By Brendan Rees
David* (not his real name) says his family recently sold their furniture just to meet expenses during the stage four lockdown.
The Berwick resident and temporary visa holder lost his job as a result of Covid-19 and the Brotherhood of St Laurence has helped him gain casual work but his family is in severe debt.
“I have a lot of debts as a result of Covid-19 and I need a lot of help to pay for my registration, my bills, my expenses and rent as well,” David says, who migrated to Australia from Africa with his wife, 15-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter in 2013.
His family doesn’t have a Medicare card or enough money to cover their son’s hyperactivity medication.
And they also aren’t eligible for Red Cross hardship support given David’s casual work.
According to the Refugee Council of Australia, a recent report predicted almost 19,000 asylum seekers and refugees on temporary visas would lose hours or jobs as a result of the Covid-related economic downturn. They aren’t eligible for JobKeeper or JobSeeker on the basis of their visa status, forcing people into poverty.
The council also said research predicted a 12 per cent rise in homelessness among them. Some also don’t have access to Medicare and there are as many as 16,000 children of people seeking asylum in Australia.
This is putting considerable pressure on service providers and charities, which are experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for their services as they struggle to provide emergency accommodation, food packages and other lifelines to those affected.
David says he works up to 20 hours a day as an Uber driver just to make ends meet.
He earns $2080 a month and pays $1650 a month in rent, leaving little left over for living expenses.
“I was working in a good position before, as I was working in a big organisation and Uber as well but as a result of Covid I almost lost 85 per cent of my income,” he says, adding his wife is unable to find work due to an English fluency barrier.
“I knocked all doors of charities to help me to pay some of our expenses and most of them help in a way or another.”
To add to their burden, David says being in isolation due to the Covid-19 lockdown is “not good for all of us” and their daughter who is in year 12 has struggled with the shift to remote learning.
“The communication among the classmates is lost and the interaction with the teachers is very weak,” he says, adding his family also struggled to afford internet connection.
But despite their challenges, David is remaining optimistic.
“I try to do my best, I wake up every day maybe around 4am (to be available for work),” he says. “I don’t mind of course to do anything to support my family, I have no other people to help.”
For national emergency relief services, including food, clothing, vouchers or help with bills, contact your local arm of The Salvation Army or St Vincent De Paul.