The dismal round trip to Centre-link.(unemployment office)

IMG_0046the fuchia

The Fuchsia and Cyclamen giving us joy; just like that!

Some time ago we were kicked out of the Australian aged pension. There isn’t a universal aged pension here, but instead a pension only for those that have assets and income below a certain amount. It is called ‘deeming’. One is deemed to have less than what is regarded as acceptable to live in comfort in old age. Only then people get a pension so small one needs a torch to find it. Coming from a culture where pensions are a right for everyone, rich or poor and not a ‘hand-out’, this has always been a thorn in my side, no matter how often I eat meat pies or watch the Melbourne Cup.

We grew up rich in a frugal culture with nothing wasted.   That’s why all our three adult children were helped by us with an original deposit enabling them to buy their own places. That is the reward for not wasting and squandering. Squandering is easily done. Just look around the number of young people walking while ‘downloading’, either electronica or huge burgers with Coke. One can almost hear the cash registers at the Telcos and Dominoes running red-hot.  We hoped our example would set a standard but I am not sure young people really understand it.

The not squandering money stood us in good stead but the Government recently used it to not  pay pensions and instead now rely on the old to spend up the hard earned savings and then hopefully cark it before they are so poor they might just beg for the miserly and dismal pension from the Government’s tight wadded fists. They prefer to give away billions to large corporations in tax concessions so that they can whoop it up in Lichtenstein or the Cayman Isles.

Anyway, with this and that, our savings have now fallen below the amount whereby it might just be possible to creep back into the Australian Pension. Hence our walk, cap in hand, to The Centre-Link office. Centre-Link now is he Australian Federal Governmental Hub whereby all social welfare is handled, from child endowments to unemployment income (‘the dole’, what a dreadful demeaning expression!)  single parents subsidies and the Old Age pension and much more as well.

You know, something dreadful is forever happening here at Centre-link. One sometimes see the police trying to calm down a person driven to insanity. No wonder. The grey-blue fluorescent lights saps the spirit immediately on entering. There is just nowhere to rest your eyes.  There are painted steps on the carpet which one has to follow. It leads you to a battery of computers.  This in an attempt to foster self reliance in doing all the complicated and tortuous paperwork. One is expected to join ‘MY-GOV’ and follow all the prompts to its destination whereby, hopefully one receives whatever benefit is asked for.

Even joining the MY-GOV website is way too difficult and especially the elderly give up. What, with creating e-mail addresses, passwords and a host of identification proof. The atmosphere not only effects the clients but also the staff. It is all so grey and doomed. A ghoulish blanket settles over everybody within minutes. This is a Dracula snooping around in need of a blood top-up exercise.

We can’t wait to get out of the place. I did manage to fill in all the questions, even uploading all the bank statements and withdrawals, the drivers license, my passport and rate notices, proof of citizenship, so much more.  I did the same for Helvi. It doesn’t matter that she is my wife and that all banking, income is shared. This extra punishment is demanded. And of course, all that information they already have from earlier times.

We now can’t wait to go to our radiation hospital treatments, get a needed spiritual lift. Or go home and look at the garden.

I was so determined to get above it all.  I’ll seek council through the Fuchsias and Cyclamen instead.

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32 Responses to “The dismal round trip to Centre-link.(unemployment office)”

  1. DisandDat Says:

    So true, so awfull, so dumb. Our local community health centre has a bit of that “we are doing you a favour” attitude. For those that saw Michael Moore’s doco “Where do we invade next” was such a eye opener on how other countries treat the less fortunate and more! Why are our leaders so blind. Why do they always compare US with the USA? Why is Europe not on their radar?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Welfare has not always been like it is now.

      It’s when the conservatives, and later the LNP took to Government that the attitude hardened. Sadly, the ALP too now is also manuring this resentment towards showing empathy and benevolence for societal needs and wellbeing. They too approve of the refugees being locked away now for the fifth year into detention without having been charged with any crime.

