Budget 2019


The contents of the Australian Budget, 2019, struck me as being staggeringly cruel. No money for housing, funds pulled from the NDIS, TAFE stretched thin and services unable to cope with demand. There was no celebration in my household last night.

Doctors are campaigning for a Trauma Recovery Centre to be established. This and other incentives would have been most welcome!

NDIS

I know of families trying to access funding for their children, and being kept waiting in no-man’s land. They aren’t as yet funded for all the treatments their children need and deserve, and aren’t eligible for any other help whilst their claim is being processed. It is a long, excruciating and expensive journey.

I was referred to a support service, who have been trying to help me access the NDIS. I mentioned that I was diagnosed with complex PTSD many years ago, and have been battling alone, unable to locate adequate services. An assessment was organised, the doctor agreeing that indeed I had complex PTSD. He made the error of remarking that I am coping well, considering the amount of trauma endured. I was informed that this assessment had been knocked back, and I would not be funded for specialised help. No matter that I experience flashbacks on a daily basis, and that I have nightmares each night.

An appointment was made with my doctor, and a case worker was scheduled to accompany me. I had to ring the NDIS to ask that they email the access request form for my doctor to fill out. I tried for two days to get through, without any luck. Yesterday, I nearly fell over when my call was answered. I explained the situation, and asked that they email me the appropriate form. The operator told me that he would put me on hold, whilst trying to track down somebody to help. Eventually, he came back on the line and said that he was unable to rouse anyone in the department, and that it was highly unlikely that they would respond to the memo in time. The case worker had to cancel the appointment with my doctor. This support service are trying to help me access funding due to my spine. I spend around $120 a week on catheters alone, so am in need of assistance!

Newstart

The unemployment benefit called Newstart has not gone up for 25 years! It is well below the poverty line. How is one to keep their phone on, buy food,  pay rent and afford travel and clothing for job interviews? A friend of mine has major physical limitations and has suffered unspeakable cruelty in her married life. Instead of being a lifeline, Newstart has made her stress about the $50 she has to spend on medications each week.

I have another friend who had to give up her job in November. Her specialist insisted, saying that she would never be able to resume work. He promised to help her by filling in reports so she could get onto a Disability support pension, which is a much higher rate than unemployment benefits. Her medical treatment has been all-consuming and brutal. Four months after she applied, her application for a Disability Support Pension was denied. Devastated, I accompanied her to Centrelink. The staff member was lovely, and one could feel their frustration at not being able to help. My friend-who is a single mother-has had no income since she had to give up work, and because she still had a small amount left in her savings account, she was told that once she had burned through that, her application for Newstart would be expedited. She is now on Newstart, which is just enough for a little bit of food and her rent each fortnight.

Housing and Domestic Violence

I have a friend who was forced to flee her marital home with her children, and ended up living in her car for a time. Here is the experience of many women.

  1. Locate a local service, and turn up desperate, pleading for help. You have no money, you are already battle-weary and the kids need emotional support.
  2. The service promises to help, but they are stretched to breaking point. Even getting your child into specialised counselling means hopping onto a waiting list for a year. Your child- who was ready to open up and talk- has closed down in the interim, and the opportunity has passed by the time their names are at the top of the list.
  3. You go from service to service, all wanting to help you start anew, but unable, with their limited funding.
  4. You learn of a scheme wherein your rent is subsidised for a year or so, whilst you get back on your feet. Unfortunately, there are strict guidelines you must adhere to, including locating a property with a tiny rent attached. There is nowhere in your area, nor near your child’s school at or under this price.
  5. The public housing waiting list stretches to 60,000 people. The chances of you and the kids being offered a property in the near future is remote.

A friend of mine applied to have security cameras and other measures put in place at her rental property. The funding was finally approved, and the company came out to instal the devices. Pulling up the paperwork, they told her that it was an old quote, and as it had taken so long to be approved, their prices had gone up. She would have to reapply and start the process anew.

