I'm not amputee's lover, I'm gay
MT MORGAN amputee, Civeena Tattam, fought back tears yesterday as she explained the Centrelink decision which caused her to contemplate suicide.
Ms Tattam, 35, has been living with her homosexual "best mate'', Colin James Andersen, 39, on and off for the past five years in different areas of the state.
Now, Centrelink has cut back the Mt Morgan mother's disabled pension payments by about $150 a fortnight, as they deemed her relationship with the gay man to be "de facto''.
"We are in no relationship, not sexual, nothing at all like that,'' the distraught woman said as she sat in her wheelchair in her tiny Mt Mor- gan home.
"I can understand them (Centrelink) in a way because so many people rip them off.
"But when it comes to honest people like me, they should look into it deeper.''
Mr Andersen claimed he was "definitely gay'' and was appalled Centrelink had not looked into the situation further.
"I have always been in the closet around straight people and homophobes,'' he said.
"Now I am stating my sexuality for Centrelink.
"They should come and see the situation before they make life-altering decisions.''
Ms Tattam said she had been told Centrelink had decided the pair were in a de facto relationship because of their previous addresses. ? "Because we had our previous addresses as guest houses, they said we were de facto,'' she said.
"They might have been the same address, but different rooms. That is the honest-to-God truth.''
The payment cut will dramatically affect the lives of the pair, as Mr Andersen acts as a carer for Ms Tattam, who has diabetes.
Ms Tattam had her leg amputated over two years ago after complications with ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis rarely occurs with type 2 diabetes, and can lead to a diabetic coma or even death. She is insulin dependent, and has gone into a coma twice.
"If I didn't have Colin here at the time, I would have died,'' the tearful woman said as she gave her friend a grateful smile.
A Centrelink spokesman said it was policy not to discuss specific cases, however it was a challenging job to apply the law of the land to often very complex personal situations.
"Many factors are taken into account when determining marriage-like relationships, and it's a combination of these factors, not one single factor, that Centrelink base their decision on,'' he said.
"These factors include financial and social aspects, living arrangements, legal obligations and whether or not people see the relationship as a married like relationship.''
The Mt Morgan residents met in Brisbane over five years ago when Ms Tattam rented a unit downstairs from Mr Andersen.
She was sexually assaulted, and turned to Mr Andersen for support, stating he was the "only man she could trust.''
The disabled woman said the pair had then lived together for the company, and so she could have access to a carer she trusted when her diabetes worsened.
"I can't live on my own, I can't do much for myself at all,'' Ms Tattam said. "I feel safe around Colin.