      When my father turned 65 and entitled to a pension, and both my parents were asked to turn out their pockets and handbags to obey the ‘deeming’ rules that mum thought it was scandalous to thus be treated. That was in 1973!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. leggypeggy Says:

    Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lifecameos Says:

    Good luck ! What nightmares the governments of today inflict on their voters. The trouble is all parties do it, so voting one way or the other makes no difference on this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Forestwood Says:

    Centrelink has never been a great benefit to me, nor my family. Frustrating too, because each worker gives you a different answer to your questions……

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Centrelink here is in a new building. It has cool fluorescent lights instead of warm. Not a bit of greenery to see nor even a print on the walls. It is visually in a total drought. Not a thought has gone into design. It’s all such a downer, especially for those that have to work there.
      Of course, the client is already likely to be stressed. Why does it have to be so unrelentingly grim?
      We were helped by a man who told us he came from Syria as a child. At least he did help us along and was professional. Most of the staff seemed just as depressed as the clients. I am not surprised.
      We all have feelings.
      I wonder if the government is deliberately setting the tone for disillusionment?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Master of Something Yet Says:

    Didn’t you know the Age of Entitlement is over? Unless, of course, you’re a politician, a multinational company or a part of the 1%. In that case, pull up a seat at the trough.
    It’s appalling and I’m sorry you’ve had to go through it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I never thought I would end up sitting in a large hall with others waiting for my medical bills to get partly refunded.
      You follow the footsteps towards the computers but for rebates on medical bills you divert, and walk towards a lectern behind which stands a Centrelink officer.
      She taps in a tablet your name and number while rocking on her heels as if facing a subordinate. One half expects her to whistle for reinforcements.
      One waits and waits…
      It’s totally different at the cancer clinic. People are enthusiastic and keen to talk.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Big M Says:

    I read yesterday that a member of the Bowral Centrelink refused an epileptic a disability pension because ‘ you don’t look disabled’! This was despite, or in spite of, letters from three General Practitioners and one Neurologist supporting his case. The pension was awarded after the neurologist physically walked into the office and read the manager the riot act.

    There must be hundreds who dont have the guts, gumption, writing skills or friends to help in the battle against the dreaded Centrelink. They seem to treat all of their applicants like they’re on parole.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Nothing surprises, Big M.
      When I turned 65, it was the Dutch Government notifying me (and Helvi) I was entitled to a part Dutch pension for having worked a couple of years in Holland. I never even thought it was the case.
      I did not have to fill in anything except send proof of identity. It is a small pension, even so, a different way of doing it. No resentment or hints of ‘hand outs.’
      Here one is made to feel a hopeless failure.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. jennypellett Says:

    Isn’t it just the worst. You could just as easily have been describing the situation here in the UK. Have you seen the film “I, Daniel Blake”? It’s a Ken Loach special and outlines exactly the sort of faceless, mindless bureaucracy folk have to face just to survive. Worth watching, but not a joyful film by any means.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I have a feeling that it is also like that in the UK. They too believe in punishing and retribution, not much rehabilitation going on.
      Prisons overflowing and many people baying for revenge.
      I must look up to see “I, Daniel Blake”?
      Right now I am more in the mood for a Charley Chapman.


  8. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    What a discouraging system. You would thing one would be rewarded for having lived an exemplary life instead of punishing them. I think we are all sick and tired of big GOV. It makes one wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Kayti.
      An exemplary life has rewards, mainly indoors with peace and quiet.
      One sometimes wonder though about the indoor ‘the peace and quiet’ .The Government is urging people to phone triple zero if they hear domestic violence next door. Shouting and breaking of teapots etc..
      The police on average deal with over 400 cases of DV per day. It must be a warzone in Marriageland.


  9. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    Yes. 😦 So frustrating and disheartening. 😦
    Things should be easier for people as they get older and have tried to live a good life….have contributed good to society, nature, and the world. But, it seems things are not that way where so many things are concerned.
    Best of luck!
    Yes, we must look for the daily joys and we will find them…in family, friends, other people, our furry-friends, nature, books, volunteer work, art, music, writing,etc.!
    Your fuchsia is gorgeous! A definite joy-bringer! 🙂
    HUGS for you and Helvi! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The daily joys have to be found, Caroline.
      I wondered as a child how the elderly so often looked old and somewhat disappointed. Did it not work out as planned? Their faces lined with groves going down towards a pointed chin.

      We must remain in charge and find the joys, even make the joys. It doesn’t matter if all did not go according to plan. Things often go a different direction. So be it.

      I made a potato bake yesterday. Absolutely divine. In between the layers of potato I put some anchovies, artichokes, some fried onions and bacon. Also chopped up leek and olives. The lot dunked in milk and cream. Grated cheese on top.
      It was popped in the oven for a bit more than one hour. It was lovely.
      Hugs too.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    Gez, my heart goes out to anyone having to deal with these pissant servants of the worst government since the last one.

