Iranian football star Sardar Azmoun speaks out about the death of Mahsa Amini

Iranian professional football star Sardar Azmoun speaks out about the death of Mahsa Amini (and many others like her) and the protests that are sweeping Iran. He says he is willing to sacrifice his place on the national football team, if it means not hurting a strand of an Iranian woman’s hair.

Please support the women, men, young people, and children of Iran who are right now risking their lives protesting the oppressive machinery of the regime. The internet in Iran has been effectively cut. Iran is in darkness. This is a tool of the machinery of oppression. It is hard for Iranians to get their story out. It is very dangerous with police shooting protesters, who are mostly unarmed.
Governments can massacre their people more easily in internet darkness. In the last protests in Iran in 2017-2020, the Iranian government killed 1500 people.

The Iranian government will use psychological tactics to make you believe that protesters are guided by foreigners or are separatists, but it is not true. Most protesters are young students, fed up with the regime. Sewing division is just a way for the regime to divide and conquer the people. To remain in power without giving any concessions or adequate human rights to the people of Iran. This is not about Islam. This is about women’s rights which are the same as human rights. It is about more than hijab (veiling).
Many women’s rights are violated in Iran on a daily basis. Marital rape is legal. Women can be put to death for adultery. Just to name a few major violations.

When any woman is oppressed, all women are oppressed. We need to support the women of Iran by doing whatever we can to help, even if it is just keeping this topic in the the news by talking about it and using hashtags. Because trending hashtags on Twitter is one way of how journalists decide what to run their stories on. Even if it is just helping to provide internet by installing a Tor Snowflake on your computer web browser. Even if it is just telling news agencies and politicians this story is important.

Share their story, keep it in the news. Don’t allow genocide to happen under your nose. Be on the right side of history.

How to help others get around internet censorship

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Oppressive regimes around the world use internet shutdowns or censorship to stop their people getting online and sharing information. This is a way for states to:

  1. Try to prevent people communicating protest gathering locations.
  2. Slowdown or prevent video and photos of atrocities being released to the wider world.
  3. Prevent victims from getting their stories out or communicating with international media.

You can help the people of Iran and other places where internet has been suppressed with the simple act of installing a Tor Snowflake to your Firefox or Chrome web browser. Best part is it’s super easy!

How do I do it?
Got to https://snowflake.torproject.org/ and click on the link to install the Tor Snowflake extension to your web browser.

Once it is installed a purple snowflake will appear in your address bar. Make sure it is toggled ‘ON’.
When the snowflake turns green in colour, that means someone is using your snowflake to connect to the internet.

Well done! Sharing is caring.

To read more about the Tor project visit: https://www.torproject.org/about/history/

ASX Share trading game 2 for 2021 open!

Hi all! I am entered into the Australian Stock Exchange Share Trading Game 2 for 2021. Entries are open until 8 October 2021, but the game has already started so for best chances to win join now. You will be given a hypothetical portfolio of $50,000 to trade with, and choose between over 200 stocks and ETFs listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. There are even cash prizes and it is a great way to learn about how to invest in stocks, how to research different companies, and how things like brokerage costs affect your total returns.

There are two separate competitions depending on you age: one for high school students (I believe you need your teacher to enrol you in the game) and one for people aged 18 and over.

Join me today and lets follow each others’ progress!

Where to join: https://www2.asx.com.au/investors/investment-tools-and-resources/play-the-sharemarket-game

To join my league and compete with or against me in the game please follow these instructions:

You are invited to join my ASX Sharemarket Game league

To join:

1) Go to the new ASX portal – https://www2.asx.com.au

2) Select Login

3) If you are new to the Game and not previously signed up to MyASX, select “Join Now.”

4) If you are a previous MyASX user, login with your MyASX username and password and you will be prompted to update your password.

5) Once you have logged into the portal, select the ASX Sharemarket Game and register for the Game.

6) To join the league

Under the “Game play” menu, select “Leagues” and then “Join leagues”.

Enter in the details below:

League ID: 34343

Password: ChaiTime1

You will be joining the league: EconomicsWithCoffee

6) And that’s it… success

You have now successfully joined the league.

Is Platform Capitalism Killing Liberal Democracy?

To paraphrase John Philpot Curran (1750-1817): The price of liberty is eternal vigilance; which if broken, the consequence is eternal servitude.

