Friday, November 26, 2010

what it really feels like

‘It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.’
I’ve heard that line at least fifty times since my first placement in the Work for the Dole program back in 2006, and let me tell you, the more I hear it, the more upset I get. Usually the people that are making this claim are the ones that are being paid to tell me pretty little lies like that.
The Work for the Dole program was introduced to the Australian job-seekers in 1997. Every fortnight a job-seeker receives an itemised statement which tells them how much money the received the previous fortnight. It tells us what we receive (ie. Newstart allowance, Austudy, Rent assistance, Work for the Dole) and it also tells us of any deductions that we’ve asked to be taken out before the money is deposited into our accounts (tax, rent, electricity, phone). I’ve been told by a lot of people to consider all of what I receive to be my ‘earnings’ for taking part in a Work for the Dole program, and yet, I find it hard to do so when we receive itemised statements such as we do. Reality is, we get $20.80 per fortnight (25-50 hours depending on age and amount of time spent on benefits) to do a job. We learn new skills, as a trainee would, yet their pay is higher than ours is. A lot of us choose to pay tax, like any other employed person does, but we cannot claim out-of-pocket Work for the Dole expenses at the end of the financial year. We show up and do the work that is required of us, knowing that if we do not, we don’t get paid. The same goes for those employed in the real world. We’re expected to behave within a set standard of rules and dress codes, just as any other worker is. Yet, we receive just over $20 a fortnight, which, if you work 50 hours a fortnight, is equal to .416 cents per hour.
On the surface, the Work for the Dole program is a good idea. It allows job-seekers who haven’t worked in a long time to experience the work force, gain valuable skills, and also build their self-esteem and motivation to find ‘real’ work. However, as I have discovered over the last four years, that there is also a negative side that seems to never get the publicity it deserves. I’ve been told that the skills that I have gained in administration through many hours of hard work and dedication at $20 a fortnight mean nothing without some sort of qualification. Interestingly enough, I would probably be in the same situation if I had the qualification and no experience to back it up. Work for the Dole did exactly what it was supposed to do: It made me want to work! It did not make me want to sit in a class room, which I had already done for several years before becoming unemployed. I wanted to earn what I was worth, not be subjected to slave-labour rates to do the same job as someone else who might gain the same skills as I do, but earning proper wages.
Presently, I am still unemployed. I have a passion for writing, and helping people out. I have excellent skills in administration that were gained through placement within the Work for the Dole program. I have connections in the Ballarat community, having been nominated for Young Citizen of the Year award in the past for the volunteer work I have done. I also believe very strongly that things have to change in regards to the attitudes of and towards the unemployed.
Whether we like it or not, the unemployed have become a sub-culture in Australia, especially since the economic crisis of the last year where thousands of people were made redundant. To have stereotypes thrown back in our faces like we all lie or that our continued unemployment status is our own fault is, at the very least, discouraging. It is also a reminder that those who are supposed to help us are relying on discriminating comments, hidden in their ‘we want to help you’ tones, and we’re supposed to trust, without question, that these people have our best interests at heart. Such clich├ęs make me distrust the people speaking them, reminding me that someone who relies upon such phrases is probably not the person that I want handling any part of my future.

Pensive Face

“You’ve got pensive face”
Okay, so now I’m quoting an episode of Angel (season one, episode 6, from memory).
Like Angel, I’ve always got pensive face, because I’m always thinking about things that I need to do, and things that I could be doing and things I should be doing. It’s somtimes very noisy in my head. My thoughts are running at around the same speed that I read or speak. My dad has a theory that because I read fast, I tend to process information at fast rate, which sometimes doesn’t communicate itself well when I need to speak.
I was all set to get my ABN this morning while I was at the library when I looked at what I needed. Yeah, oops, I didn’t know I needed my bank details straight away. I used to have them in my phone, but I deleted them when I considered what would happen if I lost my phone. I have my tax file number in there, which I need to do all that ABN stuff. So that has become a “tomorrow” project, just as printing off the next part of Dark Destinies has become.
Yep, I’ve found my way back to Parrinlock and the world of Matilda Baxter and all her little co-horts that bring her back from the dead. All my characters have been through a sort of metamorphosis recently, taking on names that better reflect the worlds that they come from. For example, Matilda’s accuser was once called Amanda Forsythe. Not very 1900s-ish, so I rechristened her something a bit more suited to that era.
There’s still a lot of gaps to clean up at the moment. Major story gaps where I need more, both as the author and the writer. It means that I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. Currently, I’m working on both the soft copy of part two (set in recent times) to bulk that up a little before I start to print it (and therefore cannot work on it) while working on the hard copy of part one that I’ve started printing. My job network is going to LOVE me when they realise how much ink I’ve used – I supply my own scrap paper to print on so they’re not actually out any paper.
I should get back to it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

