Grandchildren, food vouchers and back to study

I’m a 60 y/o grandmother who is facing bankruptcy after having spent 20 years sole-parenting.

My story begins with me, through poverty, having to represent myself in the Family Court. This awful experience dragged on for almost three years, leaving me with PTSD. It also caused me to drop out of university, lose relationship with two of my children and become welfare-dependent.

The Child Support Agency compounded my difficulties by allowing the fathers of my children to “play the system”, thus escaping their financial responsibilities. At one stage this resulted in me having to stretch $20 to cover the daily needs of myself and four children, three of whom were teenagers. When Vinnie’s was approached for a food voucher, I felt ashamed. My children suffered shame on a daily basis.

Making ends meet became more and more difficult from then on. Paying the mortgage was beyond me, so our home was sold and we moved far out of town where housing was affordable. I didn’t own a car and we were reliant on public transport. This didn’t come cheaply as the bus company was privately owned and fares were three times those of Metro. Needless to say, we became socially isolated and my children lost touch with their friends. One child became severely depressed.

The difficulties this situation created were immeasurable, especially after Centrelink cut the Parenting Payment. With $150 less in the budget, and suffering repeated bouts of depression myself, I was expected to jump through a never-ending series of hoops. This increased my anxiety to a point where suicidal thoughts began to enter my mind. Had it not been for the love of my children and the support of a wonderful counsellor, who knows what I might have done?

Child Protection was the next bureaucratic system to trash my life. With a grandchild in crisis, I put up my hand to help. Two years on, mother and child are re-united but three generations of my family bear the scars of having associated with this dysfunctional organisation.

So here I am at 60, studying again. I may be poor and I may be tired but I’d go through it all again, if only to see my children safe and well.

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