Liberal democracies are relatively new, only forming in the last 250 – 300 years. Prior to the formation of Western democracies, with British Parliament (1707), United States of America independence (1776), and the French Third Republic (1870), around the world, we lived in systems that were, for the most, undemocratic. There have been many alternatives to liberal democracy and the (near) free market the West has prospered from, Feudalism, Socialism, and Authoritarianism to name a few. 

But there exist threats from within liberal democracies. Over the last four decades the West has changed (McCulley 2020), wealth is once again concentrated in the hands of a few. In 2018, the world’s billionaires increased their wealth by $900bn or $2.5bn a day, whereas the poorest half of the world’s population, 3.8 billion people, became poorer – their wealth decreasing by 11% (Oxfam 2019).

Capitalism itself is undemocratic, McCulley (2020), describes capitalism’s ‘dark underbelly’, unravelling democracy from within, the two in perpetual fight. The democratic system worked so well to educate the population, and elevated so many out of peasantry and servitude. Unlike democracy’s one-person one-vote system, capitalism has a cumulative voting system, where the more dollars someone has, the more votes they get (McCulley 2005). 

Srnicek (2016), suggested this growing inequality of wealth is a function of Platform Capitalism – a new phase of capitalism, affecting all aspects of our lives and the foundations of democracy. The rise of Platform Capitalism, which Srnicek (2016) describes as online platforms, exemplified by Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Spotify (FAANGS), is perhaps one of the greatest homegrown threats to democracy. 

Platform Capitalists are in essence uncompetitive, having more in common with monopolistic behaviour than Walrusian (Walrus (1874–1877) 2003) free markets and perfect competition (Modigliani and Miller 1958; Edward 2020; McCulley 2005). Platform Capitalists demonstrate authoritarian management by segmenting and outsourcing labour (Edward 2020). If left unchecked, Platform Capitalists will further undermine civil liberties and personal freedoms, putting increased pressure on democracy.

The last four decades have seen a pivot to power of capital over labour, immensely widening inequality (McCulley 2020). The world’s richest 26 individuals now possess the wealth of the poorest half of humanity (Oxfam 2019).  Platform Capitalism is accelerating inequality. Under Platform Capitalism there is a fragmentation of labour, divided into core and peripheral workers (Thelen 2019 cited in Edward 2020). Core workers are paid well with excellent benefits, while peripheral workers are hired as freelancers so management can avoid contractual obligations and pay wages on a piece-meal basis to minimise cost of labour (Edward 2020). While the share of profits labour receives is diminished, company founders have become some of the world’s richest and most powerful people, often through monopolistic tools such as dual class shares (DCS) (Edward 2020).

Cant (2020, cited in Edward 2020) describes Platform Capitalism’s management style as authoritarian, where apps issue customer demands as commands. By design, there is information asymmetry between the workers and management (Ibid). Peripheral workers are deskilled, as objectives are neatly divided into observable, monitorable tasks (Edward 2020).

Workers’ ability to take part in determining their rights and pay is diminished, with no room for negotiation within Platform apps (Gandini 2019 cited in Edward 2020; Edward 2020). The authoritarian nature of Platform Capitalism is not limited to interaction with workers – DCS allow founders to have authoritarian rule over the entire company (eg. Edward 2020; Wagner and Dwyer 2019).  The prevalence of Platform Capitalist’s use of DCS means founders may own less shares, but have more votes, running their companies with little interference from other shareholders (Edward 2020; Wagner and Dwyer 2019). 

Analysis of law shows that technology will not on its own lead to freedom and equal societies (Brancaccio 2019).  Even if marginal cost becomes zero, because of “appropriation” and “enclosure” of collective knowledge by Platform Capitalists who, similar to colonialists, appropriated data produced by humanity, claiming ownership by enclosing it within their platforms (Brancaccio 2019). Platform Capital has essentially appropriated “the common” to extract wealth, and the only way to rectify this inequality is regulation through societies law on what can be private property and what is common property (Brancaccio 2019).  Increased regulation of Platforms is the only way to curb unfavourable aspects and decrease market power. Perhaps best through government legislation breaking up the largest Platforms. 

Reference

Botsman, Rachel. 2017. Who Can You Trust? : How Technology Brought Us Together : and Why It Might Drive Us Apart. London: Portfolio Penguin.

