Rick Boland

Poor form: We’re doling out the abuse to the wrong people

Again, the nation’s poor, the “dole bludgers” have been outed by the media. The problem is that they’re actually not the problem.

 

 

 

Okay, let’s be real here.

This is for the nightly news folk who lap up everything the mainstream will shovel toward them. The ones who will devour those scraps and then scrape them into the bin of social media to blame “dole bludgers” for the ills that befall them.

Yeah you. Don’t pretend you don’t blame dole bludgers for the price hike in your McDonalds Soft Serve. I see you. But while sitting there stuffing your face with GST-flavoured pig fat, you’re most likely scrolling down your news feed looking to see what fires you can stoke with the frustration you feel about how hard you worked this week to enjoy it. That, and how young, entitled millennials get to sit back and reap the same benefits as you but work less to deserve it.

You’re probably even thinking the person writing this is one of those people.

I’m here to talk about poverty. I was born in poverty at the end of the ’80s, and continue to live below the poverty line or uncomfortably perched atop it. I can’t say I don’t blame anyone for it. I know who is really to blame. Shocker, it isn’t the students and the unemployed somehow affecting how much I get paid, and the rates I must pay.

Get ready. This may upset some patriots.

I blame the government *insert shocked emoji*.

Now now, before you get your Australian flag cape in a twist, I have good reason to blame them. As a kid growing up in the ’90s I was bullied for being poor (or as beautiful, unique Australian slang loved to label it, “povo”). As a kid you understood that you may be poor for little things: only having water from the tap as your luxury drink for when friends came over, crappy pseudo-meat sangas and not reaching the height of status in our Australian schools, the lunch order. All hail our lord and saviour, the meat pie and strawberry Big M.

You had a very watered-down perspective of what being “povo” was.

Back then my friends and I were the trouble-makers, the disengaged, the dropouts, although we were the watered-down version compared to the wannabe criminals you stayed well clear of unless you wanted to score some pot. We were still bored.

But as you got older those perspectives shifted. Now it was: getting the same Christmas present rewrapped from the year before, waking up alone because your single parent was up before the sun came out to go work a shit job or study to at least work toward something they could be proud of. Reaching high school and choosing to wear your school uniform on free dress days because you could never compete with the rich kids, and you dreamt of owning a set of Trigger Pants and a Billabong T-shirt. But it was also an awareness that your parent or parents were truly struggling, an irrefutable fact that has the blank taste of beetroot sandwiches.

But hey, at least we had something.

As I get older those perspectives are continuously shifting, and I realise that I wasn’t even below the poverty line then, and that that line could be set so low you could have nothing and still look down on it.

Now as an adult living in the same community as I grew up in as a kid, I see poverty in a whole different way. I’m a youth worker now, and I have a huge scoping focus on my suburb, who lives here and what’s going on. And it’s a real trip to see in 2018 just how much of it is very much the same as back in the day, and how much worse it is now.

Back then my friends and I were the trouble-makers, the disengaged, the dropouts, although we were the watered-down version compared to the wannabe criminals you stayed well clear of unless you wanted to score some pot. We were still bored.

The Mornington Peninsula (situated 90km south of Melbourne’s CBD), is poor. The larger city that links the two locations, Frankston, is probably one of the most down and out suburbs in Victoria only coming in second to Dandenong. Safe to say, the amount of people on Centrelink Benefits would most likely be mind-boggling.

And this is one of those constant hot topics in the media, one that keeps rearing its head every time a major news broadcasting network runs out of stories and gets a bee in its bonnet. I can’t be bothered with stats so here’s something you will be able to riff with:

 

 

Whenever a report on dole “bludgers” by the nefarious faux-journalistic troupe A Current Affair or the babbling team of imbeciles that makes up the Morning Sunrise team airs, the Australian public wage an uncivil war against each other on Facebook for the next 28-48 hours.

“These bludgers need to get off their arses and go find a job.”

“Yeah, fuck these kids and their bludger ways.”

“Yeaaww git a jewb you little shits!”

