Times desperate for pensioner

Rosie Triplett with Lucky, one of her precious birds.
Rosie Triplett with Lucky, one of her precious birds.

She’s not alone, with an estimated one in eight (2.26 million) Australians living below the poverty line in 2010 and no sign of slowing in demand for emergency relief services since then.

Three years ago, 37 per cent of people on social security payments lived below the poverty line; including 52 per cent of those on Newstart Allowance, 45 per cent on Parenting Payment, 42 per cent on Disability Support Pension, 24 per cent on Carer Payment, and 14 per cent on Age Pension.

According to the Australian Council of Social Services, a single adult is defined as being ‘below the poverty line’ if they have less than $358 left a week after paying for housing.

Ms Triplett lives on just $135 a week after paying her $280 a week rent. To pay her bond assistance loan back, she lived on $117 a week for all of last year.

She literally lived on home brand two-minute noodles for several months.

A $30 mobile phone recharge lasts Ms Triplett a year, her gas heater is never used, she has no home phone, has to ‘make an appointment’ to have a shower and has her hot water switched off at the meter. Insurance for her car is an impossible extravagance. Even flushing the toilet after every use is a luxury she just can’t afford.

‘With water I was spending $18 to $24 a bill and then it’s gone up to $240 every six months,’ she said.

‘I’ve been on disability since 1992, all my joints are arthritic and I’ve needed two hip replacements for 10 years.

‘I’ve been on a pension for so long, you learn to get really frugal. If it wasn’t for the Spud Shed I’d be stuffed; if I met the owner I’d get down and kiss his feet.’

Despite her dire situation ” including waiting, boxes packed, for the owners of her rental property to tell her when she will have to vacate ” Ms Triplett said she felt ‘lucky’ to have what she did.

‘I will eat before I pay a bill, as it’s a dark place you fall into when you don’t have anything to eat; that’s my advice to others,’ she said.

‘It gets you down, it really does. Centrelink needs to increase people’s payments by at least $50 a week. I can’t put petrol in the car. I can’t go and get overtime to pay for my new tyres.’

Her one ‘extravagance’ is her pet birds who provide her with a break from the isolation that comes with poverty.

‘I have my birds, which cost $50 a month to feed. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink; you’ve got to have something to enjoy in life.’