Australia, the lucky country, as it is known. The place of the fair go. Maybe that’s what it used to be like but it sure as hell isn’t anymore. It’s become a place of pain, a place of discrimination, a place of kicking people in the guts when they’re already down for the count.
Growing up I was always proudly Australian, I would go and watch my beloved Aussies in varied sporting pursuits. I would cheer loudly as we punched above our weight in international competition. I was proud that we were an accepting and accommodating place for people down on their luck, for people escaping from traumatic experiences. But I can’t be like that anymore. This place has changed. Hopefully not for good, but currently it has.
In a sense I shouldn’t complain too much, you know, I live in one of the best social democracies there are in the world. We have pretty much universal health care, we have safety nets for those who can’t find work and so forth. On the surface, this is all very good. It places this nation in the desirable market, I suppose.
But. Heaven help you if you actually need that safety net and need to survive. Because you’re basically fucked if you do.
Our nation has shifted further and further right on a lot of issues in the past few decades. It is devastating to witness. People fleeing torture are demonised. The unemployed and the disabled used as tools of a right wing media. Our previous national Treasurer labelled us leaners not lifters, along with this, he argued that a petrol tax was irrelevant to us, because, you know, the poor don’t have cars.
It shouldn’t be this way. But it is this way. I find myself stuck in a whole that is only partly of my making. It’s a hole I can’t seem to emerge from. I can’t find a ladder, I can’t find a friendly helping hand, I can’t find even some makeshift foot and hand holds to scramble up and out.
You see I don’t qualify for a disability pension. Because my recognised disability Autism is not considered disabling enough to qualify. The alternative is to be on a benefit called Newstart. The name in itself is an insult. On this benefit Newstart one is expected to house, feed, clothe and care for oneself on about $350 a week. It is essentially impossible. It is by design a system that doesn’t pay enough to survive on because the government don’t want you to survive on it, they want you to get a job.
Great idea that, get a job, right, when already there is something like 7 unemployed people for every vacancy. So it’s not just that simple. Of course throw in to the mix that as an Austistic person you are asking for some accomodations to be made in order for you to perform the best you can for the employer.
Generally you won’t even get a look in.
It just appears that this so-called lucky country has turned a corner, a corner that says basically fuck you, you can go on the trash heap.
But this is a serious issue. Autistic people are not rare, there are lots of us. The very small rate of 35% of us have employment, that’s any employment, not full time employment just any employment.
If I try to take a hard look at myself and work it out, I am utterly flumoxed. I should be quite employable.
- Educated (2 Bachelor Degrees and an IT Diploma)
These things should add up to employable. But alas no, it’s not for want of trying.
Oh I’ve had jobs over the years, I’ve had a wide range of them, I’ve even been damn good at them to. I’ve operated switchboards, I’ve linemarked roads, I’ve been a surveyors assistant, I’ve been a labourer, a Primary School teacher, an office manager, a warehouse worker and a production supervisor. And most of them I’ve done pretty well.
But, here’s the thing, they always turn to shit. And they don’t turn to shit because I can’t do the job either. They turn to shit for some social reason, for some sensory reason, for something to do with executive function.
The longest single position I ever held was just over 2 years. I was very successful in my position. I worked bloody hard, bloody long hours and poured my heart and my soul into doing a good job.
What happened, autism happened. And that is not to say it’s Autism’s fault or even bad, it’s to say that the lack of understanding of what was going on by employer, and even myself at the time was what happened. If I had been able to recognise that I was in some kind of shutdown/meltdown situation, if I have been able to disclose to my employer my diagnosis, and if they had been accomodating, then perhaps it wouldn’t have ended as it did.
That particular job was my last real position, it was the last fulltime job I held. I was terminated from that position in late February 2013. As I write this it’s mid-March 2017, and currently I have zero prospects of anything turning up.
It’s not like I will only take a high paying position, or want to start at the top either. I have applied for supermarket checkout positions, customer service, pretty much anything really. And I’m capable, but no nothing doing.
As well I’ve tried to improve myself with courses, I completed a website development course. I can confidently build you a website or webapplication using a range of web technologies, but no dice there either.
I’ve got to the point, where, as I have become true to myself and come out as the transgender woman who I am, that the culmination of all this employment stuff, now intersects with the reality that I have also lost my marriage and have ended up living alone, in a two room bungalow/granny flat. I don’t even have a kitchenette.
All of this culminates in me negotiating my gender transition fighting like tooth and nail against discrimination that goes with that coupled with a declining mental health. I have been put under the care of a psychiatrist for the first time in 2o years, not that that is a bad thing in itself, but is a sign that I am simply not coping very well. My depression and anxiety are at levels worse than I ever recall them being.
Each morning along with my gender therapy meds I add-on pills to help me function through the day without spiralling into a severe anxiety or depressive state of non-functioning, and then in the evening a regime of pills to combat the severe insomnia.
But in the eyes of my goverment, I’m a leaner not a lifter. I’m a blight on the welfare state bleeding the government coffers dry. And in this state I am I am required to have applied for at 10 jobs a fortnight and attend various meetings with job service providers. Those providers are paid by the goverment to supposedly support me to find employment.
An meeting at a provider goes pretty much like: arrive and get ticked off, be asked if you’ve looked for work, told to keep looking, a piece of paper printed off and a handshake and a good bye and good luck. For this service these providers are paid by government.
At times I’ve asked if there is more they can do to assist. Oh if you were considered less employable, but you have degrees, you’re considered highly employable.
And so it goes.
Just this last couple of weeks my depression and anxiety levels have prompted my doctor to provide a doctors certificate to exempt me from these requirements. After submission of such I recieve a letter saying I need to have an interview about my job search plan.
It seems in the world of The Lucky Country, it doesn’t matter anymore if you need a helping hand. The only thing you’ll get from this lucky country now is great big Fuck You!