TAFE

On a personal note, I made contact with NSW TAFE, and was told that I could apply for a concession for the particular courses I was keen on. Excited, I arranged a loan to cover the deposits, and called up to enrol. TAFE apologised, and said that at this time, they were unable to complete my enrolment, as their system was having issues with Centrelink. I have the amount for the deposit in my account, and am eager to begin, but at the moment, can’t proceed.

There are many families and individuals in the same predicaments as above. I wouldn’t have thought that the ability to fund one’s education, have a stable place to live, be able to afford medications and support, and to feel safe, would be requests deemed frivolous. Don’t even get me started on the necessity of having dental work included in Medicare!

Joy wasn’t found in last night’s budget. I hold onto the miracle that is found within the human spirit, which can somehow survive setbacks and knock-backs and frustrating delays. I hold dear the resilience contained in a battle-weary person, who gets up each day and dares to hope.

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Financial Abuse


I recently met up with a friend whose partner (in secret), had racked up substantial debts, which they were repaying at $550 per week. If you asked her partner what he’d bought, I don’t believe he would be able to tell you, such was the lack of value placed on the items. It has added up to a huge chunk out of their wages. Financial abuse is insidious, tied in with emotional and mental abuse, and at it’s heart, control.  Ultimately, living with someone whose goals aren’t aligned with yours, is unworkable. Being lied to, having money taken out of your account and being forced to withdraw what you have saved in order to live, is more common than most people think. It consists of regularly making up excuses when you can’t afford to go out,  whilst trying to keep the household running and school supplies bought. It is incredibly stressful.

I have seen and heard it all in my time. I have seen people I love left with nothing after sacrificing everything, in order to pay off debts that aren’t even theirs.  I have seen people trapped by ill health and other issues, rendering it harder to leave. I have seen people promised money over the Christmas period, or a partner swearing that they would pay their share, and then not do so. I have seen it all, and wept with those on the receiving end.

I have written an ebook about financial, emotional and mental abuse, available on Amazon. It is such an important subject, and my main goal was to help people feel less alone. The fact that you are still here and fighting for yourself and any children you may have is extraordinary! It takes such a massive effort (and toll), when you are locked out of your own life; financial matters and fines, debts and betrayal hidden from you. If this is you, keep going, please. I have seen lives rebuilt after suffering these particular traumas. I have seen a woman five years down the road- and now financially secure-cradling the hands of another, promising that they too shall get through it. I believe her.

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Get your copy here.

The week that was…


There was this story, which filled me with the hope that good people are listening to the plight of renters.

This poetry slam, which was extraordinarily powerful. It says it all, really.

 

Finally, Rosie Batty has released a statement. She has done more than a team of thousands in the past four years, as documented here. Rest well, beautiful Rosie. xxx

The Physiotherapist


I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on physiotherapy in the twenty-plus years since my fall. I have done weights with physiotherapists, been placed on stretching racks, been in body braces, calipers, body casts, had my muscles shocked, been in hydrotherapy pools, and so much more. I still have the initial regime on paper, that I was instructed to do ten times a day, on top of swimming, hydro and physio sessions. It went on for years. To be honest, I was now full of hubris, believing I knew all there was to know, and could do the required moves in my sleep.

When my doctor set up a health plan for their physiotherapy department, I procrastinated. I was too busy for such indulgence, and besides, I knew everything there was to know! In spite of myself, I made a booking. My, how I laughed at the new patient form I was required to fill out, with minimal space in which to answer how many operations I have had, and what my injuries were. I had to resort to miniscule writing, to make it all fit.

The physiotherapy department really knew their stuff, massaging and kneading and coaxing trapped nerves to yield with subtle movements. They explained how the various muscle groups had compensated for my injuries, and what the plan was. Of course, they asked how on earth a teen had managed to obtain such injuries in the first place, and I told them in a matter-of-fact manner about the abduction and attempted murder. There was shocked silence, until I broke the ice, and then we all laughed as I regaled them with tales of the characters I met throughout the months I was in the rotor bed. It is a hell of a tale to lay on a stranger!

