From the Wandering Journo at Stories that Matter Studios this is The Streets of Your Town (SOYT).

The slice of Australian life podcast that takes you on an audio journey through theatre of the mind each episode.

In this special edition of SOYT - Stories of Survival - they go to the Hub Neighbourhood Centre in Inala, to meet Benjamin Parsons. The Hub has helped him pick up the pieces at pivotal points in his life. He has a message of tolerance, asking us to look more sensitively on people in the community who at times have struggled, as he has.

Transcript

Nance Haxton:

 

From the Wandering Journalist at Stories that Matter studios I'm Nance Haxton and this is the Streets of your Town. the podcast that takes you on an audio journey through theatre of the mind highlighting a different slice of Australian life each episode.

 

This is stories of survival a special edition of Streets of your Town brought to you in collaboration with community support group the South West Wellness Collaborative. It's a fact not widely known but poverty affects more than 1 million people in Australia, that social disadvantage often has other complications with the extreme stress of poverty leading to much greater levels of mental and physical illness. Research is showing those effects trickle down through generations 96 per cent of people with a mental illness cannot afford all basic necessities at once meaning they have to choose between medication food or housing. One third of people with a mental illness also earn less than $20,000 a year. Today we speak to Benjamin Parsons at the Inala Community Centre which has helped him to pick up the pieces at pivotal points in his life. