Centrelink Suite—Tales from a NewStart (Anna Jacobson)

Verity La Disrupt, Poetry

1. Prove It
 
Willy at Centrelink said I needed a forty-five minute assessment to prove I still had a mental illness. But it’s in the letter from my psychiatrist. / Doctors letters only count for short term at Centrelink. / I find assessments extremely anxiety provoking. / If you want to keep receiving Centrelink benefits then you have the assessment. / So I said, Centrelink can eat my shit and take me off your fucken system and watched security meander my way. What really happened was I sat crying until Willy said, Can I help you with anything else? I stood up and made my way past the security guard and nearly got run over by a shredder van. At a café I ordered the special: double-glazed caramel popcorn, churros, and ice cream with fudge sauce. I texted Mum: it’s hard to be sad after this and attached a photo of the churros. She replied you go girl! with an emoticon of a yellow smiley face blowing a love-heart kiss.

2. How my Centrelink provider helped me prep for my job interview
 
The day before my job interview my Centrelink provider makes me attend a two-hour job search. But I’ve got an interview — tomorrow. I’ll find it draining, it will affect my performance. / It’s a requirement, says my case manager. I fill forms that want complicated passwords: 8-16 characters long, upper case and numerals, just in case someone logs in and steals our resumé. The form asks: Do I have a medical condition? I tick yes. Does it require routine medication? I tick yes. Do I have any of the following? I tick anxiety and depression. The squares onscreen deflate. I want to prep for my job interview. I text my mother who says: Don’t let the bastards get you down and Write a poem. I write down the names of jobs that inspire my senses: popcorn maker, cheese specialist. After two-hours I am exhausted from sitting in chairs as unsupportive as the staff. My case manager wishes me good luck with my interview the next day. Get some rest, she says.


3. How my Centrelink provider rang me during my psychiatrist appointment to make sure I was there

I have a psychiatrist appointment during my two hour monitored job search requirement. I’ve told my provider this many times. Even rang the day before, so they don’t forget. If they don’t verify I have a valid reason for not attending the job search, I’ll be in trouble — I don’t want to go into the warning zone. As my psychiatrist is finding ways to help my mood through self-care, my phone rings. Hi Anna, it’s Willy calling from your Centrelink provider — how are you? / I’m in my psychiatrist appointment. / Ok I was just calling to check that was where you actually were. I hang up. Luckily I can get therapy for that call right now.

 

Anna Jacobson is a Brisbane writer and artist. Her debut poetry collection Amnesia Findings (UQP, 2019) won the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Her writing has been published in literary journals including Griffith Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Meanjin, and more. Anna won the 2018 Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. You can find out more about Anna on her Website, Instagram and Twitter.