One of the fellows has a partner, and this week, I asked what they had done for Valentine’s Day. I was expecting the usual; that he had ordered red roses and chocolates and that they had gone out for dinner. Instead, he replied that after work, he had met his partner in the city, and they had purchased crates of fruit and water. They had then handed out bags to 200 homeless gathered near Central Station. “We don’t need gifts,” he explained. Apparently, they did this every birthday as well. “We don’t spend money on useless stuff, we buy things that will really help someone else.”  I said in reply, “that my friend, is real love.”  Not only have he and his colleague gifted me with their knowledge regarding my spinal column and neck, but he also revealed  what real romantic love can be in this world. Sacrifice, kindness, humility. I could picture this gentle man and his equally lovely girlfriend smiling as they handed out water on a blisteringly hot evening in Sydney. We talked of the lack of affordable housing in our city, and wondered aloud how greed has been allowed to become master and major consideration in all things. If he were to run for office, I would be his campaign manager. Imagine if everyone repurposed a fraction of their wants and put those resources toward others. Miracles could happen, just as surely as muscle groups yield to a physiotherapists’ masterful hands. I left buoyed with the thought that hundreds of people in this city felt loved on Valentine’s Day because of this dynamic duo.

After more than twenty years, I still have a thing or two to learn from physiotherapists. I rediscovered the difference they can make as to how I manage my pain. I have also rediscovered the gold one uncovers when you have nowhere to go and nothing to do but be in the moment.

Rotorua, Sulphur, Mini Golf and Flemish Rabbits!


My daughter and I travelled to Auckland airport from Sydney to attend a wedding in Rotorua. It was our first international flight, so we were excited! We left home at 5am, and got to our lodgings after 8pm. Fortunately, I had prepared my spine -full of arthritis, spondylosis, etc- for this epic adventure, and after a hot shower, crawled into bed.

The trip to Rotorua. This van was in front of us for a few hours.

The next day, I needed a good walk, so we went into Rotorua, and had a marvellous time looking in shops (which are markedly different to ours), and talking to the locals. The cost of living is a lot higher here, which was evident in the price of petrol and food. Over half  the population exist on the minimum wage, and rents are high. I worried about the local people, and how they manage.

My friends were married at the Black Swan Boutique Hotel, a stunning place overlooking Lake Rotorua. Black swans glided by as the vows were exchanged, and the grey skies cleared and sunbeams touched our skin. The bride was absolutely stunning, and I loved how we were invited to hold the rings, placing our love and hopes for the couple into them before they were exchanged. The reception was exquisite, as were our attempts at dancing afterward!

My vegetarian meal!

We left the Black Swan at midnight, collapsing into bed, and woke early the next morning for breakfast with everyone. The bride and groom were glowing and ever so happy. It filled me with joy. We decided to head to the Polynesian Baths to partake of a sulphur spa, naturally heated to 40 degrees. I lost track of time as my body relaxed and I floated with my daughter, and it was only when we went to get dressed that we noted the sign stating that you shouldn’t stay in longer than 15 minutes! Oops! We drank lots of water afterward, to avoid dehydration, and I went to have a nap, my pained spine temporarily eased.

 

As I slumbered in our Airbnb, my daughter uncovered what she called a fairyland, Mini Golf NZ, ironically on Fairy Springs Rd. The manager, Fiona MacGregor was an angel, she said, and I just had to go and see for myself. On the way, we stopped at the local shops for a takeaway dinner, and met many homeless youth. The weather had turned nasty, and a bitter wind whipped through their thin clothing. We gave them some of our NZ money, so they could at least get something to eat. This is the hidden face of any country, concealed behind the tourist attractions and natural beauty. The operators rake in the cash, but the poor see barely a cent.

I was already entranced by the music, bubbles and fairy lighting I could see outside of the mini golf centre, but when I went in, I was captivated! Flemish rabbits bounded up to us for cuddles and pats, and were very involved as we worked our way around the course.

There was also a tame dove and a rainbow lorikeet! I was in heaven! Fiona has been here a long while, and has not only raised her own kids, but looked after many others. She is very aware of how the community is struggling, and organizes canned-food drives and Christmas hampers for organizations like Food Bank to distribute. Fiona is a good woman with a huge heart. There was something very special about her and this place. She was here for love, an essence that shimmered like gossamer around this slight woman.

