I watched Bill Shorten’s Budget Reply Speech last night, quietly cheering from my couch as he addressed issues which concerned me. Youth Newstart, poverty, the medicare co-payment. I sat there, waiting for him to go in to bat for young disabled Australians.
Only he didn’t.
Sure, he mentioned pensioners multiple times, but unless recipients of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) have suddenly morphed into senior citizens, he wasn’t talking about us.
Yet again, the disabled are relegated to the corners, out of sight out of mind. We don’t count – not in a visceral way. Surely people in wheelchairs can work? After all, they’re sitting down all day anyway.
There is despair in my household today.
The solar panels we installed to hopefully cut our energy costs aren’t helping us out and my power bill arrived. $670 I have to find from somewhere, while also paying off the stupid panels. Multiple phone calls to the solar company complaining have netted me a lot of reassurance about “we’ll have to check your contract and see what we promised we’d deliver” and “we’re looking into it”, but that doesn’t stop my bills arriving, or the money being paid off the panels leaving my bank account.
I can tell you there is a vast difference between what we were promised, and what has been delivered.
I was reading the Griffith Review this morning; a powerful piece about poverty.
It hit home, hard.
Poverty isn’t a choice you make. It’s the result of a series of impossible choices thrust upon you. Food on the table today, or money for a train ticket to a job interview. Getting the kids school uniforms, or buying a work shirt. Petrol for the car or money for power. A prescription, or food.
And I understand it.
The difference between those women and my situation is a fine line. There’s no domestic violence here, and no addiction to hold us hostage. A very fine line. I’m not beholden to market place rent, just interest rates. I don’t have to worry about a landlord kicking us out onto the street.
I am lucky, and how lucky I am. I chose a man who doesn’t beat me. It seems like it should be an easy choice, but look around you. Domestic violence is everywhere, fueled by the hopelessness and despair of poverty and the addictions that take hold when you try to forget how bad your situation is.
Poverty is insidious and it isn’t as simple as asking us to choose not to be poor. It’s more than the ‘just get a job’ rhetoric. Youth uneployment in Tasmania is 20%. You can’t tell me there are enough jobs to go around.
My car is at the mechanic today, having wheel bearings replaced. It’s a necessary thing – there’s no public transport here and we need a car. But it’s also an extra chunk out of the budget I would have preferred to spend on things like groceries and new shoes for the kids.
A fine line between surviving and not.
We will be fine, but many other people will not be.
In September, I’m due to open up my shop to sales. We had planned to launch in November, but we’re moving it up because we can’t afford to wait the extra two months. We’re hopeful our networks will support us, and our business will grow and thrive.
Like I said yesterday, I have options many people do not. I can write articles and pitch to magazines. I can make soap and sell it. I can put my head down and push through until things look brighter.
I can make my work fit around my disability.
I could not make my disability fit around my work.
And that is what is wrong with the politicians right now. They truly believe we can make our disabilities fit around a job. This shows an intrinsic misunderstanding of the nature of disability, which is a complex and nuanced issue. We’re not all in wheelchairs. We’re not all mobility impaired. We’re not all paralysed.
What we are right now though, is hopeless. Filled with despair at what our future might hold.
Tired from fighting it.
That’s what we are.