Centrelink day 2

Riding up St. George’s road with a headwind is never a pleasant experience. Even less-so when you’re on the way to a Centrelink appointment.

I think they count on people being unwilling to deal with the complexity and the kafkaesque as shit bureaucracy (see also http://xkcd.com/798/). I have, until now been among these people and would much rather chain myself to a bike railing for a week than deal with the multitude of paperwork and bizarre half-truths that spout from the mouths of the staff.

I am, of course, exaggerating. But only just.

Alice once mentioned she’d seen graffiti scrawled on the side of a centrelink office:

‘Centrelink IS working for the dole!’

And how true this is. Also, it’s somewhat pointless as the help they give is — to say the least — minimal.

Apparently the maximum rent assistance I can get (and this is on the top-rate) is approximately $78. A fortnight. Which puts barely a dent in my rent. So I could move to another location (probably requiring a car to get around, which incurs another expense to throw money at), or sell a kidney. I’ve got two after all.

I was running a little late — about 3km away at 10.39 for a 10.45 appointment. So I called the centrelink support line to advise them.

Silly me.

Centrelink, like Telstra and other unimaginative big corporations, has a new ‘voice recognition’ system. And it asks you in English to tell it what you need.

The designers clearly hadn’t counted on anyone asking such questions to be outside with a wind blowing. Because every time I tried to say something, it read the wind blowing past the iPhone microphone and expressed in an apparently kind and relaxed voice that it couldn’t work out what I was saying and to please try again.


‘I can’t work out what you’re saying. Please try again. To speak to an operator say ‘operator’…’


‘I can’t work out what you’re saying. Please try again. To speak to an operator say ‘operator’…’


‘I can’t work out what you’re saying. Please try again. To speak to an operator say ‘operator’…’

Screaming bloody profanities while riding a bike one-handed in a headwind holding an iPhone to your ear possibly looks a bit odd. And if you were driving down St. George’s road this morning at the times I mentioned, I’ll say a cheery ‘Hello’.

I finally got through to the machine that I couldn’t remember by Centrelink code-number, and that I was calling about Newstart appointments, and it then put me on hold. I was within 100 meters of the Centrelink office when I finally got through to an operator.

The operator was quite nice. She asked for my centrelink code number and I explained the situation. I was chaining my bike up outside the office when we got to the 3 points of ID: Name, Address, Phone number, and was walking into the office by the time she found my account. I asked if she could advise the office I was now standing in of my lateness and she tried to call them but couldn’t get through either. The call was marked on my account and I sighed relief.

Then I heard my name called and found out they usually give 10 minutes leeway anyway.

20 minutes later I was out of there. The weather had changed and there was a feeling not so much of relief but an obstacle overcome.

I need a slab of cash. Anyone want to donate to the fund?

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.