Newstart stories about life on unemployment benefits - as little as $39.69 a day

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"Getting a job. That would change everything."

A film about living on the Newstart unemployment benefit; the financial and personal struggle. Watch Trish's story.



Since he finished studying a diploma in industrial chemistry, Alfredo has only been able to secure casual hospitality jobs, offering very few hours, so he’s been on and off Newstart for the past five years.

He says he manages to get by because he lives with his father, and while he pays rent, it is much cheaper than if he were renting in the private market.

But at 28, he just wants to be independent.

‘I can’t live like this any more. I need to be independent. But I don’t think people can be independent on Newstart.‘ he says.

A single unemployed person receive as little as $269.40 a week on Newstart.

‘Then you have to buy food which is $100 per week minimum. Plus you have to pay gas, electricity, water,’ he says. ‘If you’re only receiving Newstart, you don’t have enough money to pay for all these things. And I’m not talking about buying clothes or anything extra, or affording a car, which is something you need if you want to find a job.’

‘Everything is expensive. It’s not like 20 years ago or ten years ago. Especially rent costs have gone up astronomically high.’ 



Richard previously worked three hours a day as a cleaner. He has epilepsy so is not allowed to drive a car, and he struggles with depression. These factors have limited his capacity to find secure work over the past five years that he has been on and off Newstart.

‘I really have to try and stretch my income over the fortnight.’ he says. ’I pay my rent as soon as I get paid. Rent takes more than half of it every fortnight. Then I go to the supermarket and pay for my food, and then I pay my bills. Food and rent puts you behind straight away, so you’re not eating well either.’ 

Such a tight budget doesn’t leave much room for unexpected expenses. ‘On my way to work, I got fined $260 for being two dollars under on my Myki (public transport payment card). I almost cried. Mate I’m on the pension, how am I supposed to pay that fine!’

‘I’m lucky. I live in an inner suburb, and it's a pretty expensive area. But a friend of mine that I live with gives me cheap board. My rooms is like a cupboard otherwise I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Melbourne.’

‘Living in poverty is pretty detrimental to your mental health. But my flatmate says she’s seen a marked improvement in my depression since I started working part-time.’ 


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