Welfare recipients deliver messages to Amanda Rishworth protesting government refusal to raise Centrelink payments
People on low incomes gathered to share their stories at a protest in Adelaide before delivering messages to the social services minister's office
In Anti-Poverty Week and just a week before the government hands down a federal budget they promise will continue the punishment of people in poverty, welfare recipients visited social services minister Amanda Rishworth’s office to hand deliver messages from people around the country. A staff member accepted the messages and thanked the group.
Content warning: comments below include potentially triggering subject matter related to self-harm, suicide and violence.
Included below: comments from protest organisers, messages from welfare recipients delivered to Amanda Rishworth, protest photo library, background statistic and crisis line contact information.
The Antipoverty Centre, Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union and Anti-Poverty Network SA, supported by GetUp, held a protest (view recording) in Adelaide and online ahead of the federal budget, calling attention to political choices that cause physical and mental damage to hundreds of thousands of people.
Despite incessant promises of “no one left behind”, the government has repeatedly refused any relief for people in poverty despite abhorrently low welfare payments, a housing crisis and spiralling living costs. They treat people who need help as brutally as Morrison, with Rishworth saying today that “difficult decisions” mean “responsible cost of living relief with an economic dividend”.
We are not disposable; sacrifices to be made at the economic altar.
We dread seeing another federal budget come and go while we skip meals and lose our homes on payments as low as just $46 a day – nearly half the poverty line, which is currently $88 a day.
Break the Poverty Machine protest organiser and JobSeeker recipient Mel Fisher said:
I’m hooked up to an IV of antibiotics to fight an infection that’s due to vitamin deficiencies.
In November last year I was diagnosed with scurvy and malnutrition. In the last two months while the cost of living has soared I've required emergency care twice because my body can no longer fight off infections.
We can't afford medications, we can't afford medical care and we can't afford to access the Disability Support Pension. Not one politician has to see the fallout from their decision to not raise the rate.
Damn right I'm angry. They say they will look at maybe raising the rate in May next year. I wonder how many more infections my body can take until then.
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and DSP recipient Kristin O’Connell said:
The minister’s office shamefully responded to the despairing messages we shared by describing them as “violent”. We implore the minister reflect on what people have said – at great emotional cost – and think about where the real violence lies.
Welfare recipients aren’t threatening, they’re starving.
The speakers we heard from shared distressing stories of violence, pain, suicidal thoughts and loss. They shared stories we have heard a thousand times over.
The welfare system is killing people. We delivered our messages directly to Amanda Rishworth’s office so she cannot say she didn’t know.
It’s Anti-Poverty Week, but instead of supporting people who need it, next week the government will deliver a federal budget that consigns us to worse poverty while protecting tax cuts for the rich.
How many more people will die before they do the right thing, do what the community supports, and raise all Centrelink payments so that no one is forced to live in poverty?
AUWU spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jeremy Poxon said:
In her 150 days as welfare minister, Amanda Rishworth has not once agreed to take a meeting with groups of unemployed advocates. It’s clear that, much like her LNP predecessor, this Minister just wants poor people to shut up and starve.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
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Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.