MELISSA'S STORY

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I moved to Sydney in 2012 to have a fresh start with my girls after leaving a 16yr marriage and going through the Christchurch earthquakes.

I was living the “Kiwi Dream” until I had a stress-induced breakdown and was diagnosed as having bipolar.  Life then turned upside down with facing many challenges trying to get medical support and access to a range of support networks and government benefits due to my visa status. In 2001 the Australian government had changed the NZ visa law which now denies any Kiwis that are working and living here, the rights to vote, gain permanent residency, or have any access to any of the Centrelink benefits if facing hardship or any tough times.

As I didn’t want to give up on my dream and absolutely love Sydney as a place to live and raise a family, I knew I had no choice but to send my girls temporarily back to NZ due to having no support here in Sydney.  The goal was 6 weeks for them to stay at my parents to give me the time to get back up on my feet and at least functional. Unfortunately   the girls ended up having to stay for 9 weeks…a double edged sword! I was missing them so much which took me into a major depression, but I knew I was not well enough to care for them and had to be selfish by putting my mental health needs first well  testing out various medications to help me get stable and finding the right  one that would work for me.

At this time I was incapable of working my normal job as a teacher, or any job for that matter!  I ended up surviving on the amazing charities that Sydney has, for food and toiletries.  Unfortunately, there was no support to help me with my rent and due to my visa status I was unable to access the sickness or disability allowance, or even a one off hardship payment. Before long I got behind on rent and received a termination notice. At the time I was living in Potts Point so I was very familiar with the scene in Kings Cross and ended up doing a couple of jobs so that I was able to  keep a roof over my head for myself and my children.

A year later I faced another hurdle finding temporary accommodation when I was in between moving places. I had decided to study and be at home for my girls more so took on a part-time job working 5 afternoons.  With this choice (and input from the girls wanting and needing me around more instead of babysitters) my income dropped so I needed to move into a one bedroom unit.

All was going well with the planned move until the move in date changed on me. I found myself needing temporary accommodation for 2 weeks but had no funds. Yet again Centrelink was unable to help me, local women refuges would not take in my children and myself as they are funded by the government, and the homeless hotline would not help us until we were actually sleeping on the streets.

I only received last minute support after planning a sleep-out to raise awareness about my issues when I was 3 days off being homeless and on the streets with my children.