Australia’s great divide – How you reacted to one women’s welfare journey

By Peter Lynch |

Getting Advice

It was the story that divided Australia: one young woman’s journey from a decade of employment in senior positions to JobSeeker claimant living on just $1,260 a fortnight.

What Kathy Skantzos set out to do was provide a first-person insight into life on JobSeeker.  She set off a firestorm – 111,765 read the story, and 288 commented on Kathy’ story and 160 shared it.

Now her experiences have exposed the divide between the haves and have nots in Australian society – and how COVID-19 has changed the boundaries.

Suddenly, middle class Australians are in the virtual Centrelink queue. The domain of Australia’s underclass had been invaded by those once considered privileged.

The comments we received said a lot about what is happening to real Australia during the pandemic. Your views were pertinent, humbling and often hugely insightful.

Here are some of the most pertinent – they make great reading. We thank you for your honest and raw commentary. Please send us more.

Peter Lynch

Campaign Director

What you told us:

Unemployment in Australia

Unemployment in Australia

Bev Johnston I think we all need life experience to come to the conclusions this woman has come to through this economic downturn.
When I look back, I first entered the workforce in the 1960’s I had to pay board and then rent from day 1.
Holding my job was essential and so I have never in my life quit a job without having another to go to. I have never been unemployed except when I was having children. You might say, ‘that’s all very well but you haven’t experienced a recession’.
Well, yes I have experienced a few recessions, one of which happened while I was not working, but my husband lost his job and we had four dependent children.
This forced me back into the workforce because at the time my work history made me more employable than my husband. He did a great job looking after the home and children.
Life was tough but we survived because the eight years or so of having to budget and save on one income, taught us quite a lot.
These tough times make you stronger and the experience will stand this lady in good stead for the future. All the best to her and those young people like her struggling to come to terms with these tough times.

Kathy Boisen I can see both sides of this story. The person is writing it from a privileged position as she had been working and was pretty much able to spend on whatever she liked after expenses. She is very lucky to be able to move back with her parents. As others have mentioned that is not an option for most people. It’s certainly a different experience if you were already unemployed before covid. You have no savings and are not able to put money aside for a rainy day, because every day’s a rainy day. Lots of people receiving benefits like myself who can’t get disability but are not well enough to work. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. One thing that may come out of this virus is that a lot more people will understand how difficult it is to survive on benefits and not treat us like we’re lazy , no good people. They’re lucky the government increased the payments because no-one can survive on $520 a fortnight when you’re ill.

Lisa Ridgway What about pensioners they were not given any fortnightly increase the dole is double the pension a fortnight now u can afford a lot more than pensioners can just saying

Jennifer Petrie
 Have spent all my life working hard and paying the bills. All my savings went into helping my kids after they left home. Furniture for their new living area and rent on their new living areas till they got on their feet. I ended up sick and on disabled pension. These government payments are only a bandaid to assist you to survive. They are not meant to give you dinners outside , coffee, holidays and the rest. I would not be able to pay the huge rent if it was not for my daughter and son in law paying part of it. As for utilities the only way l could pay my winter bill 2 years ago was through centrepay. All my utilities were done through centrepay. Thanks to this and being extremely frugal l was able to pay the remainder. All utilities are now in advance including my phone. I do not care that the company gets interest on my money as long as my bills get paid

Lorraine Shea We all have stories to tell and that was her story! Reading between the lines she was like a lot of young people..’live for today”, have fun while young, no responsibilities. A different generation…This has been a good lesson for her and one hopes that she does get her priorities right after all she is still young…

Sally Hankin You get much more than a single pensioner. I have absolutely no sympathy. It’s called changing your self entitled expectations.

Lise Atteraas Allard I hear you. I’ve been working for over 40 Years; a Very Small Super; and have been unemployed (since I was Bullied out of my last job) Since September 2019.
With All my Marketing & Life Experience,- I appear too old to be hired. Devastating.

Cathy JM
 She’s lucky she didn’t have to go on the original Newstart amount of approx $560 per fortnight. She definitely wouldn’t have been able to save $50 a fortnight let alone buy coffee as a treat or pay rent!

Kathy Boisen @Karen McMillan yes we all see things from our own world view. I’m not complaining and neither is she, but there are a hell of a lot of people who just can’t pull up their socks and soldier on like people think.

