Today, Dr Anne Aly is one of Labor's most high-profile federal MPs. An internationally respected academic, who for the past five years has sat in the House of Representatives on behalf of the people of Cowan — a marginal seat in Perth's northern suburbs.
But nearly three decades ago, the Egyptian-born woman found herself standing in a Centrelink office with her 1-year-old on her hip and her 3-year-old clutching her hand.
Watch: Dr Aly on the reality of living on income support payments as a single mother.
She remembers the fluorescent lights, the grey walls, the worn-down carpet "trodden by a million desperate souls". She remembers telling the man behind the counter she was fleeing a violent relationship and needed assistance.
She remembers the employee telling her it could be six weeks until her first payment, and him querying if she had anyone who could help her in the meantime.
She remembers telling him no. Nobody.
She remembers walking out the glass sliding doors, her application complete, and leaning up against the concrete wall of the building in tears.
"I looked up, and there was this bloke walking towards me," the Member for Cowan told Mamamia. "He had a tank top on, and he was smoking a cigarette, and for a second, our eyes met. And I remember thinking to myself, 'I wonder what he sees when he sees me.'
"And at a point where I just needed someone to go, 'I feel you', I saw nothing in his eyes. Never in my life have I felt more alone. Never."
The end of coronavirus support, and Australia's looming cliff.
Courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, that experience of walking into a Centrelink office for the first time is one more Australians recognise. Images of queues snaking from those fluorescent-lit buildings became an emblem of the pandemic and the havoc it wrought on businesses around the country.
While some 733,000 Australians received the JobSeeker equivalent (Newstart) at the end of 2019, that number doubled by May 2020. As of February 2021, it sat at 1.245 million.