Post written by -99- for Turnleft2013
When Tony Abbott talks about saving money by axing community support programmes, health care, reducing aged pensions to pay for North Shore CEO babies, removing school kids bonuses for those already living in poverty, health budgets, red tape, green tape, Tony Abbott is playing with the life and death of real people, these are not just a means to balance the budget, it’s not just about numbers in an economic report, these are real people.
I work in the care industry – aged care, disability care, youth at risk, child care, home care for temporarily disabled, violent young offenders. It’s a tough job, and no where near paid enough for the work we do. I found one of my colleagues sobbing this morning, when she calmed down enough to speak, she said “If Tony Abbott wins, it will kill me”. This is her story, posted with permission.
My colleague, Donna* (not real name) is the primary care giver for her disabled sister. People hear ‘disabled sister’ and think cute 10 year-olds still in strollers or wheelchairs. This sister is an obese, violent adult, and Donna became her full time carer when their aged parents could no longer cope.
Donna, like many of us in this industry are on contracts, which means, we work when our agencies ring us up and ask if we’d like a shift. It’s irregular, not-stable, and if you knock back a shift, you may not get called again, as a contractor, there is no sick leave, no superannuation, no benefits. (One time I was violently assaulted by a client and had my shoulder broken, very close to my neck. I had to clock off work in order to go to the hospital.)
Donna’s sister has destroyed most of her possessions, is obsessed with fire and even though there are no matches or lighters kept in her home, the sister still finds a way to light fires. The sister takes great delight in playing radios all night and all day, and randomly turning lights on a night if Donna is trying to sleep. Donna’s social life is zero, she can’t leave her sister alone, and friends have stopped visiting.
Donna’s sister eats all the food in the house, and if she won’t eat what Donna cooks, she will take Donna’s food, and if the sister doesn’t like it, will throw it out. Donna was a healthy size 8-10 a few months ago, she says she has lost nearly 15 kilos, leaving her nothing but skin and bones. Donna tells me she is living on apples at work and hot water with sugar at home, if she keeps anything else in the house the sister will eat it. The food bill is astronomical. The sister says if she doesn’t get sausages, pizza, chips, meat pies, cola, she will call the police and say she is being abused.
“I’ll call the police” is a common threat, you can’t work in the care industry with a criminal record. If the police are called, Donna will be unemployed, and unemployable.
Donna has begun knocking back shifts due to needing to care for her sister, and is getting deeply in debt.
The sister has recently begun hitting her arms while driving and squealing with delight “you’re a bad driver, give me a turn” if she in anyway doesn’t drive in a straight line. She won’t sit still, and randomly removes her seat belt, Donna is a risk of losing her licence because the sister thinks it would be funny.
Donna told me that she needs NDIS to come in, she is not coping, she is broke, in debt, sleeps maybe 3 hours a night, can’t work regular hours, eats nothing, and the stress levels would kill most people. She says she has fantasies of burning down the house with her sister in it, or driving her car off a cliff, or putting blood thinning medications in her food. I don’t blame her, if it was me, I would have walked away a long time ago.
Donna says the only thing that keeps her hanging on is the hope of NDIS. She says if Tony Abbott forms government and doesn’t honour NDIS, her only escape will be killing herself, and let the government deal with her sister.