Well, you get the gist, there is no end to the creativity of moronic, uneducated insults and cries that spew forth from the public voice around this hot topic. Meanwhile, most of these comments are from people who have been in their secure position for 20 years or more and have absolutely zero understanding of the requirements to get a full-time job in this day and age.

The unemployment number on the Mornington Peninsula has risen by 4.9% since 2011, with 3,493 people unemployed, 1,829 looking for full-time work and 1,664 looking for part-time work.

Now let’s look at why there are so many people on Centrelink payments. The real reason. The popular narrative going around is this: “Why would people want to work in a job they hate when they can receive a fortnightly payment that gets them by?”

True, it takes some creative budgeting and discipline, but if you’re sharing the load with somebody else, a partner, or friends, you can get by on $550 a fortnight if you really wanted to, and doesn’t free money sound appealing to people who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives packing boxes in a warehouse? It sounds pretty damn appealing to me. I’m a simple man, I don’t smoke, or drink heavily, and I certainly don’t live above my means. I could easily live off this amount.

The government needs its poverty and its poor to be the scapegoat in the eyes of the public’s wealthy and working-class citizens, and the tool they use to perpetuate it is government benefits.

But what’s the catch? Why is the government giving out free money to poor, destitute people every fortnight? And why is it so easy to trick the system to receive this money with little to no effort?

Let’s talk about Sociology.

Towns like Frankston, Mornington and Rosebud all have one thing in common that sticks out. Frankston has its impoverished North and The Pines (train station and beyond), which are the areas that garner the most disdain and feed all those negative stories about Frankston you may have heard.  These are where the cheap housing, commission housing and crime is (for the most part but it would even be unfair to generalise this entire area). These areas are probably not bad in terms of investment potential but for lifestyle, they are not ideal.

Mornington has the Tanti area, which, very much like Frankston Pines, is the suburb’s housing commission area that sees a lot of crime, drugs and the sort. Both of the destitute low-socioeconomic areas were created for the same purpose, and that is a corner to sweep all of the poor people into when they decided to “clean up” the image of both towns.

With Rosebud to soon follow suit with the changing of Rosebud West to Capel Sound as they try and clean up that area for tourists, what will happen to the poor people in that suburb? The same thing. Rosebud will become the new Pines and Tanti Estates.

These two areas have in common the fact that both were a corner to sweep all of the poor people into when they decided to “clean up” the image of both towns.

You’re probably thinking at this point: “What the fuck tangent have you gone off into and how does this relate to Dole Bludgers”?

I’m getting there, you needed some context.

The point I am trying to pitch is that the government makes it easy for people to lean into dole payments because it distracts them, and the rest of Australia, from the real fact that there are no jobs for the poor because poor people getting jobs doesn’t fit into their capitalist ideologies; and if you’re not clued in to how capitalism works let me give you a rundown using a tried and true method of explaining it simply:

The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

It’s that simple. The government needs its poverty and its poor to be the scapegoat in the eyes of the public’s wealthy and the working-class, and the tool they use to perpetuate it is government benefits.

This works for them in two ways:
1) It makes them seem like good Samaritans, dishing out money to those on struggle street. It makes them the good guys. The heroes of their own story.
2) It makes poor people the enemy to offset the fact they, the Australian government themselves, are robbing taxpayers daily with rates and taxes like the banksters of old.

They keep good jobs out of the hands of those living in low socioeconomic pockets so that they can keep the dream of capitalism alive. Families surviving in these pockets pass down that poverty to their children and poverty begets poverty, which keeps it generational. Capitalism is a well-oiled machine. And the Dole? Well that’s the oil, it runs the show so well; why fix what purrs in the hands of the government?

Signing off,
Rick Boland, poor dude.

 

Rick Boland

Rick Boland is a writer, poet & youth worker from Melbourne, Australia. Often dabbling in philosophy and bouts of existential crisis, he's always on the search for answers to the deeper questions of Life and the human condition. But when he's not battling with his own existence or helping young people deal with their own, you'll find him on a couch somewhere with his dog Cassius, taking it easy with a beverage, which is his happy place, or up on the microphone reading poetry.

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