Xpress Y R S E L F JUNE 2002
DROVE ME MAD
by Amy Anderson
|I am a woman in my mid to late
30's. in mid-1997, I was mysteriously and wrongfully dismissed from a job
I had been in since 1993
I applied for Newstart, and when I was given it, the woman at Centrelink wrote, as if picking a number out of a hat, that I had to apply for 8 jobs a fortnight. This meant that I applied for jobs that i didn't want to and wouldn't normally apply for. At that stage, 8 jobs a fortnight was such a heavy burden, that I was willing to accept any work, even work which I had ethical problems with, just to get Centrelink off my back.
Later, when I explained the problem to the same woman at Centrelink, she said I didn't have to APPLY for 8 jobs, I just had to have 8 contacts with employers, even though she quite clearly said APPLY the first time.
So I applied for and accepted a job in a
|call-out centre, where I was given some training. during the
training, it was explained that the work was legal. `Legal", I
thought, but not ethical.
I knew how much I hated having my privacy invaded by people ringing me at home to ask irrelevant questions about various goods or services that I wasn't interested in. In fact, as soon as I told some of my friends about it, the first thing they said was `don't ring me.'
I lasted about a week. As the week progressed, things became weirder and weirder. On almost the first day, one of the other `callers' insulted me about my name. then, one phone call I made was weird in a way that is too difficult to describe here.
|As it is difficult to relate to people at the best of times
with a mental illness, making cold calls to sometimes hostile people,
about Whitegoods is not easy. Also, the travelling and time commitment
caused me stress, and with all the other problems I was dealing with, as I
remember I collapsed in a heap and went on sickness benefits.
Around the same time, I would go back to my previous employer and ask for more work. He'd say aggressively that I could work full-time, which I would attempt, but only last two or three days into the first week, before i'd start to feel like I was going CRAZY.
Each time I got work, I'd go off Newstart. Then I'd collapse and have to go on to Sickness Benefits. When I had only marginally recovered, i'd go back on Newstart and have to look for work again. This went on for about six months as I remember.
MORE PAIN ....
It was a painful process - dealing with Centrelink staff was very painful. I experienced most of them as aggressive and uncaring.
I was doing a little bit of tutoring, as well as volunteer work, so I would put that on the dole form each fortnight. the question was ` did you do any volunteer work APPROVED by Centrelink in the last fortnight?". I wrote that I had done some at a hospital.
|They never disputed it, so i assumed they approved of it. so
each time I had done the work, I wrote it on the form, and never had any
problem with centrelink about it. After some months of this, I received a
letter from Centrelink stating that they thought it would be more
appropriate for me to be on a Disability Support Pension.
Part of the reason i was having health problems was the difficulties I was having with Centrelink. Whilst on the pension, doing a few odd jobs, in which I had to sign a tax form, it would be hard to keep track of them, so I would receive aggressive letters from Centrelink saying I had not declared employment or earnings.
i would often be given a short deadline before which to reply, with the threat of being cut off if i didn't. It is like having to deal with the tax dept. every few days, all year round. However, being given the pension, was a huge relief compared to the previous situation, and it gave me space to heal.
I had to attend a couple of interview with Centrelink doctors. I always took someone with me, because I found the doctor's questions invasive, aggressive, and hard to answer. I would not know the doctor beforehand, and the first doctor in particular showed a marked misunderstanding of the `illness'.
In one interview, I said that dealing with Centrelink was one of the factors causing
|me stress. After the third interview, they sent me the
letter saying I could be on the Pension for five years. that was even
better, because it meant i didn't have to attend another doctor's
interview for at least four years. that space would help with the healing
A major factor in the healing process was being given the space not to
have to work, by going on the pension. Being given it for five years
is something that, if it continues, will allow me to heal substant-
It means I have the freedom to explore a bit more, to have greater choice and control over what I do with my time. Also, importantly, it means that I don't feel forced to have to do work to have to work when I desperately need to rest.
However, if I am forced to got back on to Newstrat, and do work-for-the-dole, even for 15 hours a week, it would reate a major set-back in the positive process which has been happening.
I am not a bad person. I have a conscience, and am making genuine and consistent efforts to improve my health, as well as to make a positive contribution to the community as a way of , if you like, "earn my keep". I am very grateful for the space the pension has allowed me, and am ever hopeful of returning to some sort of work.
|Perhaps I will eventually become self -
supporting again. But if I am forced to seek this before I am ready to, I can only
foresee more troubles like those I have already described. No doubt I would deal with it, as I have always attempted to do, and I would have more resources to do that than I had then.
However for people who are still in the very vulnerable early stages of the illness, or in the chaos, anguish and trauma of it at its worst, I can see nothing but very serious trouble. They will suffer deep pain and trauma, and major problems - which are contributed to by a system that was set up to help people, not harrass them .
Rather than being allowed to be at home without being harrassed to look for work or forced to do work-for-the-dole, many of these people are at risk of having to go back into psychiatric hospitals. In my experience, most of these are not places of healing. For one thing it can be very expensive to be in hospital.
It is a place where a lot of unhealthy people are grouped together, and often inappropriate medications, or levels of the same, are prescribed. These can impede recovery. Unless a person is very lucky and finds a doctor who genuinely cares and understands (rather than simply pry into personal matters) things will only get worse.
Also, a lot of people with mental illness have been moved out of boarding house
|with share kitchens, which (sometimes illegally) backpackers
are taking over. They are then put into single units by the Housing
Commission - including within highrises or similar impersonal buildings. What
is happening to our society?
The above true
story gives us an idea
We would be interested to hear more from people on the Disability Pension about how it may effect you. Our postal address at the Embassy is on the front page of this Website. We hope to get an email address going soon (we already have one that we have to check out).
MORE TO COME IN THIS ISSUE
|A NEW ISSUE ABOUT PERSECUT-
ION BY CENTRELINK AFTER
THE FOLLOWING BACK ISSUE
PREVIOUS "XPRESSYRSELF" AUGUST 2001
TICKET TO HIDE !
Hassles in a day in the life of a
A trip on the bus.
The bus driver is working for his
Therein lies the problem. Most
a. the bus driver probably thinks I
b. because they've seen him validate
c. they're probably thinking `what a
All in a simple bus ride!
The other day, I asked if I could
One day, there was a brilliant driver
If the ticket design was changed
Signing off for now,
yours, Diddly Middle.
The city wears a cacophanous
Helicopters passing overhead
A madman fills the ear
At dawn the piercing horns
Traffic injuries follow
Alarming fire engines
|An aboriginal couple argue loudly
in the street,
"Don't f...g tell me what to do!"
she shouts at him in the heat.
"Nobody's perfect , mate,"
the uncle lies while his kid cries,
Welfare's progeny grow up
fractious, strident. wild.
Aircraft thunder overhead:
Irrational conflicts, illwill,
Redfern wears a cacophanous face
by CHRIS RATH
The magazine project first
As well as editing this
new issue "Xpress Yrself" building here - december 2002
HOWARD'S TAX ON SEX
Centrelink's policy on Reduced Income for pensions for couples seriously makes low income earners discouraged to have permanent relationships because of extra financial hardship by Joan Blackmore
|As a single person, without dependants on a full
disability or old age pension, I would get $357.30 per fortnight. If I
married or had a defacto relationship with another person on a full
disability pension (or old age pension also) we would get $298.40 per
Our income is reduced, Sex would cost us $58.90 each per fortnight!