tell them what they want to hear

Just need to get this out of my system before it devours me, bit by painful bit.

I HATE JOB NETWORKS. There I said it, again. I’m sure that I’ve had this conversation with people in the past. I have a new case manager. It’s up to10 , double digits. Wonder how long this one will last before he gives up on me and hands me off to be someone else’s failure case. It seems to be the fashion. I’m sort of a job agency pass the parcel where the layers that they remove are layers of my already fragile sanity.
They always make it seem like I’m not trying, when I do. I get up every morning, go to the library and apply for jobs. Just because I don’t have the time to sit at a computer for an hour per job, suddenly I’m not trying. If I’m in town, I don’t want to get a parking ticket because I’m applying for a job. If I don’t get the job, I’ll be the one with the parking fine that I can’t afford (and need to beg money from the parental figures).
I always say that you can gauge how bad a session is by how many tears I shed, and how long the negativity lasts.
Reason 1 for the tear explosion: My resume. He said it wasn’t good enough. Now, this was after I had pointed out that I have an incredibly low self worth and low self-esteem. You would think that someone who had been in that situation before (as he repeated several times), would have thought better of ripping my resume apart in front of me. Maybe I wouldn’t have been quite so emotional if he had of just given constructional dot points. No. Instead he made me feel like a complete fucking idiot. Which seems to be a condition of their employment, written on their position description in invisible ink.
Reason 2: He brought up the big No-Go zone – work for the dole (or government sanctioned slave labour). He went on and on about it and how eventually I would have to take part in it. This was about 40 minutes after he had ripped through my resume and said that I have no ‘experience’ because all my admin skills are from volunteer roles and also from Work for the Dole. I asked him how they could justify work for the dole if he thought that (as a fake employer) would not have given me a job based on my experiences in these programs. He couldn’t answer me.
It ended with me saying that, if the time comes, I’ll be going to a doctor and getting a certificate saying that I cannot attend work for the dole because it tends to make me want to hurt myself. If something damages my self worth and my self esteem, I will not participate in it. I couldn’t even get the words out, I was that emotional, about how it made me feel to be forced to take part in it.
Reason 3: I asked for some help, like a referral to someone who could help me make sense of the paperwork I got from Centrelink. Instead I got a lecture how, when he was on the dole and a sole trader it made things complicated. I won’t be making his mistakes. It really annoys me when people try to tell you that just because they failed doing something means that you shouldn’t even try.
When I walked in, I was willing to give the guy a chance. New people deserve that. If every meeting ends with me in tears though, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
I can’t go through this again.
I won ‘t go through this again.
I can’t be made to feel like I’m nothing more than a thing, completely void of emotions, or the ability to say ‘no’ if something makes me feel uneasy.
It’s my life. I want a say in how it goes, no matter how little the path seems to be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pretty Flowers

So I gave myself flowers yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve picked flowers from my front garden, for any reason. I just wanted to do something for myself. I never get flowers unless something bad is going on. The last guy to give me flowers was my D & D partner back on res in third year. The last time I brought flowers was probably xmas because I needed some to put on my grandparents’ grave when I visited it on Xmas day.
They’re not exactly special flowers or anything. Just some prettiness to make my kitchen seem nicer. Of course, some of the sprigs are already dying out, but I figure that the trees loaded. No one’s going to miss if I pick the occasional flower. Besides, seeing as they’re jacking up my rent, I think I deserve some prettiness. My only regret is that the daffodils and jonquils aren’t in flower anymore because they’re also really sweet. Of course, someone might notice that they’re missing cos there isn’t quite as many of them as there are of the other ones. I even took a photo.

