sort of Centrelink payment since I was 15. I was an independent minor on youth allowance, covering my own expenses and responsible for my own budget.
And for the first time ever I can imagine what it might be like to not rely on a service that feels actively hostile to pay for rent and groceries.
I might even be able to buy nice things or look after myself without feeling like “I am wasting taxpayer’s money.”
I might not have to stress that because I didn’t get an appointment message I might not get paid that fortnight.
I don’t have to worry that covering my expenses depends on how nice a phone representative is feeling if something has gone wrong.
I don’t have to feel like a statistic quoted when people are complaining about generational Centrelink reliance (my mother having been on a disability payment since I can remember).
I don’t have to feel like I am being blamed for screwing up so badly I ended up a waste of money.
It feels like I might get free of them breathing down my neck one day.
I don’t have to worry about being put on a cashless debit card where they get to control where I spend money (because obviously being unemployed means I have drug and alcohol problems). And the best way to treat drug and alcohol problems is definitely taking away people’s ability to make choices.
It’s an odd feeling. It’s scary but good. Because the paranoia of if I’ll get paid or not is what I am used to. I am used to stressing about every change of circumstances and how it might impact my payments. So even getting money from work felt scary. Still does. I am always waiting for the rug to be pulled out.
But maybe, I can sort of see there might be a time where I won’t be waiting for it anymore.