If you took a look at my family, we’d appear as your average middle-class Australians, in a big home in a growing semi-rural suburb. My siblings and I were educated in private schools and now two of us are off studying at university – my youngest still in high school. We have everything we need to live, along with a certain few luxuries we’ve worked hard for along the way. But this hasn’t always been the case.
While I was in year 12, in 2014, my whole family was crumbling right before me. It was prior to the commencement of the HSC exam period that my parents split was official. I was doing my best to focus on exams while in the mean time my mum was back and forth between homes. It was no longer safe for her to be living in the family home with my father. Let’s just say that people do a good job in hiding their family situations – I sure did.
In November 2014 we were finally able to escape the family home with my mum. We moved into a tiny three bedroom terrace in another suburb. We moved in with three mattresses and bags full of our clothes. That’s all. I prolifically remember going to take my hair straightener with me, and having my father accuse me of stealing it from him. Wow.
If that doesn’t suggest the type of parent/person my father was, then perhaps leaving the family home without any other single possession of ours will indicate so, and further indicate how tough we had it. My mum, ostracized by so many family members, did it all on her own while emotionally traumatized by years of domestic violence. We built a brand new home for ourselves. We didn’t have family help us pack. Instead, I had friends with ute’s who could move these large items for us. Another thing we had none of – homeware essentials. Fortunately, my sister and I at the time were working in a local retail store, where we were able to purchase necessities like cutlery, sheets, towels, a kettle and so forth.
My mum was an educated woman with a degree behind her. We lived on acreage, building what was meant to be a beautiful home. This doesn’t happen to people like us.
Bit by bit, we rebuilt everything. My mum, now a single mother, furnished a home with her own funds, along with help from other incredible people. To this day, she has still not received a single cent from her ex-husband to provide for his children at all. Nonetheless, it didn’t matter, because having the ability to proclaim “I built this up all myself” is more powerful than relying on someone else. My mum, on a low income, met all nondiscretionary costs such as rent and bills. There was an exception, however… and this was to discretionary items in our budget – food.
I am still disturbed by hearing my other parent state “I’d rather see you all starve than help you with money”. It pushed us to strive even harder, although we did struggle. Food’s expensive… So we went without. It became a responsibility of my sister and I, while working our casual jobs. The face of hunger and food security is diverse. In this case, the face of food insecurity was suddenly the educated woman working full time with children in private schools.
In the words of Salem Press Encyclopedia, “food security refers to conditions under which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (2016).
If it wasn’t for Foodbank Australia there would have been no way that my mum could have afforded to feed us, on top of every other expense. Here are some staggering facts about food insecurity in Australia, from Foodbanks 2016 Hunger Report:
Driven by her own battles with food security, Paula, opened up Our Community Pantry to help other everyday people, just like us, to be able to purchase groceries. The not-for-profit initiative works by addressing food insecurity in South Western Sydney by providing affordable groceries, essential household items, family meals and free fruit, vegetables and bread – all of which are sourced from FoodBank Australia.
My intention with this post isn’t to shame anyone, have a slanderous rant about my past, or ‘boast’ for attention, pity and empathy. That sort of attention is not welcome here at all. I want to empower people from my story. My intention is this – to bring awareness that poverty in the working class can be all around us, and that the face of poverty isn’t just homeless people, people suffering in third world countries and so on (I am by no means undermining their situations at all), but also the every day people that you’d never expect.
Now, we have overcome this stage of our life with upgraded new furniture, homewares, new cars, a stunning house and, of course, an abundance of food. I wouldn’t have my life any other way.
Comstock, N 2016, ‘Food security’, Salem Press Encyclopedia, viewed 16 March 2017, < http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?sid=0ae81b13-901a-4778-a2c2-1eb280366872%40sessionmgr101&vid=5&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=98402097&db=ers >
Foodbank Australia 2016, Foodbank Hunger Report 2016, Foodbank Australia, viewed 16 March 2017, < http://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Foodbank-Hunger-Report-2016.pdf >