Labor MP Anne Aly delivered a powerful address to parliament on Wednesday to critique the Turnbull government's proposed welfare cuts and bring light to the reasons people turn to Centrelink services.
In the speech, Aly recounts her own experiences of relying Centrelink payments after leaving her abusive husband and needing to find a way to support her three-year-old and one-year-old children.
"I'll never forget the day that I walked into that Centrelink office. Into that building of grey concrete with its harsh lighting and the carpets that had been stepped on by millions of desperate souls before me," she said.
"And I'll never forget being told that I would have to wait for my first parenting payment. I had absolutely nothing. I had not a cent to my name, and I didn't know how I was going to feed my children for that next week until the parenting payment came through.
"I'll never forget walking out of that building that day, turning the corner, leaning against the harsh concrete wall and breaking down in tears."
"I have not forgotten what it is like" - Anne Aly on escaping a violent marriage and being thrown back on welfare: https://t.co/RJt8n54eH4— Jacqueline Maley (@JacquelineMaley) March 29, 2017
The federal government's proposed cuts to welfare services presented in its families bill looks to impose big changes to payments which will see people receive less money, while having to wait four weeks before getting any government help.
"The government doesn't seem to understand that people in these situations, many of them mothers fleeing family violence, are not there to scam the government. We're not criminals," she said.
"We're there because we have no other choice. Many of those people who seek these kinds of payments are not there out of choice. The very principle of a social security system is that it's there for people who need it.
"The very principle of it is that we, as a society, the measure of our compassion as a society, the measure of our progress as as society, is how well we look after the most vulnerable in our society. Is that we never leave anyone behind. Is that we ensure that nobody is left in a situation where they are so desperate that they go to desperate means. This is what social security is about."
Jacqui Lambie, then Anne Aly telling Parliament that we are still out here struggling to put a roof over our heads and dinner on the table.— Ms Fizz (@gherd_erma) March 30, 2017
Aly's comments come after Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie also delivered an emotional speech to parliament on March 23 where she broke down while recounting her experiences while living on welfare.
"I was serving tables from the time I was 10. I was working at the speedway at 12 and I had my first job at Kmart when I as 14 years and nine months. I worked in nightclubs and a supermarket, I took a gap year and went and worked in the real world. So you can imagine what it was like, how shameful it felt and how demeaning it was for me to work my whole life to become a single mum living with two kids trying to support them on a disability support pension," she said at the time.
"There were times when I would sit in a corner and cry because I felt so ashamed. For two days I didn't know how I was going to put bread and milk on the table. There was a time my fridge broke and for 3 weeks we lived out of an esky, and I put the esky under the house so the ice would last longer."
Aly's candid comments about abuse also follows Labor MP Emma Husar's passionate parliamentary speech where she admitted she is still "embarrassed" and "ashamed" about being a victim of family violence. Husar recalled the first 13 years of her life which were "marred" by domestic violence committed against her mother from an "always drunk and abusive father".
"Whilst the blows that landed on my mother during my childhood didn't land on me physically, they may as well have. The trauma inflicted was the same. I recall it vividly and in great detail," she said in the speech.
"Each episode of violence in these 13 years was different but the aftermath was always the same. Dad would apologise, promise to be different and that would work for just a short time."
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