Brancaccio, Francesco. 2019. “Appropriation, Common Property, the Inappropriable: Notes on the Law of the Common in Platform Capitalism.” The South Atlantic Quarterly (Duke University Press). 118 (4): 857-876.

Edward, Webster. 2020. “The Uberisation of work: the challenge of regulating platform capitalism. A commentary.” International Review of Applied Economics. 34 (4): 512-521.

McCulley, Paul. 2005. “History Lessons for 21st Century Investment Managers.” Financial Analysts Journal. 61 (2): 19-24.

McCulley, Paul, interview by Joe Weisenthal and Tracey Alloway. 2020. “Paul McCulley: We are “Unambiguously” On the Verge Of A Profound Change In the Economy.” Odd Lots. Bloomberg Markets, (3 September).

Modigliani, Franco, and Merton H. Miller. 1958. “The Cost of Capital, Corporation Finance and the Theory of Investment.” The American Economic Review. (AmericanEconomic Association). 48 (3): 261-297. 

Oxfam. 2019. “Public Good or Private Wealth, summary report, English.” Accessed September 23, 2020. https://oxfam.app.box.com/s/f9meuz1jrd9e1xrkrq59e37tpoppqup0/file/38557940196.

Srnicek, Nick. 2016. Platform Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Wagner, Kurt, and Paula Dwyer. 2019. At Facebook’s Shareholder Meeting, a Challenge to Zuckerberg’s Power is Already Doomed. 28 May. Accessed September 24, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-28/at-facebook-s-shareholdermeeting-a-challenge-to-zuckerberg-s-power-is-already-doomed.

Walrus, Leon. (1874–1877) 2003. Elements of pure economics, or, The theory of social wealth. (Éléments d’économie politique pure). Translated by William Jaffé. Reprint. Routledge. London.

The Big Short

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

I read Michael Lewis’ The Big Short a few weeks ago. This book is fantastic. I recommend! If you are time poor, the film with Ryan Gosling is also excellent. I watched the film twice and find myself re-reading the book in 2021. The Big Short discusses the financial reasons and foundations behind the housing crisis that precipitated the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008. In Australia we call it the Great Recession, but internationally it is known as the GFC and took more than a decade for the world to start to recover from, and then we suffered the 2020 pandemic recession.

The Big Short focuses on the perspectives of the few people that saw a problem in the way mortgages were being traded behind the scenes of the worlds major banks, and a pricing error on risk that lead to the biggest failure in the banking system since the Great Depression.

There are interviews with many people from both sides, but understandably more from the sides that were betting against the banks mortgage backed securities and the derivative products made with them. A derivative is something that is made from an underlying asset, and the underlying asset in this case was home-loans of people who would later come to be known as NINJA’s — no income, no job, no assets, as well as the home loans of people who had no paperwork to prove their income — “no-doc loans” and “low-doc loans” that mostly turned out to be NINJA’s too.

There is so much depth and detail that it takes a second reading really to take everything in. The access and interviews in the book are rare and interesting. It’s very well written and possible for someone with a non finance background to follow. All the financial jargon is explained well for a non specialist audience. I feel it is important reading now, with the US Fed buying mortgage backed securities and house prices in another boom.

A Letter to Australia’s Prime Minister

This is a cruel policy to withhold covid relief support from income support recipients published today in The Guardian Australia.  Your policy is putting hundreds of thousands of people’s health and well-being into the garbage. 

Your policy basically says: “We don’t care if you become homeless.  We don’t care if you starve to death.  We don’t care if you die in the gutter.”

You need to immediately include all income recipients including Parent Payment, JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy. The people who applied for these payments to supplement casual income in weeks their working hours dropped are not greedy, they are sensible. Many of these people live pay cheque to pay cheque and if they did not take responsibility by applying for government income support they would put them selves at risk of homelessness and this would cost society a whole lot more than their social security benefits.

If you don’t extend the help to these people, the consequences for social stability are going to be dire.  We will see an increase in morbidity and mortality.  How can you justify this when there are as few as 75 affordable private rentals for someone on the sole parent pension in the entire country and a 10+ year waiting list for social housing in cities like Sydney. 

Your government needs to immediately implement a building program using the $3 bn you have under NHFIC and actually implement this funding to build the 500,000 affordable homes Australia needs.  Until people can actually live on the absolute pittance this government calls welfare, you must include any casual workers who also receive income support in your scheme.

