Pensioners on Struggle Street
THEY are the backbone of society and have helped make Australia the lucky country.
But many retirees are destitute, struggling to survive on their pensions.
After 38 years together, James and Marion Lawler make the best of what they have.
Many would argue $500 a week between them is not a lot for rent, groceries, medication, fuel and electricity.
But Marion said she and her husband were the lucky ones.
As the president of the 100-strong National Union of Retired Workers in Rockhampton, she witnesses the depths to which some have been forced to sink on their battlers' budgets.
“There are a tremendous amount of seniors struggling in our community,” Marion said.
“A lot are paying more than 30% of their income on rent and going without eating – or eating poorly.
“Some are flat-out buying their medication.”
Marion said many were too proud to ask for help. She is saddened by a story one woman told her of how she survives.
“She buys 1kg of sausages, cooks them, then puts them in the freezer. Then when she wants them she takes them out and boils them,” Marion said.
“She thinks she's doing well, but there's no nourishment in buying meat off-cuts.
“To take money from the government is not something many seniors want to do.”
Marion said many of her friends who were pensioners felt being on a pension an indignity.
“Years ago we paid all our taxes and now we just want to live with dignity,” she said.
And even though Jim broke his hip in December last year he is still fighting to give pensioners a fair go.
Later this year he will travel to Canberra to lobby the Health Minister and Minister for Ageing.
“Our main part of the claim is to lift the pension,” Jim explained.
Fortnightly age pension payment rates