Living in the 3rd World in Australia

I found out from a report on Thursday that I could access a one off payment for crisis.  Yesterday I decided to go to Centrelink the Australian welfare agency to access this one off payment.  I have $1.23 in my account and am in genuine hardship.  A friend has brought me food.

I have a rule not to ask for welfare (not that it is wrong to) but I felt a one off payment does not contravene my ethics in respect of conscientious objection in relation to the Job Provider system here.  Australia has privatised its social security function in respect of job placement.  This I believe has come from the US system.  Traditionally it was the government that provided welfare and jobs through the Commonwealth Employment Services (CES).  This was a more laid back approach where people would apply for social (security) and at the outlet they could search for jobs on boards as a service.  Today it is a different system based on a philosophy of mutual obligation which is designed from a business ethos of payment in exchange for undertaking activities and programs.  The terminology has changed from welfare to income support.  I find the wording interesting, one is about looking after wellbeing and the other is financial payments.

This was the information I looked at published in a report in 2017:

“…There are also many payments accessed less often for people in time of need, such as the Crisis Payment (a one-off payment for people in severe financial hardship)…” (page 5)

Note the quote comes from the report below, I did assess some of the data and I didn’t think it was clear, there were no numbers to calculate from and it appeared marketing to me to appear helpful.  Clearly the above statement was not true albeit published in 2017.  Refer https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/c20ec35c-918a-408f-b2ee-6a7476831977/aihw-australias-welfare-2017-chapter1-3.pdf.aspx

I went into a Centrelink Office yesterday and started dreaming what I would do with the money … get credit for my phone, petrol, I could have a coffee at a cafe (heaven for me), give some money to a friend who has helped me and a sense of breathing room.

I went up to the guy who is like an intake officer.  I told him I am not on Centrelink but nonetheless he looks up my details.  I look to my right and see rows of seats, like armchairs, I liked that and was directed to sit there.  I had my book on compassionate economics so I felt this is a good place to reflect.  I looked at the people, mostly elderly or middle aged Australians.  I looked at the cameras, the security guard with his big stomach (I smiled).  Let’s hope they don’t run.  I sat there at peace with life, who I am and homelessness.  I smiled at people.  I waited an hour.  I wondered about the toilet I couldn’t see one there.  I thought what about parents with children. There was no place for kids to play.

A man came and called my name and I walked to his little cubicle.  He assumed I wanted to re-engage.  I said I didn’t I had come for the one-off crisis payment. I had my bank statement with $1.23 on it and no income.  He was perplexed and said he didn’t know anything about that.  He spoke to another guy and came back and said there was no such payment.  I was really surprised.  That means that people not engaged with Centrelink (welfare) are unable to gain emergency funding. There may be a range of reasons why they can’t engage with the system given compliance expectations, compulsory activities, work for the dole and the coercion of the system.   I spoke to him of my conscientious objection to corruption of the job providers. There are reports about wide spread rorting and ABC television here has run a story on the problem. I cannot ethically take money from a system that is corrupt or not appearing to deal with the problem. Moreover, I found them ineffective in job matching and I had had no interview so it was superfluous for me to re-engage. It meant I had to live without income for 11 months now.  I have been homeless for 15 months. It had been a miracle that little bits of cash came to me through helping a person record her story and lately kindness from strangers who offered without my asking.  I consider it a gift from life.  This man and I had a good conversation and I could see he was concerned he couldn’t help me.  I am in a place where I accept what happens.  I felt no anger just reinforcement that the citizens who are home-less and without income are not being cared for by their government.  I feel for the people.

(added in) I had an insight this morning the reason those not engaging with the system cannot get emergency relief is because they are not working or active. The philosophy is they are not deserving of money unless they work. Beneath that is the business ethos which states you owe the society. Now many will agree with this as we are taught that you can’t have anything unless you work for it.  It depends on how you choose to see.  I see life as providing everything for free.  It is we humans that decide to charge, even water is charged for given it falls from the sky. We put a price and value on everything now believing this to be real.  Yet mothers give for free, when I clowned on the streets for free others gave to me for free, so the exchange was not a financial transaction but came naturally from love.  This would be the natural economy.  Life gives silently.  I am observing what comes through life not economics. The guy I spoke to gave his time to me as he accessed his humanity which is naturally giving. I gave him my insights out of sharing.  I smiled at people, this is giving.  I did not guilt him or get upset, this is giving to life and accepting what is.  I gave for 20 years expecting nothing in return why?  The receiving was in the giving.  That is what I experienced.  It just naturally happened and my life became just giving and it felt good. This is the gross national happiness.  Amazing.

