Trigger warning: Readers are advised that the following article contains references to domestic and family violence.
Donna* is a single mum of two, who has experienced more turmoil over the last two and a half years than what most would experience in a lifetime.
Donna was a homeowner, a property investor and she had secure employment for over 12 years. In a relatively short space of time, Donna saw her life change dramatically.
“My life turned upside down and since then I feel like I’ve been just treading water. I really experienced what it’s like to go full circle and now I’m really struggling to make ends meet,” Donna said.
Donna was a victim of domestic violence, living in a town with no family close by and working through the challenges of Family Court. Donna first came into contact with Samaritans through their Emergency Relief service, supporting people who have experienced hardship in their life with immediate support.
“I have sole custody of my two children, but I receive no child support as my former partner has been incarcerated as a result of his violence,” Donna said.
“It’s a constant challenge when you’re moving around- to put together a bond payment, to pay rent and then put food on the table for your children. Some days I have enough for my kids, but I’ll go without to make sure they are fed,” Donna said.
“I was fortunate to have a good relationship with the real estate agent who helped me to sell my investment property- they helped me to jump the queue of 36 other applicants to secure my current rental. I’m not sure what I would have done without having that contact.
“In the rental market, it’s as if single mums are seen as a liability,” Donna said.
Donna owned her own car, furniture and whitegoods which took some of the pressure off when moving into her first rental property one and a half years ago.
“I am left with $100 a fortnight for my two children and myself after I’ve paid rent and bills, I’m not sure how I could have purchased other household items if I was left with nothing when my marriage broke down. My living conditions and choices on how I spend that money each fortnight is so limited- two thirds are spent on private rental and I’m so close to living on the street,” Donna said.
“Energy companies don’t care about your personal situation, they just want the bills paid. Landlords just want to pay their mortgage. I’m just trying to meet the most basic needs of my family… making sure my children don’t starve,” Donna said.
Donna suffered a workplace injury which saw her unable to work and facing a time in which she has had to take leave without pay.
Donna explained that while there’s support for women and children fleeing domestic violence, her job was her go-to place for support and connection and she thought she’d be okay, before experiencing a workplace injury which turned her situation around for a second time.
“Due to COVID-19, I’m feeling more isolated than ever. I’m home schooling my children in the same room that I’m finalising my family court proceedings via video-link and I’m having to work through Victim’s Services to organise a relief package to help me move to be closer to family- it’s not safe for me to be here anymore but I can’t afford to move myself without support,” Donna said.
“COVID-19 has seen others brought on a journey like me where they are experiencing hardship they’ve never experienced before. The government have made a lot of promises, like freezing rents. But this is not the reality for everyone- in fact, my landlord recently raised the rent by $20 a week which is out of reach for me,” Donna said.
“Charities like Samaritans have provided a tremendous amount of support to my family. They have helped me to identify some great support programs, they’ve supported me with financial counselling, EPA vouchers and food packages so that I can put food on the table.” Donna said.
Donna receives the Single Parenting Payment and Family Tax Benefit A and B. Samaritans research shows that in the research period, just 1% of properties would be considered affordable and appropriate for her family. Regardless of the Coronavirus supplement applying to certain government income support payments, the rental properties are no more affordable for Donna in her area.
Donna has shared her story as part of the 2020 Rental Affordability Snapshot. Click here to learn more and read this year’s report.
*Name changed and stock image used to protect the privacy of the person we support
Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling service 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.