Fiona and her Rainbow lorikeet

We met a lot of  Maori’s, and they expressed concern about lack of  job opportunities, homelessness, housing affordability and much more. I admire the local community organizations, who have set up linked charities to tackle the major issues. One of the major ingredients has to be a sense of hope; that things can turn around. If that is lost, mental illness creeps in, aided by alcohol and drugs. As long as hope and good people like Fiona abound, communities and their whanau shall prevail. The rest of our trip was spent in quiet contemplation and thankfulness that we had seen our friends marry, and that we had met Fiona. If you are ever in Rotorua, go see her!

The gorgeous bride and I

Dawn the Diamond


The world lost a treasure a short while ago, named Dawn the Diamond. She would frequent the seats scattered about town, chain-smoking and handing out gifts to children. Impeccably dressed, her favourite colours were purple and red. Wearing green felt hats and scarlet-red coats in winter, she had a style that can only come from being a free spirit.  Dawn would buy the homeless and battlers a cup of tea and sandwich from her favourite cafe, and after time spent with Auntie Dawn, their burdens seemed lighter. Her place was open to anyone and everyone, though of a day she could be found at her favourite pub before gathering admirers on the bus stop seats. She loved my daughter, and they were entranced with each other upon meeting. Throughout the years, we shared many a bus journey, Dawn retrieving some errant goodie from her bulging bag for my little girl.

Our trips aren’t the same anymore, for Dawn became ill and passed suddenly. Winter can be cruel to the elderly, and in her last week, she wanted to get the message out to please don’t smoke, as it makes the bitter season that much worse if you were to fall ill. I went to her funeral, Delta Dawn playing as she entered. The church was packed, everyone in colourful attire as requested. I keep looking for her on buses. I keep hearing her laughter in my mind. Rainbows bring such joy, though when they disappear, the oblique clouds seem to be more apparent. Keep shining, Dawn the Diamond. You made unadulterated love and joy appear easy to both create and come by.

SistaCare 2017


My daughter, her friend and myself were invited to SistaCare 2017, held at the Exodus Foundation. Rev. Bridget Perkins-Ocean organized the day, along with a bevy of helpers. Students and teachers from Ultimo Tafe did hair and makeup for the ladies in the church. It was a delight to see the women and girls see themselves through fresh eyes.

Dress for Success Sydney gifted the women from the Exodus Women’s Group new outfits, and boy, they looked gorgeous! Dress for Success is an amazing initiative, dressing and styling ladies who are looking to get into the workforce, or need outfits to attend weddings, funerals etc. The ladies then see themselves through fresh eyes, imagining all they are capable of. What was inherent and hidden, buried under trauma and life events, has been reclaimed. My girls were thrilled when asked to lead the fashion parade!

The girls with Reverend Bridget

Reverend Bill Crews was there to greet everybody, and both the beauty school at Ultimo Tafe and Dress for Success gave a talk about their services. It was then time to eat, something my two models were very much looking forward to!

Two very brave and inspirational ladies then told us of their pasts, the details of which were gut-wrenching. To look at their radiant smiles, you would never know what they have endured. Women need to tell their stories to one another; to have a circle of mighty and courageous souls to depend on. I would like to thank everybody who made this event possible. To walk into the food hall and see it so lovingly decorated, was glorious. I was the first seated and it gave me such happiness to see the look on their faces as the guests entered. The tables were set for them, resplendent with china tea cups and flowers. The first step to having a woman recognize her value is to treat her as a precious, valuable person. Giving her back what was once taken. The Exodus Foundation, Dress for Success, volunteers from Ultimo Tafe and the speakers did just that.