I have some petrol and enough to get me home.  I saw the local Council and went there.  I was curious to see if they assist the homeless.  They said they didn’t but could refer me to a private non-government organisation that could.  I spoke to the lovely girl at the counter. She had a cross tatoo on her middle finger. I asked about it. She said she regreted it as Christians ask her about it.  I said turn it into an ankh – female empowerment. It is an Egyptian symbol. I found one when I was there.  She said she would.  She kindly gave me the address.

I drove to this next place.  I went up the stairs and met a lovely young woman.  Interestingly this is a place where they help mostly homeless women.  She had an Egyptian ankh around her neck, it shone.  I noted that and said I had spoken about that before to another woman. She said her mother brought it back from Egypt, it was the same as the one I had.  She asked if I would like food.  I said yes. Funny I was interested in coffee, but didn’t want to ask.  I don’t like asking anyone. Even my family I won’t ask.  I am allowing life to choose to give or not.  My challenge is can I go without and be at peace with that even if I have no food. Can I fast.  Can I stay in integrity.

I spoke to another woman who wanted to book me in for an appointment. I told her I would need a place soon but I am okay for now.  I enquired about petrol vouchers as I am getting low.  Mobility is an issue.  It is actually more expensive to go by public transport.  I noted even in Officeworks (stationary place, photocopying) that the poorest people pay more.  Most people get free photocopying at work.  When you are on your own you pay more, it is not shared.  Here in Melbourne you cannot access toll roads as you don’t have the money. I can’t go to a chiropractor for my back, I don’t have the money.  I can’t access bulk billing medical (Medicare) now as I have no concession card or low income card.  If I get a fine I can’t pay. I can’t go out as I have no money.  I can’t pay to go to events.  I can’t go to the cinema or other entertainments.  I can’t go to a pay carpark.  I have to find other places.  There are many barriers and exclusions.

The most interesting part of homelessness is public perception. There is a strong ethic of ‘get a job‘ and ‘be self reliant‘. The homeless are blamed and excluded by the mainstream. There are many barriers to get work these days, age, longevity out of mainstream work, background etc.  I regard myself as self reliant naturally, I am an independent person, no-one owes me.  I work for society for 20 years now for free as love motivates me not money.  So I am not bitter about protestant work ethic conditioning, I actually understand it. I do know unless you go through homelessness you can’t know the reality on the ground.  So I have plenty of room for understanding prejudices and empathising with those on the margins.  Yet it can be problematic if a person needs help, others will walk past them, they will fear entanglements as the homeless have no money or home, they will not want to be stuck supporting them and so on. The homeless do not want to overstay their welcome, they also don’t want to ask, they don’t know what to do and they are stuck in the poverty trap.  It is a clear trap as when income is low you can’t generate more.  If you are on large sums of money you can invest, money makes money but when you are below a threshold you actually find a downward spiral and the poverty mentality can become a narrow focus of never exiting this trap-door.

Clearly the government is offloading the homeless onto cash strapped charities as they would regard the homeless as either economically unviable or non productive (assets) in a business model rather than a social welfare perspective as a safety net or a form of social stability.  Personally I would see it as a compassionate act in a enlightened society to assist those without judgement.  I see the masculine as ‘working’ or ‘money making’ and the feminine as ‘caring’ and ‘serving’ rather than a blend of both within people in a socio-economic philosophy that regards caring as the very basis of a humanist economic system not something relegated as having no real value.  So mind sets and social stigma arise from unconscious  and conscious beliefs of what is of value and what is not.  I see citizenship as equal and I know from an economics perspective that there is not full employment, that job seekers apply for jobs 16:1, the odds are against them yet society can be unforgiving as success and loser status is applied and people evaluated on that basis.  It is another form of discrimination that is normalised in a economic narrative to dissuade stepping outside of the mainstream.

The woman and I speak, I tell her I want to help the homeless.  I am thinking I must sort out my side first but my aim is to help others.  So we make an appointment. I heard at the Council that the CEO is very switched on, so I am keen to meet her and offer my skills.

The young girl gave me food.  I was so touched by this.  I gave her a hug.  I really felt joy.  It was very beautiful.  Later when I looked at the food they included a bag with toothpaste, deodorant, hand cream, shampoo/conditioner, face washer, soaps with a little note saying ‘because we care’. That touched me the most. It was from Christians, I sent them love.  I was given food and I felt so happy. I really can see the gratitude any homeless person would feel when others give so kindly.  You really respect the others and feel gratitude.

Here are some photos.

I saw Australian Made in the pasta.  I think it is good if it all is Australian made, Australians sharing with Australians. It was beautifully done and thoughtful.  I really loved that.

