Now, I know we’ve all seen the A Current Affair reports on “stoner dole bludgers” who live at the beach, surf all day and roll in their piles of taxpayer-funded cash all night.
But no one takes that seriously right?
Apparently they do, because a lot of stories have been written about Laurina being on the dole. Like it’s something she should be ashamed of. Except it’s not.
Stories like this. Post continues after video…
We have a welfare system because our society has decided that we want to help Australians in need. And that means when someone doesn’t have a job or savings they can apply for government assistance. So they don’t become homeless, so they can get back on their feet, so they can afford to buy food.
But even with income support, plenty of people are still struggling. According to the Australian Council of Social Service in 2014, 40 per cent of people on some form of income support were living below the poverty line.
When you separate out the payments, 55 per cent of people on Newstart (the dole), live below the line, and so do almost 51 per cent of people on Youth Allowance (studying) and 48 per cent of parenting payment recipients.
For a single adult, living below the poverty line means you’re earning less than around $400 a week.
Being on welfare payments isn’t easy or fun. It’s a hard slog. You have to be super-organised, and willing to constantly share every aspect of your life with strangers so you can afford to pay your bills (or at least some of your bills).
For people on unemployment payments there are a series of hoops to be jumped through like career coaching and a minimum number of job applications to do each week.
It is not fun. It is not easy. It is not something that someone should be ridiculed for having to do.
I was too young to remember the first time I set foot in a Centrelink office. (It wasn’t even called Centrelink back then.)
My Mum (who also worked two jobs) was on the sole parent pension, and back then you had to go into the office each fortnight and pick up your cheque. My brother and I would play in the kids area while she waited her turn.
I was on Youth Allowance at university. I also worked as much as I could to supplement the payments, and in the end ditched Youth Allowance in my final year to basically work full time – my tutorials crammed into one morning – to pay my Sydney rent.
Did you notice that in recounting my mother’s welfare access, and my own, I felt the need to tell you about our employment status too?
I wanted you to know I’m not a “deadbeat” and neither is my mum. Because that’s the connotation when you hear someone’s been spending their days down at the local Centrelink office.
And even for those people who aren’t working while collecting a payment, the myth couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’ve ever had anything to do with our nation’s safety net, you’d know that the level of organisational mastery you need to get your meager payments is off the charts.
If you’re a CEO looking for a new executive assistant, this is the place to find one.
So next time someone takes a swipe at the people who receive social security payments, remember they are more often than not subsisting on a pittance while operating a sophisticated personal bureaucracy.
Impressive. And probably also the reason Laurina was so zen in that snake den.