The Lucky Country?

By Jamie Holmes, jaho@deakin.edu.au

Australia; the country I grew up in. Lucky me. And I really mean it. This is the country that gave me an education without riddling me with debt. This is the country that supported my studies and propped me up while l looked for a job once I’d finished. Fundamentally, it’s a country that recognises those Australians who cannot participate in the economy in the traditional methods and provides them with a means to survive.

Now, young and old, healthy and disabled, Australians are faced with the very real prospect of a vastly different society; one less secure, less equal, less compassionate.

As a young (26), university educated Australian, I am afraid. The fact that I’m afraid makes me afraid. I have always felt financially secure in this country knowing that if times were tough the safety net was there to cushion my fall and prop me up until I could stand on my own two feet again.

However, with little savings and no assets, I am, for the first time in my life, afraid for my livelihood. Under proposed changes, losing my job would see me unable to receive unemployment benefits for up to six months. My partner’s Disability Support Pension is to be reassessed, which could see her lose the support and be unable to receive unemployment benefits for six months.

In the worst, but entirely possible scenario, my partner and I face being left with no income for close to six months. We’d be homeless and destitute without the charity of friends, family and organisations. How are we supposed to live? That’s not a rhetorical question.

This may never happen to us. But the reality is that it will happen to someone. Someone worse off than us, with fewer job prospects; someone with no family and friends to fall back on.

And isn’t that the point? According to the Liberals, young people aren’t capable of working or studying unless threatened with destitution. Do they truly believe that I’d like nothing other than to sit on the couch and collect $510 a fortnight, two degrees and current doctorate study notwithstanding? $510 a fortnight doesn’t even cover my rent, let alone bills, food, transport and medical expenses.

Do those on 500k like Abbott have any conception of what it is like to live on 30k or less, supporting a person with a disability while trying to further your education? Is this how we help get the budget back to surplus, by holding poverty and a life on the streets over the heads of those least able to help themselves?

As a young Australian, I owe this country a lot. But I have to ask: after this budget, can we call ourselves the lucky country anymore?

Jamie Holmes is a part time PhD student at Deakin University, Melbourne and has completed a Bachelor of Arts Professional and Creative Writing and Sociology Honours. His PhD is titled ‘Fantasy in an Increasingly Rationalised World’ and looks at everyday people and their use of imagination and fantasy to interact with an increasingly rationalised world with the aim of better understanding individual and societal responses to disenchantment. Between study, Jamie works as a research assistant at Deakin University and in marketing and design at a Melbourne based electronics manufacturer. 

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About tasayouth

Blog of the Australian Sociological Association's Youth Thematic Group
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