"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.’
That's me. As I've just tweeted at someone, cause dental is so expensive I can't afford to get the issues with my teeth fixed so they're just getting progressively worse. $267 a week doesn't leave you with room for teeth or health really.— Firedingo (@Firedingo) January 23, 2018
I don't know how many times I have to say IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. I've been on Newstart. Only way I managed was move in with family.— Robyn D (@KoparaFallsKid) October 30, 2017
You choose between bills. This fortnight I'll pay phone and Internet, next fortnight power. Forever behind and distressed.— Sarah (¬_¬) #UluruStatement #TreatyNow (@SarahEHoll) February 27, 2018
"Being on Newstart actually makes you less of a person". Trish has struggled to find work and to survive on $100 a week, after rent... for electricity, gas, food, transport, clothes. It's time to reform our social security system #sharethepie #Hendersonconference #auspol https://t.co/mGIglNWpiL— Conny Lenneberg (@clenneberg) February 17, 2018
Ross, I can endorse this video 100%. I’m OK now, but living on the dole is hard financially. It is also soul-destroying. You don’t want more money, you want to re-join the human race.— Neil Johnston (@NeilJohnno) February 18, 2018
We had to cut off our Internet, as it is the only thing left that isn’t “essential”. We have to walk 3 km to the local library or catch a train then sit in the shopping mall to use free wifi, and feel very isolated now.— duritz (@duritz) February 27, 2018
Many don't, they're our rapidly growing homeless, in streets, cars, and couch surfing.— CapableCate (@CapableCate) February 21, 2018