New start? Hardly.

My name is Annette and I’m on Newstart.

Newstart is a government allowance, a welfare payment, provided to adults seeking full time employment.

In exchange for Newstart, I am required to search for a certain number of jobs per month, and to report in person to my parole officer job services provider once a fortnight, to provide them with details of my job search efforts.

In the past 26 weeks, my job services provider has provided me with a grand total of three roles to apply for.

Just three, in 26 weeks. (Leaves me thinking they’re working harder for Centrelink than they are for job seekers. There’s a massive industry of people who have jobs based solely on other people not having jobs…. hmmm, curious.)

I have applied for job after job after job this year, fortnight after fortnight. I have worked for short periods, but have been mostly on the hunt. I apply for administrative jobs, from office coordinator to receptionist roles, I apply for roles I know I’m overqualified for, some roles that really interest me, roles that don’t spark anything, and jobs I think I’d be bored stupid in. I’ve applied across industries from public accountants to plumbers, from law firms to mysterious ‘private advertisers’. I apply directly and through agencies. I don’t even discriminate against ads with horrendous grammar and spelling errors, they need me the most! I write cover letters, tweaking them to suit each role, and I’ve checked and updated my CV. On paper, I’m doing everything right.

I send my applications out…     crickets.

No responses at all, for months on end.

Just this week, I got a call from a prospective employer. He confused me with another applicant, then asked me how much I expected to get paid. That was his only question.

On Newstart, I get $333.40 per week (as a fortnightly payment of $666.80).

According to The University of Melbourne Poverty Lines: Australia December Quarter 2015 report (Table 4) the national poverty line for a single adult is $520.51 (weekly). That’s $187.11 more than someone like me (single, no dependents) receives weekly on Newstart.

To keep things simple, I’ll break things down the way I actually budget each month, which is based on two fortnightly payments, totalling $1,333.60.

From that, let’s deduct just some of my monthly expenses:

  • $867.00 rent
  • $35.00 mobile phone (not on contract, just reduced)
  • $60.00 internet (fixed contract)
  • $90.00 average winter utility bill (this will come way, way down across summer, but I’ll have aircon costs)
  • $26.00 foxtel (not on contract, I negotiated this rate #likeaboss. I could cancel it, but I haven’t. Judge away!)
  • $150.00 groceries (this definitely fluctuates, I have a well stocked pantry & freezer, and generous friends)
  • That’s $1,228.00, which leaves me with $105.60.

I haven’t included petrol, occasional doctor’s visits (last month, I needed to go twice in the space of a week), my minimum credit card payment, a new sketchbook or pad of watercolour paper, insurance premiums, buying a magazine on a whim, or blog hosting costs, but $105.60 (remember, that’s per month) only stretches so far.

My purpose in sharing these figures isn’t to illicit sympathy, or to get into a debate about the merits or pitfalls of the welfare system, it’s simply to share the realities of living on Newstart with you. It’s no picnic.

I maintain a pretty positive outlook, that’s my nature, but there are financial pressures at play, choices to be made, corners to be cut. If I can offset those worries by listening to a podcast in bed on a weekday morning, then that’s where you’ll find me.

When I was last out of work, I remember crying at the kitchen sink on more than one occasion — what is it about doing the dishes that brings on the tears — worrying about paying the rent on time, or feeling utterly gutted that I ran out of mayo. True story, an empty mayonnaise brought me completely undone, you can read about it here.

I think a lot of people simply don’t know what being on Newstart means, so when they hear the ‘lazy, no hopers, living off YOUR taxes, blah, blah, blah’ tripe that shows like A Current Affair trot out once a quarter, (side note: stop watching that shit, seriously!), they don’t have an accurate frame of reference from which to make their judgments. That’s never stopped anyone though!

Anyone who claims living on Newstart is easy, or that it’s a long term option that people choose, is utterly misinformed. Try it for a month or two, I dare you: if you’re single, try and live off $1,333.60. It’s not easy.
I am actually super proud of the way I manage it, even if my RACV roadside assistance is now overdue.

I am so grateful for the Newstart allowance, without it I don’t know what my life would look like right now.

I’d most likely be homeless, and desperate in ways that I don’t want to imagine. *shudders*

Of course, I’d rather be earning my own money, as I’ve done for most of the past 30+ years.

I know that my next job is out there, it’s just a matter of time, effort and opportunity meeting.

That’s the new start I really need.

Frugally,

Annette