This policy is obviously based off of misguided ideology.  Stop pretending this is justified.  Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes were both on your side of politics, and both would have warned you about the terrible consequences of this policy.  All you are doing is pushing voters to vote Green. Pushing voters to vote Labor. You have proven that you don’t care about Australian people, and people are not stupid.  The can see what the government thinks of them.  People on “the Dole” are no longer a minority.  So many people will experience what the Dole is really like now, experience the hunger, and the Australian people I suspect will demand better social security in this country, just like Keynes suggested after the Great Depression and the War.  If you ignore this, you and your friend’s way of life will be destroyed.  The whole point of having an adequate social security system is to

1. Keep the workforce healthy and in homes even when they are out of work. 

2. Give people options to find good quality well paid work. 

3. Prevent social unrest that lead to increased crime and higher chance of revolutions. 

You and any politician should best remember any society is only three meals from revolution.  This is your “Let them eat cake” moment. This is just bad policy. 

Zombie Stocks

The thing that really bugs me about meme (popular “story” or “theme” stocks) stocks is that shorting (betting against) is a good mechanism or at least was a good mechanism for keeping stock prices reasonable. Short sellers are often made out to be terrible people, and sure maybe some of them are, but the simple fact is that if no-one can exist to bet against an overvalued stock, if no-one can question “is this price correct”? Then yes the sky is the limit. Insolvent firms don’t go bankrupt, instead these “Zombies” rise in value. Defying any type of logic right? Markets stop acting efficiently or correctly.

The market no longer prices stocks correctly with its “invisible” collective knowledge, because everyone or almost everyone is involved in this heightened, gluttonous, impassioned, frenzied state. People who are not feel pressure, maybe they are wrong? And there will be pressure from investors to not miss out on the action and potential profits. So everyone buys in. The market no longer thinks clearly. At least, for a time. Eventually however, what happens is that reality hits home, and everyone begins to question prices, but no-one is quite sure, some people start to sell, which leads to contagion selling, which leads to people in highly leveraged (borrowed-money-to-invest) positions having to sell “good” stock to cover their losses, leading to much broader forced sell-offs indiscriminately of both good and bad “zombie” stocks, and we will have a massive market crash, aka 1929. A good analogy I read recently (I think it might have been Robert Shiller, Nobel Prize winner) was that the mania of buying stocks and the subsequent sell off is much like the spreading of a pandemic, something we all can understand quite well now.

The type of behaviour going on in markets is uncannily similar to the madness in markets described in John Kenneth Galbraith’s “The Great Crash 1929”, a must read for anyone with an interest in economics, financial history, or investing in the stock market. For now, I am interested in the amount of leverage involved in the buying of meme stocks, including Tesla and Cryptos.

Bloomberg article 12 June 2021 “Zombie Stocks Defy Bankruptcy Logic as Meme Traders Bid Them Up” by Katherine Doherty and Tom Contiliano

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-11/zombie-stocks-defy-bankruptcy-logic-as-meme-traders-bid-them-up

Wall Street Stock Exchange, 1929. https://www.boweryboyshistory.com source: New York Daily News

Alternative Money: The Wooden Dollar.

“Sometimes, money. Just. Stops” said Warren Buffet, billionaire investor, in May at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders meeting.   The phrase “money stopping” refers to ceasing of trading of money for goods and services between people.  Effectively the flow of money dries up, much like water in a drought.  This is what happens in recessions and depressions of the economy.   Money.  Just.  Stops.  

This year, nations around the world have been plunged into recession due to the pandemic — but recessions hit some cities and regions harder than others (Day and Jenner 2020).  In countries like Australia and the United States, small towns can be most affected (Lawrence 1982).  I should know, I grew up in a small country town in Australia during the 1990s recession. 

With many people out of work, residents stop spending — putting pressure on local businesses to close (Fishback, Haines, and Kantor 2007 cited in Fishback 2012).  Local businesses are crucial for employment in a small town, especially if the town is relatively isolated (Lawrence 1982).  Consumer spending is a vital part of our economy, typically making up about 55% of the total economy in Australia and 60% in the United States (CEIC Data 2020).  If consumers don’t spend — businesses close — end of story. 

During the Great Depression the federal and state governments in Australia and the US offered relief funds (Fishback 2012), but relief can be difficult for some local governments to access.  What if there was something we could do to prevent “money stopping”?  In the onset of a recession or depression — could a town just print its own money?