I came back to my house sit and kept smiling at the kindness.  Kindness matters in this world. As we give we receive, as we receive we give as we are in continual exchange in life.  I give all the time but it is unseen, in this blog I give and share as love moves me to contribute. Yet in a material reality this would be accorded no value.  I regard life as an experience. I am losing attachment to my identity and social expectations. It is an experience that humbles me.

Later that day two men came to my door.  They were starting to tell me about Victor Change the heart surgeon.  I interrupted and honestly stated to them I have no money.  I said I was homeless.  I then asked them to tell me about what they were doing.  They were collecting for heart research.  The second guy said he had a heart problem when he was a baby.  He then told me he had been homeless for 7 years.  He said at 11 he went to live with his father then his father took him to his mother.  At 14 his mother wanted $200 a week for rent which he didn’t have. He was kicked out.  It sounded brutal to me.  He said he had pride and wouldn’t beg. He did seek food in dumpsters and was banned from the Aldi bins, apparently it was against the law to dig in bins.  I was amazed by that. Criminalising the very poor.  Wow.  He said sometimes he smelled and he had a big beard, he would be asked to leave libraries.  In fact the guy with him said he met him and this guy had said he had no money.  Amazingly the guy selling offered him a job.  He is standing before me, cleaned up and this other guy teaching him how to overcome fear of approaching people.  The homeless one was amazingly resilient. He was a survivor. He said he would work for food. I asked if the retailers offered money, he said no, he got food.  I thought about them, what is $20?  Yet I could see he created his life.  I said to him that he was inspirational and I believe he can go from strength to strength. The two of us conferred about people not understanding the reality.  Both guys stood talking about this for about an hour.  I told them about being a peace clown, my travelling the world and visiting the poorest people in India, how I believed in giving love and joy.  I did not see myself as a victim but it was fascinating learning from this other amazing guy.  I offered to record his story for YouTube.  I said it is important to raise awareness about homelessness and what you have experienced. We need to build community around helping each other and to not fear homelessness.

I came back inside and cooked a really yummy dinner.  I felt this enormous joy.  Giving really matters.  It is not in taking the real meaning is in contributing to our society.  These two guys got that.  I was wrapped that they realised that life is about service. That is the real wealth.

Tonight I felt inspired to share this story.  It is a blessing to experience the beauty in this life through the kind acts of strangers and to meet wonderful people.  I feel a gratitude that is beyond words.  I feel abundant.  I feel real hope as my own light  shines as love is my shelter.

I am living in the third world yet in a first world country.  No-one would know by looking at me that I have nothing.  I really love that I blend in.  Yet I wonder at all those who are in real poverty unseen and unheard.  Maybe, if it is my good fortune, I can help them.  They are in my heart.  Every cold night I think of those on the street, they are brave and they survive.  I feel them as strong and resilient.  I remember the 116,000 homeless in my wealthy country and then my heart turns to the homeless and poor in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Rohingya, Dafur, Nepal, India and the orphanages I visited, the abandoned women, HIV, deaf, leprosy and those in hospitals.  I think of the children in Africa starving every day and their parents.  I feel myself getting closer to them through insights and experience. I have never starved I now understand the 40 hour faminine Appeals to help people connect to others.  Experience is a great teacher.  I am here to learn about life as my modus operandi, experience is the key to understanding.  I could study a million words and know nothing.  I am learning to bow at the feet of everyone as a teacher. No-one is greater or lesser, we are ONE family.  I deeply feel this.

I send love to those home-less or place less (displaced) and those helping them find their dignity and a seat at the table of equals.  Giving to the poor is not a corporate social responsibilty, it is to come from a genuine responsibility that they are me without the desire to ‘be seen to be’ contributing to society.  Often the poor are used to make others look ‘good’ yet what if they are good without anyone looking, that is true kindness.  When you realise this is peace in action  you will see the real giving is to yourself when you experience your own abundance.  It feels so good to give.  What you give away returns.  Life is circular in truth.  So it is not about working in my view to make people value money or work via coercion – this disempowers.  It is about experiencing the abundance and giving this is what develops confidence and connection.  Rather than young having work experience I think learning to give to society is the way to build community within, this dissipates selfishness which divides (elitism) and is the reason for home-less-ness.  I see selfishness parading as giving ‘to be seen to be kind’ as about themselves (taking).  They are unable to connect, I sense this as the real home-less-ness.  They are disconnected through taking transactions that divide rather than giving to live (unite within).

Life is not what it seems on the surface.  You have to open the mind and the heart to truly see the beauty that is all around us.

Mohandas Gandhi

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

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