    We are trying to get Tim the Cabin Boy (not his real name, obviously) onto EITHER disability support or the NDIS. Tim has a diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder with Asperger’s, ADHD – predominantly inattention, Oppositional Defiance Disorder – which means he will deny and argue against plain truth. As a bonus, he has hyperflexia – which means he has floppy double jointed limbs and hypotonia – small muscles with no power. This translates into poor fine motor skills – his handwriting is illegible – even to Tim.

    Despite this, after three years post school, he still wants to find a job and help us pay the rent.

    Four visits to Centrelink finally got him into the queue for assessment by some clerical bozo with an agenda of “NO”. They said it might take six months or longer – but he could receive Newstart allowance in the mean time. But whereas disability support does not incur means testing of parents, Newstart does. So, no can do !

    So we went around to the local rip-off merchants who are contracted to assist people with disabilities to find work. BUT – they don’t get paid until Centrelink says so…. so they won’t start until then.

    And if Tim miraculously finds work before Centrelink gets around to him, he risks compromising his disability support.

    Let’s look at NDIS. Imagine a huge building. On each of it’s four walls is a sign saying “Entrance this way” – with an arrow to the right. So when you walk to the next side ….

    Our psychologist – so far $1,700 into confirming what we already know – Tim is of “average intelligence” but with some serious weaknesses – like in the lower 4% of the population for working memory, lower 2% for remembering spoken instructions – it was suggested that we should see a psychiatrist (the heavy hitters of mental health) for a diagnosis to support the NDIS application.

    Fortunately we have two autism specialist psychiatrists within 3 km of our place ! One of them is booked out until January 2019.

    The first consultation is $600 – and if we want to get on this ridiculous wait list we have to pay up $300 today.

    The other is available in July. Good news !

    No, wait up a bit. He refuses to see patients who are seeking support for NDIS ! I am about to pen a letter of complaint to the Royal College over that one.

    Is there any way to get into the NDIS building ? Yes there is. But it depends on where you live. The gatekeepers are again contracted welfare “specialists”.

    So we called up Marrickville area – which was Uniting Care. They said they would get back to us. They didn’t. So we called them again. Then they told us we were not living in their area (really ? we paid rates to Marrickville Council).

    We are supposed to call Vinnies.

    We aren’t going to. We know what will happen. They come around, see our place – Cambria, our 1890 villa – make the assumption that we are rich without verifying with the CommBank – that other bastion of corporate virtue – that we are anything but rich. And with respect, what the fuck would a random Vinnies person know about the nuances of the autistic spectrum ?

    We’ve been feeding, clothing, educating, providing a roof for and caring for Tim and his impossible ways for 20 years and they are going to make a call from one fucking visit.

    It’s a shit system Gez, and if they aren’t going to provide support for people with mental health disabilities they should stop pretending and wasting people’s time and resources.

    Just FUCK OFF the lot of them.

    Liked by 4 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Trouserzoff. It is not easy.

      Centrelink or the old unemployment office used to give jobs or unemployment money. I remember getting a few jobs through them in the fifties and sixties.
      A man behind an old wooden desk would forage through a box of cards which held the details of available jobs.
      The unemployment office had a cosy smell of cigarette smoke and stale banana sandwiches. They always gave me a job. It was simple and it worked.

      I feel for you and even more for young Tim, The Cabin Boy.
      My schizophrenic brother, Frank, during his times out of Callan Park also managed to get heaps of jobs which lasted for about a week before he was sacked.
      His numerous taxation returns were legendary amongst the Oosterman clan and still at times ruminated over.

      The thing is, there was a time things functioned so much better.
      Part of the problem is that so much of Centrelink’s work is hived off to private contractors who have no qualms collecting the government money but don’t provide what they are paid for.

      We had two lengthy interviews here at our home by earnest Commonwealth women joining us on ‘Aged Care’. It sounds terrific. This care is subcontracted out to Anglo-care and other church organisation.
      Helvi’s cancer and her treatment warranted fortnightly house cleaning and medical equipment. There is no disagreement about that. But we are still waiting!
      I have given up on phoning them, prefer to grab the fucking vacuum cleaner and suck the dust up myself. As for the free bus trip and boat on the river at Nowra, or the Community transport to go shopping at Coles, it is all Down-Down now.

      I suppose a lot of it seems to be, that the going through the motions of care is there, including the printing of glorious brochures, but in factual results, it works at best tortuously and with great difficulty.

      The Governments soul and heart is not there for the disadvantaged but for the magnates and their oligarchy. I wish I could give more advice, help and understanding.

