Before Centrelink?



My first dealing with welfare in Australia was in 1996, when I ceased being a uni student, and became unemployed. At that point in time, Centrelink did not exist, though doubtless was being constructed, given that it took over welfare management in Australia in 1997 (so says Wiki).

My dealings with the CES were limited, but all in all, I have good memory associations. I know I received some kind of payment, and that they sought to help me find work, and even accommodated my request to see someone to offer some career guidance.

Then however, came Centrelink.

I have dealt with Centrelink as a student, as the unemployed, as someone with chronic health issues, as a parent. The only “good” associations I have with Centrelink come down to 1 or 2 individuals that I dealt with, and did my best to continue to deal with, but always first after having faced intense, pointless frustration.

So, I just wanted to ask the question - was the system actually better before Centrelink? Was it frustrating dealing with, I assume, multiple government departments, rather than the centralised entity that took over? Did you feel less like a number, and more like a person? Did things run smoothly, without stupid red tape? And most importantly - did it feel like it does now - that every encounter you have feels like the government is taking every possible step to stop you pursuing any kind of welfare assistance?

(Everything from the 60 minutes you know you will be waiting on hold until you get to talk to a person, and the hold music itself that’s been the same since 1997, the websites that go round in circles, the application criteria that just don’t make sense, the paperwork they want you to provide that they will lose, their apps that seem to offer simplicity yet don’t actually work, their letters that tell you nothing and leave you having to call them…)




Yeah, I got the dole for a while in the early 90’s and from my very hazy memories it seemed pretty easy.
Applying for FTB now… yikes! Fucking painful.


Was the system better. Well I’ll use an analogy to help the situation. Have you ever bothered to call iSelect and deal with someone who is trying to upsell you a product to get a commission. TLDR: Anything is better than what is left now.

Welcome to job active…

You are no longer a person, you are a number, on someone elses list, to get rid of, so as they can get a commision on getting off their list and they don’t try and yet they will continue to claim any initiative you took to get a job as their own and get their commission that way.

Let me tell you about another job active provider that liked to sanction its clients and threaten to suspend their payments if they were two minutes late for their appointment but at the same they would have you wait for hours on end like your time wasn’t important to them.

Yes it was better then, you weren’t just a statistic. The last vestages of that went out when Abbott got rid of the DES. Now you’re nothing but a number on someone else’s balance sheet and they treat you as such.

As someone with a chronic health issue of my own I’d really like to make things simple, but at the same time I don’t undervalue what I can contribute to society. Before anyone pipes up I’ve done the jobs no one else wants (that actually pay well mind you) including stacking shelves and making sure the labels are faced the right way at Coles/Woolworths.

Unfortunately it comes a point where as a university graduate with quite a significant contribution, they don’t know where to place you and this is another issue. See person, fit job… You could have a degree in law which happens but lets just say today we’re going to spend our time putting you in an intransigent position where we’re going to offer to teach you how to be a bus driver even though we know you’re more capable than that, but we can’t be bothered trying any harder.

You don’t ask for much help, just some leads from the person at the desk that you can follow up. You never hear from them again. The problem is now its a bunch of commission earning paper pushers.

Dealing with the DES it used to be a person that was employed solely with the purpose of either providing support services to help the client get back on their feet in the mean time while they were struggling, or finding them a job. As soon as you privatise the issue you end up placing a value on a persons head and that’s no longer welfare.

My memory of the CES is hazy, I was 12 years old in 1996, but walking into the office it was a one stop shop, they did everything and if you were really stuck they resolved your issue on the spot including advance payments. Now what’s left with Centrelink which has gotten worse over the years is glorified receptionists that are incapable of dealing with anything, or verifying a claim, which also used to be able to be processed in that very office.

Now when you want to get something done that involves more than a simple yes/no tickbox. We’ll leave you on the phone and you’ll get through to someone in about 90minutes.