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, one town in the United States came up with a novel solution to this problem.  That town was Tenino, Washington: estimated population 1865 (United States Census Bureau 2020).  Small towns like Tenino cannot issue federal currency, that is they can’t issue United States Dollars  —  but there is nothing legally stopping them from issuing their own local currency — and so, in 1931 the “Wooden Dollar” was born. 

Photo: One printed Tenino “wooden” W$25 dollars exchangeable for $25 US (City of Tenino).

Tenino is a relatively isolated town in between Portland and Seattle.  According to the Mayor Wayne Fournier (interviewed on Bloomberg’s Odd Lots 2020) when the 2020 pandemic hit, for about 3 months, people, cars, and traffic disappeared from the local streets.  Shops in town closed their doors, and there was almost no economic activity in the town other than the local supermarket.

Ingeniously, the Mayor decided to bring back the wooden dollar to inject a flow of money into to the town.  Wooden dollars (W$) were circulated by the local government, who gave W$300 to each negatively affected town resident.  Wooden dollars can only be used as currency in participating local businesses, so the benefit of the extra cash stays in the town.  If the local government had just given US $300 to citizens, much of it might have been spent online, and not helped the local economy.  Restrictions on the Tenino dollar mean it can’t be used to pay for alcohol, gambling, cannabis, or lottery tickets. 

The residents of Tenino have taken up the wooden dollar enthusiastically, some Tenino businesses offer twice as many goods for Tenino dollars as they would for US dollars (Fournier 2020).  The mayor believes there may be a future for Tenino dollars in the town post COVID-19 (Fournier 2020).  The city of Tenino is liable for the wooden dollars it prints; however, it will not pay more than US $1 for a wooden dollar (Fournier 2020).    A peg on the exchange rate of the Tenino dollar for US dollars limits the liability and risk on the local authority.

Photo: One printed Tenino “wooden” W$25 dollars exchangeable for $25 US (City of Tenino).

The wooden dollars were printed using the original printing machine from the 1890s, used to print the first wooden dollars in the 1930s (Fournier 2020).  The press had been housed at a local museum for almost a century (Fournier 2020). 

Since the Great depression various forms of wooden dollar have been used around the world both in good times such as the ‘Ithaca Hour’ in New York (Meckley 2015, Rietz 2019), and in times of crisis, such as Argentina in 2001 – 2002 (Colacelli and Blackburn 2009).  My hometown of Maleny created its own local currency called ‘Bunyas’ in 1987.  Community Exchange System (2020) stated there are a total of 38 local exchange groups operating in Australia.  Exchange trading systems are particularly useful for people who are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, or retired (Sunshine Coast LETS n.d.). 

Australian politician Peter Baldwin, Keating Government Social Security minister, encouraged the use of exchange systems like ‘wooden’ dollars because they allow unemployed people to borrow to make purchases or to start their own businesses (Wilson 2015).  In Argentina alternative currency use was found to increase monthly income by over 15% (Colacelli and Blackburn 2009).  Just like conventional income, taxes apply to income earned through exchange systems (Australian Taxation Office 2020).  As Milton Friedman says, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

References

Australian Taxation Office. 2020. “Bartering and trade exchanges”. Accessed 8 September 2020. https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/GST/In-detail/Rules-for-specific-transactions/Barter-and-trade-exchanges/

CEIC Data. 2020. Australia Private Consumption: % of GDP 1959 – 2020 | Quarterly | % | CEIC Data . Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/australia/private-consumption–of-nominal-gdp.

–  . 2020. United States Private Consumption: % of GDP 1947 – 2020 | Quarterly | % | CEIC Data . Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.ceicdata.com/en/indicator/united-states/private-consumption–of-nominal-gdp.

Colacelli, Mariana, and David J.H. Blackburn. 2009. “Secondary currency:Anempiricalanalysis.” Journal of Monetary Economics 56 (3): 295-308.

Day, Iris, and Keaton Jenner. 2020. Labour Market Persistence from Recessions. September 17. Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2020/sep/labour-market-persistence-from-recessions.html.

Fishback, Price V. 2012. “Relief During the Great Depression in Australia and America.” Australian Economic History Review 52 (3): 221 – 249.

Fournier, Wayne, interview by Joe Weisenthal and Tracey Alloway. 2020. “Meet The Mayor Who Printed His Own Currency To Fight The Virus.” Odd Lots. Bloomberg Markets, (20 July).