I’ve been taking a lot of photos lately. Of nothing too particular, just things that I’ve noticed, like the way that the sun is setting over Wendouree the other week, a red spider that appeared in my bathroom (that photo did not turn out too well – its really blurry and you can’t make out the colours) and the flowers. Let me state for the record that the spider was dead at the time of the photo being taken. As soon as I saw it I grabbed the spray and one squirt and it died.
I’ve written a few stories along the way, though the original plan for one ended up being tossed aside and I just ended up writing whatever I wanted to.

At the moment I’m reading House of Gaian by Anne Bishop (one of my fave authors).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wrong with me

What’s wrong with me lately? Sometimes I feel completely useless, like nothing I do is right. It’s like no matter how hard I try, there’s always at least one thing in my way that I have to be able to get over. Sometimes I can get over it, and other times its so much of a stumbling block that I don’t see how I can get past it.
I try not to make trouble, raise my voice if I absolutely disagree with things, because if I can’t offer an alternate solution that is fair to everyone, why bother at all? This means that a lot of the time, my feelings, my thoughts go unheard because I feverently don’t want to bother anyone else with this little burden of mine.
It seems wrong to me, that if I work so hard for something, that it doesn’t go anywhere because in order for it to move forward, it needs approval from others. Therefore reinstating that what I do is never going to be good enough for the entire world, or even the vast majority of people.
Why bother even trying to find work? I’m overqualified for a traineeship, I’m underqualified for other jobs. I do not want to sit in a classroom if the studies I take do not lead to anywhere job wise. That medical terminology class I took a few months ago? Yeah, that’s pretty much all forgotten because I’m not using what I learned on a regular basis. The whole aim of taking that course would be that it would make me more employable. Looks like that was a complete waste of my time and the government’s money.
The postman just arrived. There’s probably another couple of rejection letters waiting for me to collect them. Now, I give them a passing glance after I open them before I toss them into the recycling bin. Maybe there, they might end up meaning something.

Permission to Lie

There have been more changes to the way that the Australian Government approach unemployment. Now, instead of going into their offices on a fortnightly basis to hand in a form detailing our jobseeking efforts, it’s all to be done online or on the phone.
Which is fine, if you have internet access on a regular basis or have a phone which allows you to make calls to Centrelink, costing you the same as a local call.
Online used to be optional. It isn’t anymore because the funding isn’t there.
I was in Centrelink this morning and I had my form with me detailing some of the jobs that I applied for. That’s when I got told that they wanted me to do it online. I explained my reservations. They were dismissed as I am not elderly, illiterate or otherwise incapable of using the internet. So I did the internet thing while I was there.
I didn’t have to give any exampled of the jobs I’d applied for and I didn’t need to talk about my volunteer work either. I just had to click on all the right buttons. No proof needed.
Um, okay, so what’s stopping those less honest from tapping all those buttons without actually applying for jobs?
Absolutely nothing.
The Australian Government is giving us permission to lie and cheat the social security system by not encouraging us to go into the offices and sit across from a person. It’s going to make it harder for those of us that do the right thing when this system falls into pieces in six months.
Not that they ever checked the jobs that people applied for anyway. I mean, I’ve heard stories about people writing on their forms that they applied to be an astronaut and they still got paid. Not something I’d want to test though. Knowing my luck I’d get caught in a big stinky lie. To be fair to Centrelink though, there is no way that they could get the funding for one office to check into people’s jobseeking efforts in a town the size of Ballarat, let alone a capital city like Melbourne.
I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I think it’s going to make people lazy about applying for jobs because if they don’t need to show a form, then they’re probably not going to even try.