As some of you may already know, I migrated to Australia in 2010, just hours before my 30th birthday to start over new, with a bag full of hopes and dreams. Anyone who comes from a third world country knows what the “Australian Dream” is. In addition to that, I had a dream of finding my freedom, freedom to be who I am, legal to be who I am.
Although, my family was available most of my 10-year journey in Australia, I also wanted to experiment. Knowingly or unknowingly, something was unsettling, and in 2012 and also 2013 (in two separate times) I left a well-paid high-income job to start a business up a less crowded area. This is when I became poor first.
Unlike where I come from, although I see improvements, the Government in Australia has been very kind to the poor. So, with a lot of shame, I walked in to the CentreLink office in Tweed Heads, northern New South Whales, to get the dole. Trust me, going from getting 2000/- dollars in my bank account every Friday after tax, to going to apply to get 500/- a fortnight to cover all my requirements was both scary, and filled with Shame.
In this era, things were not automated, so the lady who looked at my file, saw my situation, immediately put my application through, back paid to when I lost my job, and I had a pretty good start. Moreover, I felt I was looked after, and was heard. But, during the same time, I moved back to Melbourne, feeling that I may not have enough job opportunities. After weeks in Melbourne, I got called for a job I had applied for in Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. They flew me up there for the interview, but once I got the job, I had to relocate myself. I was also embarrassed to tell my new employer that I was poor. So, I asked CentreLink if they could lend me 1000/- dollars to relocate, which can be deducted from my tax. Despite me showing my letter of offer, the lady at the counter apologies saying the system doesn’t allow it.
Fortunately, my mother funded me to relocate, and I had a friend in the other end who didn’t charge me rent, until I got paid. So, I was fed and looked after until I got paid.
But what if my mother and the friend was not there. What if no one was there. What if employer also didn’t want to take this burden. I would have been stuck, and I wouldn’t have been able to take the job that I got offered. This I think is a system flaw and something we can improve. This gap in the system, keeps people stuck in the poverty cycle.
Universe wanted me to learn the system again, when in 2015 I had an episode, where I left the job I had and went to a monastery. But with my accumulated leave, and pay, and with minimum expenses during the time I stayed in the monastery, I managed to survive for quite some time. But then I had to get on the Dole again. Fortunately for me, I also had a mental health label attached. So, I got the dole without much trouble.
Then, I got a job in a reputed law firm in Melbourne, but they hired me through a consulting company that had a pay cycle where my first pay would only get to me 2 months after I work.
Once again, the minute I got the job, Centrelink cancelled my payment. Now I had to daily travel to work for 2 months, keep my head high, socialize with staff members, and survive for 2 months. Fortunately, my sister looked after me, and lent me some money for travel and social expenses.
Once again, this I saw as a flaw in the system. What if I had no one? What if work couldn’t organize anything for me. I would have to quit working because I couldn’t afford to travel to work and feed myself.
This is a gap in the system that keeps people stuck in poverty cycle.
Do I learn, apparently not, I had yet another round with CentreLink in 2017. I was madly in love during this time, and CentreLink had now been upgraded to some automated system where I had to fil the application myself. I tried to put my partner details (with his permission) who was not living in Australia, and then got stuck halfway as they asked various details about the partner’s income and assets. I didn’t know anything about this. I didn’t really want to bother him with finances for my own mistakes of life. So, I filled the application the way I knew. I had very little help getting the application done. Because of my own madness in love, and hope of a wedding, I also wasn’t that serious about the application, but all in all, my application got rejected. This time around, due to a plethora of issues, my sister and I had fallen out along with some other family as well in Australia. So I experienced the homeless cycle this time.
Fortunately, some of my neighbors put me up, and then some of my friends and former colleagues gave a roof over my head. I started driving uber and got through my time, until my mother decided to “Summon” me back home to Sri Lanka. So I went home, with a suitcase of clothes that was left over after giving everything I had owned away.
Four months later, I came back to Australia, and was looked after by a disability pensioner who lives in a housing commission house. (A.K.A I was looked after by a Houso). As soon as I arrived, I once again applied for CentreLink and started getting the dole. This time around, I knew all the loop holes, so once I got a job, until I got paid, I ensured not to report my income. It was tough, because now the “truth” didn’t get the job done, I had to figure out the loop holes to get through. Everything worked out fine, I have a job now, and CentreLink lie was not a fraud, all the tax and everything is known to the government and they probably recovered what I owed them, if I owed them.
As you can see, it’s not difficult to start becoming what the society calls a “Rat” (to go through loop holes) after going down this path a few times. So, these loop holes and automated systems are also now coming in the way of serving people, to get them out of poverty cycles, which actually helps a country.
All 3 times with CentreLink, I had to report to Job Service Providers. For some people, these providers may be doing good. For me they were always kind, but with my qualifications, and education, I was literally told that they have nothing to offer me except free internet and computers. Because my education was good, and my resume was already good. So once again, through my eyes, we have these organizations, that aren’t fit to support someone like me. It doesn’t matter how educated I am, when I get stuck in poverty cycle, I’m an equal. So, the organization design had not thought of everyone.
Not to mention, our current day employers and employment agencies do not want to look at anyone who has been without work for some time. Job providers also don’t hold any power. Government Job boards are also heavily influenced by people who are already employed. None of these looks at people keen to work, who are currently unemployed. This is a huge gap in our society which keeps people stuck in poverty cycle.
The homeless cycle is even more vicious. Fortunately, I didn’t have to experience it that much. Having tasted the cycle, I can tell you now, the people in this cycle are trying so hard to make ends meet and may or may not have addictions that are shared with the rich and famous. But, they neither have the time, nor the mental strength to swim out of it. Meanwhile, society slowly backs off. I am also to be blamed. Because I cannot single handedly look after all of them. So, I also have to draw the line somewhere in my “rich days”. The society, whether it’s to palm off responsibility or due to ignorance, judge, label, categories homeless people or people living in housing commission houses.
Just like anywhere else, from Governments, High End Private Organizations, Religious Institutes, “normal” households, even among the “Housos” you have crooks, thugs, liers, etc. But, we bucket them all into one category and heavily judge them and reject them. The same crime can be done by someone rich, it’ll be less judged. For an example, a houso running naked on the street vs royalty running naked on the street will be seen very differently by our society. Everything else about them are also no different. The deadly sins are more sinful if you are a houso, apparantly!
As you can see, my life, although was difficult, has also blessed me with some lessons. I want to make a change in this world, but I have been stuck in these cycles myself, so this video and blog is my way of asking help to take onboard what I say to make some changes to the poverty cycle and homeless cycles.
I also have some conscious business ideas, especially catered towards people in poverty and homeless cycles, but I haven’t up to date had the courage, mental strength, and support to take them from my idea papers to working models.
On this Christmas eve, lets hope, we will truly celebrate the man behind the banner, and try to make some changes. That includes myself.
– Nim –