 

Rental Crisis


I recently helped a friend move from her lovely townhouse, a task that broke my heart. You see, this single mum and her little girl adored the space in which they lived, and this wasn’t their choice. Despite working hard, this mum simply couldnt afford to keep paying the ambitious rent on the property. To put this into perspective, I am fortunate to rent a spacious four bedroom house with a large front yard and beautiful backyard. It costs the same price as my friend’s small townhouse in the same area. The real estate has had people through the property, and nobody is willing to pay such rent, so the landowner has offered to reduce it. Too late for my friend and her child, who have had to move in with another family, whom they didn’t know prior.

I was privy to the exhaustion, the tears and frustration that came with this move, and it hurt my very soul. Everybody deserves a home; a sanctuary with privacy for their family. Particularly a houseproud single mum and her little girl. This is why I have signed this petition. I am fortunate to have a lovely house, and decent real estate and landowner. Repairs are swiftly taken out, and the rent is reasonable. Many of my friends dont share this experience, and are left wondering whether they will be living in the same place every six months. It is particularly stressful when you have children, who thrive on a sense of stability. Five million Australians rent, and deserve a better deal.

I have always wanted to own my own home, and came close a few times. Infertility treatments and spinal surgeries (and the monumental recoveries), saw to it that the deposit was spent elsewhere. I know many home schooling families who have sacrificed owning a home in order to school their kids. Some are University Professors and others are medical professionals. All deserve to have a decent standard of living. It is time for the government to act to have the rights displayed in the petition rolled out across the board.

Shining Stars


Shining Stars was set up by some local friends, and is living up to its name! For many years, these wonderful people (including nurses), traveled in their spare time to Kings Cross in order to help the homeless, before moving the service locally. The founder of Shining Stars regularly receives donations at her home, and sorting through the clothes and toys, food and other goods is a job in itself! The other day, they posted a heart-rending description of a homeless elderly lady on their Facebook page. The end result was that this dear soul ended up with comforts such as a dressing gown and slippers, toiletries and a walking frame. Somebody even donated a suitcase so she could pack all her treasures to take to the home found for her. Finding household goods for a family fleeing violence, providing meals and outreach services and much more. These Shining Stars do it all. For further information, Shining Stars can be contacted here.

The Rooms I have Lived in…


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I have existed in many rooms throughout my life, and have lived comfortably in others. I had ballerina wallpaper in one, and the dancers had no faces. No eyes with which to see out of, nor mouths to scream with. There have been many hospital beds, and places in ICU. I have been in several rotor beds, which turn you and help you to get used to being upright again. I have shared rooms with three others and had my possessions rifled through. Throughout the night, I got used to sleeping with one eye open. At fifteen, when I feared my life was coming to an end, I had a solitary room down the end of a dark corridor, a bare globe offering a garish, dull light. It was freezing cold, and I had an essential oil ceramic pot near my bed to disguise the putrid smell of mould. There was the room in a refuge, a large space filled with bunks. The kids would voice their fears as to where they would go once they reached the maximum time allowed at this temporary facility.

I have rattled around a room with a wallpaper motif of guns. I had a soundproof space and I would look in the dresser mirror, and study my scars. I lived in a little room at eighteen, with a donated table. My bedside table was an upturned box I had painted. It was stifling hot and loud, the residents of the share house keeping a radio on the other side of the curtain separating their space from mine. The next room was in a series of old horse stables, made from stone and converted into bedsit’s. My landlord was called Moses, and so I found myself living in a stable, Moses collecting the rent by tapping on the window each Saturday morning! There have been rooms where sleep wasn’t had, and flashbacks were frequent. There have been rooms where I recuperated after surgery, crutches and wheelchairs, braces and walking sticks crowding the corners. My favourite of all the rooms I have known is my current one. Women being treated at Catherine Hamlin’s Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia knitted the blanket on my bed. A glass lamp I found on the side of the road offers light. The exercise equipment I use to keep my bones strong is strewn around, and crystals and books are gathered, along with makeup in all the colours of the rainbow. It is a well-ventilated and quiet retreat, and my favourite place to write. I can rest my spine whilst I do so. After so many dark, dank and depressing rooms, I finally have a space where I can rest, dream, recuperate. It is important to have a room of your own. Oh man, the places you have to trawl through before you get there!