      All the best and regards to Tim The Cabin Boy ,FM and yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    Cyclamen ! You and Helvi are wizards. I’ve never been able to get them to survive more than a week after I get them home. What is the secret ?


  12. Vicki Says:

    You have my sympathy. When I quit working due to chronic illness and pain in early 2010 aged 56, my Doctor helped me apply for a Centrelink Disability Pension, but the reality is as you’ve written.

    I filled out all the forms and then a week later (from memory), I had to go back, wait in a long queue, with breathing difficulties and dizziness as I was intolerant (not as bad as allergic) to the carpet. I was in agony (with past spinal surgery still making its mark), but then had to sit by a staff member and answer every single question all over again.

    To this day I hate Centrelink offices, although a trip last week found no queue and slightly better carpet greeting me. I also had the wonderful experience of a staff officer who was knowledgeable, intelligent and could think quicker than myself (before chronic illness twisted my cognitive function and short term memory).

    Life is not easy when I pay half my pension in rent (never been able to afford a deposit on an apartment or house) and continue to pay top private health insurance – mandatory with my long term ill-health and surgeries.

    What annoys the s%^$! out of me is that you have to quit working due to chronic ill health (to the tune of close to $200,000 over a 20 year period) and now, I can’t afford the gap fee for specialists and therapies.

    Too unwell (pain, fatigue, intermittent short term memory and cognitive problems) to work and too poor to get treatment.

    Having said that, I used a small inheritance to buy some camera gear and now…….I’m not a Sick Person, I’m a Photographer (who just happens to have serious health conditions).

    Good luck with Centrelink – you’ll need it 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The working of a community can also do wonders for the wellbeing of individuals. And with good Government, this can become in a way the community.

      However, the way with many of those government offices is that the human interaction gets lost. To save on cost the minimum number of people are employed to do the work. It becomes filling in forms and answering printed questions. Often, there are things that can’t be supplied by filling forms with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’

      One gets the feeling of being judged and nervousness easily takes over. Our claim for pensions was impossibly complicated and we were forced to do this on-line without much support. I can well understand some people might lose the will to go on. It should not be so difficult.

      We had support from one young man who told us he was from Syria. He would know the way things are done in Australia and understood our plight.
      It took me several days to plough through all the forms and upload documents. At times I had to go home and rest on bed, hyperventilating. I was so angry.

      I am so glad you overcame, Vicki. It must have been so hard. These are difficult times but your creative life is now ahead of you.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. shoreacres Says:

    Your descriptions sounded remarkably like our Social Security offices, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Now that drivers’ licenses can be renewed online, except after the specified period has expired (five, seven, or ten years, I believe) things are much easier. The lines presumably are shorter, and perhaps the workers aren’t quite as short-tempered. The same is true for auto tags.

    Unfortunately, such convenience and reasonableness haven’t translated to issues of health care and health insurance. My mother was lucky enough to have excellent private insurance as well as our Medicare, so never had to pay a bill from her own funds — but that private insurance was connected to my dad’s employment, and of the sort that rarely is found these days. I’ve not had to deal with the complications of it all. God willing, I’ll keep working and paying my own bills until I’m 95, and then keel over and not have to stand in a line or negotiate a system — ever!

    You’re right about the cyclamen liking cool weather. It’s a winter plant here, and by this time they’ve all faded, unless they’ve been brought in to live in the air conditioning as a house plant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      A few countries are trying out small samples of a Universal Income. The problem is that overall, work and earning money, are goals that mainly satisfy. On the other hand, not all can work or are capable of earning an income. The struggle is to give financial aid to those that need it without taking the incentive away to work.
      The Universal Income does not take away this incentive as people that want to work are still allowed to keep this UI.
      The US and Australia have much in common in that welfare is kept to a minimum and together with homelessness is creating a vast army of dissatisfied people. Walking around in Sydney one is overcome by the large number of people sleeping rough with a staggering increase of women adding to the homeless.
      I don’t know what the Chinese tourists make of this as they step past the flotsam of the results of ‘Democracy’.
      Something is going wrong.
      Best is to stick to cyclamen or flowering cacti.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. auntyuta Says:

    “The Fuchsia and Cyclamen giving us joy; just like that!”
    Thanks for showing us this picture, Gerard. Yes, what a joyful garden. Love it!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Elly McDonald Says:

    Gerard, I would *Love* this, if Love were an option. Thank you


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