Lawrence, Geoffrey. 1982. “Rural unemployment in Australia: orthodox and radical perspectives.” Journal of Australian Political Economy 11 : 59-72.

Meckley, Faith. 2015. “New local currency offers Ithaca another alternative” The Ithacan, April 15, 2015. Accessed 18 November 2020. https://theithacan.org/news/new-local-currency-offers-ithaca-another-alternative-currency/.

Rietz, Justin. 2019. “Secondary currency acceptance: Experimental evidence with a dual currency search model.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 166: 403–431.

Sunshine Coast LETS. What is LETS. Accessed September 8, 2020. https://sunshinecoastlets.weebly.com/what-is-lets.html.

United States Census Bureau. 2020. “City and Town Population Totals: 2010-2019, Incorporated Places: 2010 to 2019.” United States Census Bureau. May 7. Accessed November 17, 2020. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/popest/2010s-total-cities-and-towns.html.

Wilson, David. 2015. “A cashless economy? Where’s the catch? .” The Sydney Morning Herald, July 30, 2015. Accessed 3 September 2020. https://www.smh.com.au/money/saving/a-cashless-economy-wheres-the-catch-20150730-gingrc.html.

An uncomfortable topic: Class and inequality in Australia

Diversity and inclusion is a class issue – even in Australia

My thoughts after reading the article ‘Diversity and inclusion is a class issue – even in Australia’.

I think class and inequality in Australia is a really important issue.  When I was in my senior years of high school my family fell on hard times and became socially and economically disadvantaged.  I grew up on a small farm in rural Queensland, and although we were not rich, I never really felt poor, because our family was well established and we had so much space and always had enough food.  When my parents separated, my father became a sole parent.  We stayed on the farm for a few years, but as my parents interactions took a turn for the worse, and started to involve lawyers and property settlements, the dispute over finances meant he felt we needed to move away from the farm.

First my father took my sister and I to the Netherlands, which is where he was born.  We lived there for around 8 -9 months, we were meant to go for 12 months, but by the time we reached the end 8 months it had become apparent that we were hemorrhaging money and would not be able to sustain ourselves any longer.  My father took a job in a factory, but he quit shortly after because he didn’t feel secure, and thought they might not pay him, he also thought the OH&S there was terrible and he might die of a lung disease if he stayed due to the fibres in the air.  My father thought we could not return to the farm, and the only person he though might be able to help us was his sister who lived in Sydney.  We arrived at my aunts house shortly after and stayed with her for a few months while dad tried to find a suitable apartment in Sydney.

Many of the apartments in our price range had mold on the walls or only one bedroom, or were in unsafe neighborhoods, so it took him some time to find a place for us. We always struggled with having enough money in Sydney.  Buying enough food to eat was a difficulty.  My father did as well as he could putting healthy food on the table, but there was a definite lack of things like fresh juice, and a variety of fruit.  There were little to no sweets, like biscuits or ice cream.  No frills at all.  I remember not having enough money to buy things like new underwear or even a bra. I remember wearing singlets because I couldn’t afford to buy a bra and being 16 and worrying they might be see-through.  I remember getting really upset one day about it and yelling so loud to my father about it that my neighbor heard.  The next day, my neighbor Cynthia, a woman with a beautiful heart, gave my sister and me a bag of her daughters old clothes — I was eternally grateful for her kindness.  I felt so guilty for yelling …  I felt undeserving.  I knew that I should not have been so angry over something so out of our control.  I was a teenager, I was anxious … stressed.  Overwhelmed.   I never let myself yell angrily about not having enough again.  If I felt angry, I would allow that feeling, but I would reflect on it, and not let it negatively impact others if I possibly could.

By this time I had missed over 2 years of formal education.  I enrolled in the local state high school, and they kindly turned a blind eye to my lack of school report cards and paperwork.  We literally had nothing.  We packed a suitcase of clothing each when we moved to The Netherlands, thinking it was a lengthy vacation and not a permanent move.  No one had thought we might need report cards.  I hadn’t been attending school for much of the 2 years mainly due to bullying in Queensland, and then later in The Netherlands my father not being able to afford school fees.

395167_10151112944390443_161098586_n_10151112944390443Photo: A photo I took at the sandcastle competition at the famous pier at Scheveningen, The Hague, The Netherlands (c. 2001).

