By Tracie Aylmer
As someone who has tried absolutely everything to get off benefits, only to fail time and again, I have few funds to throw around. I can’t afford a car, so obviously take public transport, like so many other unemployed who can’t afford a car.
We make do with what we have, in order to do what we can.
I am obviously not the kind of person that could be classified as a ‘dole bludger’. People comment all the time about everything I do in the community. Mind you, Centrelink and business will never care about that. All they see is the fact that I am still receiving benefits, and then they denigrate. The most ironic thing is that there are literally thousands of people in my situation, who can’t find a job so volunteer regularly within communities all around Australia. In fact, their volunteering within the community is what keeps communities together. Business and government certainly aren’t doing that!
Imagine my shock when deciding to reconcile my public transport card, only to find that on some days I was charged $5.40 per day for travelling around while doing my volunteer work. For someone on benefits, $5.40 PER DAY is a similar amount to filling up about an eighth to a quarter of a tank of petrol in a car (not that I can afford a car). It was also more than the amount that I used to fill up my motor scooter, which I could have used every day for a whole week (or two)!
It’s also the same amount of money that could purchase bread and milk at a shop, or other groceries to keep one going.
$5.40 can buy an unemployed person so much, yet per day this is what I paid for in travel, via Transperth, to fulfil my volunteering needs. This is also the amount that they charged, even though I have a health care card which is supposed to reduce what I pay for public transport.
For those that are unemployed and homeless, these amount of funds are nowhere to be found. To get anywhere, one trip can cost $1.35 one way around Perth. Even though the city area itself is free for all who travel, not one unemployed person could afford to live in the city. Unemployed people live on the outskirts of that particular area, which means that we have to pay for our public transport.
I understood and accepted that I would have to pay. I’m the type of person that expects to pay. I hate owing anything, to anyone. However, I did not expect to be paying through the nose for something as simple as public transport.
Those on unemployment benefits are not paid according to actual living standards in the first place. We are paid so seriously below the poverty line, it is no wonder homelessness is such a major issue. In addition, we are denigrated beyond the point of obtaining employment by Centrelink, job provider organisations linked to Centrelink and businesses, as well as real estate agents.
For those on unemployment benefits, even travelling to job interviews (if we are even lucky to get one of those!) will cost us through the nose.
For those that are homeless and trying to find accommodation to get off the streets (which is nearly impossible during these circumstances, and for which I have recently written about), travelling anywhere will highly likely mean that one is fined for the convenience by transit officers that act like the police. In Western Australia, this then means that one could likely end up in prison due to unpaid fines. For those that are Indigenous, this could also mean that one can die, simply for not paying their fines and ending up in prison, as what happened with Miss Dhu.
Statistically, the unemployed and underemployed are noted by Roy Morgan as being 18.1% of the employable population in April 2016. This does not include those that have given up, those that do not receive benefits, or the homeless that have fallen off the radar. When considering all aspects of the population, this percentage of the population that needs some kind of help in benefits in order to survive is actually quite high. Nearly one fifth of the employable population needs help in benefits. And most of those are denigrated by the people that have jobs, without realising that they could, too, lose their job and then be on benefits themselves, due to the incredibly horrible policies of this current government.
Public transport is supposed to be affordable, particularly for those on benefits. When it is so high, it is obvious why our debts to the government are so high, and why our prisons are so overcrowded.
Also by Tracie Aylmer: