The meager salary complements the care allowance she qualifies for due to her eight-year-old son’s autism. But it’s rare enough for the single mother to keep poverty out of the door. “The shelter is my side appearance to put money on the table.”
In short, at the start of the pandemic, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison recognized the magnitude of the shock that would hit Australia and JobSeeker was doubled, it ended with that payment.
“I bought food that I haven’t had in ages. I was able to buy brand new clothes for the first time in ages. “
Jeppesen was hardly alone – across Australia, those who were at or below the poverty line before the pandemic and JobSeeker suddenly found they could afford the basics that many take for granted.
“Your situation has improved massively,” says Conny Lenneberg from the St. Laurence Brotherhood. “You could have three nutritious meals a day on the table, we could buy fresh groceries, we could pay our utility bills, and we could pay to get the car repaired.”
However, between February and October there was a massive 13 percent decline in female employment. According to Lenneberg, this meant that many women “would sit on the hamster wheel forever and cobble together two or three jobs. Many of them never get to the point where they can confidently build for the future. “
Jeppesen’s son has an intense need for therapy, while her 12-year-old daughter is dyslexic.
“I could never afford tutoring. There’s no funding for that, ”says Jeppesen, who also had a single parent’s pension for most of her time as a university teacher – but when her youngest child turned eight, she was transferred to JobSeeker.
Due to her son’s autism, she is now eligible for caregiver payments.
She considers herself happier than most because she is paying back a mortgage. This means that eviction cannot be added to the other distress of the pandemic. With extremely careful money management, it squeaks past.
“But it’s a fight for life. My children have never gone on vacation. We’re not going out for Christmas. I bought jeans for the first time in six or seven years this year. The children have badly fitting clothes because I can’t afford new things. We don’t have any goodies and we don’t go to the movies. “
Jeppesen is a talented gardener and carefully plants her so that there are ripe fruits or vegetables. “If it’s not in the back yard, we often can’t eat it.”
Jeppesen says her daughter grew up on little money – “We have been poor all her life” – and is therefore afraid of spending. “She got some birthday money and it’s been a year and she still hasn’t spent it.”
Jeppesen is among more than 17,000 national academics who will lose their jobs in the wake of the pandemic as universities hit by the collapse in international student numbers lay off all the staff they can.
“The higher education sector is being decimated every day. Most of these job losses could have been prevented if universities had access to JobKeeper, ”says Alison Barnes of the National Tertiary Education Union.
Several of Jeppesen’s students wrote a letter about her that was posted on a popular university Facebook page. One nominated her as “undoubtedly the best lecturer I had at this university”.
Jeppesen loves teaching and watching students learn. “But the universities do not value teaching.”
At the moment she will continue to volunteer at the Geelong Animal Welfare Shelter, occasionally picking up paid shifts here and there. “I do a lot of work during the kitten season.”
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Senior reporter in old age
Clay Lucas is a senior reporter for The Age. Clay has been with The Age since 2005 and has been involved in urban affairs, transportation, state policy, local government and labor relations for The Age and Sunday Age.
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