Lew said that Pop had always wanted him to be a small crop farmer. In 1982 we sold our home in Brisbane. With our two children, aged 7 and 4, we began life as small crop farmers in the district of Goomboorian, near Gympie. At first we grew beans, then zucchinis and one crop of button squash.
Lew attempted to plow 2 acres with a garden tiller; there was little hope that we would succeed. When we reached the end of the first year, my father, who had hated the idea, but stood by us anyway, died. He had been chasing a pump for the bore, which would eventually turn out to be salty. After the second year, we approached crisis. There was a drought and the dam leaked. Social Security said we couldn’t get the dole because “You’ve been farming”. In the dead of night, Lew would make his way down the bean patch with a torch, to check on the pawpaw seedlings he hoped might rescue the venture. He cautioned me against telling anyone about them. They died anyway.
One day in the early 80s a Social Security officer came out to assess our claim for benefits. He was visibly shocked. Everything was dead from the drought. Our three sided ‘house’ let the cold wind in. Our 7 year old contracted whooping cough. We were allowed to claim the dole. As the years passed we hid in our rural hell, doing our best to be a family. As always, Lew wanted to raise awareness about the plight we were in. The Gympie Times published the article below in 1986.
Meanwhile, the Hawke Government debated welfare cuts.
Note the recognition, as early as the 80s, that recipients of the dole fall into ‘poverty traps’, one of which is caused by the ridiculously high marginal tax rates. Nothing has changed there.
Here we are in 2018. Welfare bashing continues unabated. Rhetorical questions are posed about Closing the Gap. Indigenous Stolen Generations, beside whose suffering even our family’s tragedy pales into insignificance, continue to mourn lost and missing family. Nothing has closed the gap for other Forgotten Australians either. And it won’t happen until they are allowed to determine their own destiny. It is time for governments in Australia to admit they don’t have a clue, and to implement some of the ideas people have been trying to suggest.
How about, instead of trickle down wealth, we try some trickle up wealth, by means of a Universal Basic Income for all. I won’t hold my breath. In this country, people with good ideas are ignored, and eventually they give up.