Gayle Duckworth
@Kathy Boisen Hello Kathy, no-one can survive on $500 odd per fortnight, you are absolutely correct. What those who mean well do not take into consideration : by the time you receive Gvt. assist after becoming unemployed, everything is depleted but your responsibilities have not; the dysfunctionalism that is your life continues. Now added to that, you have to embrace computer technology, meet deadlines, JobSearch in a depressed employment market that wants Certs. and Experience. And the expenses keep pouring in, like never ending sand! The extra has been brilliant but I am aware there was no help for the disabled. I am one of the lucky ones; I live in a home that is owned and at 64, I have had casual weekly employment for 18mths. Like you, I would like to hear some empathy now from the critical general populace because some of them now know, you can lose your income this very minute and you are in dire straits!

Ellen Sanders Glenn William Wall Kathy was saying not all people CAN “pull up their boot straps and soldier on”. The writer comes from a privileged position of A. Having family support to fall back on and support her as an adult ,and give a roof over her head B. Never been in the position before of truly doing it tough C. Having no dependants and no mortgage to pay, and having the ability to up sticks and move home with her parents. There would be many people in the position like yourself and so many other adults who can’t just move home with parents and stop paying rent – or a mortgage- when it all goes pear shaped and gets too hard. Many people also have children to feed and support and put a roof over their heads. It was just lucky the woman in the article didn’t, as many do at the age of 33 as she is. The ones without family to fall back in like the poster are often in danger of exactly what you just said- homelessness- because they may lose their rental or default on a loan due to losing work, lose the safe roof over their head and that of their children, struggle in more ways than one and not have the privilege of having a safe place to go like the poster. There are women living in cars with children due to this sadly. And yes, the poster has not walked a day in the shoes of someone truly struggling.

Keith Gregory
 I’m in exactly the same boat as you . I’m using the additional payments to pay debt and fix my Hilux up and get myself work ready . My appeal against the refusal of DSP has been 7 months waiting and no reply . My payments prior to this were 677 a fortnight in Perth and 70 percent of that was gobbled up in rent . Eventually I couldn’t live in Perth and miracously got a homeswest place in Northam . Anyone who thinks you can live on the old rate of no start is deluded or has never known the misery of it or the utter impossibility of a complex system of rules . I am a law degree holder and even with my knowledge I have found it hard to navigate.

Carmel Standley
 : I agree. Hard to pull up your socks when you’ve got none on.

Andrew Gladigau You can’t blame the pandemic of COVID, you make your own chooses and decisions, to rely whole and solely on your job …really… You are so lucky you don’t have to pay rent or mortgage (biggest expenses) and can live with your parents without any issues, not everyone most do not have this choice,you are so so lucky.This is why you have an emergency fund for times like this, save 4mths worth of what your expenses are, so if your expenses are $3k. per month the have $12k in the bank as your emergency fund (do not touch it) unless it’s an EMERGENCY

Lorraine Shea We all have stories to tell and that was her story! Reading between the lines she was like a lot of young people..’live for today”, have fun while young, no responsibilities. A different generation…This has been a good lesson for her and one hopes that she does get her priorities right after all she is still young…

Keith Gregory The schadenfreude moment for me is that those who are only obeying The Law and paying tax and think they are doing everyone a big favour merely obeying The Law are now on this Centrelink themselves I think it will be a heck of a learning curve for them even with the newrate

Frank Burjan Now people like this lady can see what it is like to be unemployed. Might humble her a bit. I too changed jobs. Although it might be a case of out of the fire and into the frying pan.

Frank Burjan
 My question is why does she not have any savings or assets after over ten years of working? What has she been doing with her income? Something is wrong there.

Vanessa Donald What a shock. Took a pandemic to make a 33 year old realise they should have savings and live on a budget.

Dana Bursik try being on centrelinks jobseeker payment and both u and ur kid has several health issues and some of those health issues require private drs but neither of us qualify for disability plus paying for normal bills rent food etc it def needs a raise its impossible to live on the old payment

Margaret de Vries
 The article is posted by Together Australia. C’mon Aussies we are in this together. Why the need to denigrate the author or make comparisons with your own situation. She is saying that she made some bad choices and has learned from them. Nearly everyone has been affected in some way. I for one am just grateful there is a safety net (for most people) and feel blessed to be living in a country that is trying to look after its citizens.

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