I was admitted to The University of Sydney on a social equity scheme called the Broadway Scheme.  Despite The University’s elite reputation, The University of Sydney was founded upon the principle of being an equitable institution for all, where people could be offered a place based on academic merit and not their parents bank account.  At that time about 5% of students were quietly admitted via the Broadway Scheme.  It was a great opportunity of which I am thankful.  The only downfall of it was that once I was in I was very much on my own. There was no network for students in the scheme or extra support.  I  had to manage to buy things like expensive text books (there were no ‘free’ PDFs or virtual bookshelf hire options online back then), pay mandatory student union and sports fees , which were very expensive (at that time about AU$700 a year at Sydney Uni), find access to a computer in the library to access my course content (I didn’t have the internet at home).

I remember asking my chemistry lecturer if he could put the lectures on a disc for me.  He was a great lecturer, but an old and grumpy guy, and kind of put out by my request — but he did it for me.  I got a disc of files.  He said something along the lines of ‘I am only doing this once —  so don’t loose it’.  Because I didn’t have the internet at home, I was often behind on things like online pre-lab quizzes if I couldn’t get to the library to do them, so I let a lot of marks just slide because it was hard to stay back late after 5 pm to go to the library after class.  Some nights I would stay at the library until 10 pm, but I felt safer studying at home.  In the first year it was okay because I was still living with my father.  But after he moved back to Queensland, I felt abandoned.  I was really on my own, surviving on Youth Allowance as a full time engineering student.  The coursework was intense, long contact hours, and I did about 5 hours a night homework.  I was exhausted and didn’t feel I could also work.  I struggled to eat enough.  I had a flat mate but money was definitely a lot tighter.  Probably a factor in this is that the cost of living had increased, but Youth Allowance hadn’t.  I previously wrote a post on how difficult it is to survive on Youth Allowance as a full-time student.  Post available here: Affordable accommodation for disadvantaged university students?.  Back then I was always hungry, it was hard to afford enough food to eat.  I was used to being hungry.  It was not until I was more financially secure that I realised … all those years … that gnawing ache in my stomach — was hunger.

I wasn’t close with my aunt, who by that stage had re-married, and I didn’t feel I could go to her for help.  I knew my parents didn’t have the money to help me out — so I just persevered and struggled on.  When I turned 18, I had inherited a small amount of money, about $2000, from my great aunt.  I had saved it for university expenses, and I used up almost all that money on purchasing my course materials, and the fees I had to pay to the union and the sports centre.  I remember feeling so upset about the university sport fees, because even after paying about $250 – $300 a year to them I wasn’t allowed to use the gym or anything like that … it really was fee for no service.  I felt robbed of the small amount of money that I had.

179331_10151112927620443_1091118590_n_10151112927620443Photo: My friend Vicky (left) and me (right) when we were first year Engineering students at The University of Sydney (c. 2004).

I remember I realised at one point I needed to work if I was going to survive.  I once had a job interview in Bondi, but on the day I couldn’t go to the interview because I literally couldn’t afford the bus ticket.  I had no money at all.  On the day of the interview, I had taken the train to Bondi Junction, I got off the train and went to catch the bus to Bondi Beach to the shop where the interview was. I saw I had no money in my wallet.  I went to the ATM and did not have enough money to make the minimum withdrawal of $20.  I remember trying to make a phone call from a payphone to let them know I couldn’t attend, but I didn’t have 50 cents.  By that time I was 30 minutes late for the interview.  I gave up and went home in tears.

I think a lot of people don’t even think of something like being able to afford enough food, to make a phone call, buy a bus ticket, or access the internet at home.  Australia has just shifted so much in the last 20 years and left so many people behind.

So much of finding a job in Australia is about not only having the skills and knowledge — but knowing the right people and networking.  What many people of privilege or even moderate wealth don’t realise, is that it is also about having the economic and social resources available to find a job and attend a job interview.  People from disadvantaged backgrounds and circumstances just face so many more hurdles than the average person.  I feel it should be taken into account not only when getting into university with great schemes like Broadway, but also through support networks at university, and later in dignified support actually getting into work that is specialised for economically or socially disadvantaged students, perhaps run through partnerships between universities and TAFE careers centres and employers, or a dedicated government lead organisation partnered with employers, rather through Centrelink JobActive providers, which many of these students do not have access to on the Youth Allowance payment, and is not in my opinion set up for these students unique needs.