Tag Archives: health

It’s a big thing for me to be able to offer help

By Peter Richards, from the Ravenswood Neighbourhood House.

Peter’s story also appears in “It’s a Starting Point“. Thanks to Peter and Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania for sharing it on the BLB.


What’s important is being able to help people, the ability to help people. Because now that I’m right I’ve got a lot of life experiences, and now if somebody says they’re a bit down, I don’t have the certificates or anything, but I’ve got the ability to talk to people.

To tell you the truth I didn’t know the Neighbourhood House was here and being a gardener for a long, long time, I had a lot of vegetables left over from my garden. I’ve only got a very small back yard, but it’s always growing. It was the next door neighbour—I was talking about all the spares, mostly tomatoes, pumpkins and such, ’cause I got them into gardening as well, and she told me about the House. She got the number for the House and I rang them up and asked them if they’d like all the spare vegetables. Well they jumped at it. Two ladies came up and they picked them and invited me to come down to the House.

Having had depression pretty bad for quite some time I didn’t want to mingle but after several trips up there to get vegetables, I sort of thought “yeah I’d come down there and then shoot home” sort of thing, safety you know, and it all started from there. I was scared shitless, I was, I was scared shitless. I was worried I’d come in, somebody would say something and I’d jump in the car and leave. That’s how bad it was. When I got paid, I’d just slip down to the shopping centre pay my bills, get food and bang I’d be home. I mean I knew my neighbour, and my neighbour over the back fence, and that’s it. I mean I did my gardening. That’s when I really got stuck into the alcohol badly. But that was the extent of my outings, talking to my neighbours, I was quite comfortable with them although I didn’t explain my situation to them. To actually go out was a big thing, and to come down here and spend a day, wow—unreal. That would be about three years ago, it would have been about February-March that they first came and got the vegetables and I’d come down and go home again and whatever. The two women they said “just come down and meet some people” as I’d already told them what was sort of going on after a while; well, not straight up but I’d told them after a while of visits. They said to just come down and mingle for a while, even if just for half an hour and then go home.

“Just come down every now and then,” that was the start of it.

I was just coming down for half an hour and as soon as I was uncomfortable I’d disappear. And gradually it got longer and longer ’til I was here 2 or 3 hours, ’til it was a couple of days a week and now it’s every day. Now I don’t like being inside, it’s the exact opposite. Gradually I’d get to meet people, find out who they were, what they did. Then I’d started doing little bits and pieces around the house. Like Mr Meet-and-Greet, that’s one of the ones I’ve taken on myself, going down to get Second Bite, bringing down my own vegetables of a Monday. Generally tidy up and put things away and whatever. Then I was invited to join the Board. By this time I’d sort of got myself going reasonable.

Continue reading It’s a big thing for me to be able to offer help

Living on the DSP

I am on the Disability Support Pension as I have more than one mental illness and a physical condition. I feel lucky to get the financial support, as some people get nothing. There are times I wish my life was different and easier. At the moment, it’s not too bad. I’ve been through worse.

It can be very difficult being on a low income here in Tasmania.

I feel it is harder here than in Victoria. There are no community health centres here. I cannot afford on-going dental health care at the moment, as it stretches the budget too much. Sadly, my teeth are getting worse.


If I don’t write out my budget and plan for up to 6 weeks in advance I won’t know where my money needs to go. It’s important to balance my necessities and treats, payment by payment. I am able to manage some months easier than others. I feel guilty for buying hobby items, but life involves having fun things too.

I am handy with my hands, which means I have been able to make things for myself for my home. I have saved money by doing this. I do wish my financial situation was better, but I have to manage with what I have.

I try to be grateful for what I have. I look out for sale clothes items all the time. I have slowly built up my kitchen utensils and items of the last year. I have a roof over my head – a safe place I can call my home. I have friends, and I have metal health medication that works.

I do focus too much of my time on money, but when every dollar counts it becomes a way of living: day by day, week by week, payment by payment.

I worry about the financial future. I want it to be as easy as possible, but I will have to wait and see how it pans out.


A winter’s morning at the Benevolent Society: Four people talk about emergency relief.

Food donated to the Launceston Benevolent Society for distribution
Food donated to the Launceston Benevolent Society for distribution

On a chilly winter’s morning recently, four people who came to get emergency relief supplies from the Launceston Benevolent Society kindly shared their story about why they were there. Their experiences highlight the different reasons why people on low incomes run short of money, and the extra challenges that winter brings to managing a budget. Their names have been changed for privacy.


Sean has lived in a housing department house since he got out of jail 18 months ago. He has worked in many different jobs during his life, but had to finish up due to an injury. He has had difficulties controlling his alcohol use, and has had depression and anxiety problems for a while. He has come into the Benevolent Society today because he has bills to pay that won’t be covered by his DSP. He’ll be taking a box of food and a supermarket voucher. They have also helped him in the past with furniture and clothing. He comes every 3 months because it makes his money go further if he can get some assistance. He puts $20 a week aside for his hobby, restoring an old motorbike – Sean says, “It’s better spending it on that than alcohol, and it gives me something to do. When I’m finished I’m going to take my 80 year old Mum for a ride on the back”.


She does not normally come to the Benevolent Society, but they have run out of money because two people in the household are unwell with respiratory problems and they wanted to buy wood for the winter to heat the house better.

47 year old grandmother Heather, says has had a hard life. Her mother died at a young age, and it was very difficult to live by herself with her Dad. She left home and school at 16 and now she and her partner have 3 kids and 5 grandchildren. She has worked as a cleaner for years, but recently became unable to work due to health problems. Her family of four live in a private rental, any pay $380 per fortnight. She arranges for Centrepay to pay her rent, her payments for a new washing machine, and some driving related fines that have built up over the years. She currently pays $50 a fortnight toward getting rid of these. This leaves her with $119 per fortnight spare. Her partner has intermittent work, and he pays the hydro bills and all the car costs. She does not normally come to the Benevolent Society, but they have run out of money because two people in the household are unwell with respiratory problems and they wanted to buy wood for the winter to heat the house better.


John has come for emergency relief today because his power bill has “knocked him out”.

Continue reading A winter’s morning at the Benevolent Society: Four people talk about emergency relief.

“Poverty can be soul destroying”

My story is not a typical story of poverty or unemployment. I am from a university educated, high socio-economic background. I guess if anything, my story shows this can happen to anyone.

In April 2013 I was house sharing with a friend to divide our costs and our house lease was coming to an end. We were both long term unemployed despite university educations and over three decades of experience each. Me in health and law, the other person in accounting. We were both divorced with grown up children.

Prior to this I had private rental in Hobart seeking work in a larger city, while again living (existing) on the Newstart allowance. At that time in my desperation, I spoke with the Salvation Army counsellor in Newtown. She listened which was nice, but my situation was not typical of homelessness, drug use or mental health issues.

Continue reading “Poverty can be soul destroying”