Trisha and her husband came to Canberra from Queensland, and they’re experiencing their first taste of cold weather.
Her seven-month-old baby is cocooned inside a pink bunny suit, and her four-year-old daughter is wearing a pink and purple coat, running up and down the verge asking me to hold on to her stick and some leaves she tells me are flags.
Trisha’s husband is a chef, and when COVID-19 locked down the hospitality industry, he was stood down from his job with no income. Despite the fact he has been in Australia for five years and paying full income tax, the family was not eligible for any JobKeeper payments, under the government’s social security policy. They are also not eligible for basic healthcare, dental care, child care, or any other social security rebate or payment.
The family of four moved to a one-bedroom flat unable, after the first four weeks of having no income, to buy food for the children or themselves. Trisha and her husband weren’t able to find alternative work as the terms of their working visa mean they are restricted to one job and one employer – the sponsor of their visa.
“We have applied for permanent residency,” Trisha tells me as we stand in the warm sun outside her top storey flat, “but we are still waiting. We have no family here, and no friends because we only just moved here.”
A neighbour realised her distress and told her about Woden Community Service.
“I felt maybe there were people who needed help more than me,” she said, “so I didn’t want to ask for anything, but there was no other way. We don’t have any support here, my husband’s employer sent him down here to work, and then COVID-19 happened.”
Woden Community Service was able to help Trisha’s family with a food hamper from their Little Pantry and the Canberra Relief Network to ensure the children were fed.
“You can’t tell a child, ‘no, you only have one meal today,'” said Trisha
“I had to be able to feed the children. The Woden Community Service was so good, they brought us a food hamper so we could feed them.”
WCS’s The Little Pantry has delivered 257 hampers during the COVID-19 lockdown. The Canberra Relief Network runs the emergency food relief operation in Canberra in conjunction with non-profit providers such as WCS.
Trisha’s husband is now back at work, but she cannot say how long the work will last. The hospitality industry may again shut down if COVID-19 takes hold once more in Canberra, and until her permanent residency application is assessed they face an uncertain future.
If you need assistance, call the Canberra Relief Network on 1800 43 11 33 and register for a food hamper, and they will select WCS as your delivery point.
For people without transport, WCS can arrange to deliver the hamper to their door.
The Little Pantry is run primarily on donations, and will gratefully accept non-perishable items, like pasta, rice, cereals, pasta sauces, tinned fruits and vegetables, tinned tuna, soups and meats, long-life milk, coffee and tea. Personal items needed include nappies, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, deodorant and soap.
Donations can be made at Woden Community Services, Callam Offices, Building C, Level 1, 50 Easty Street, Phillip, or by calling Woden Community Services on 6282 2644.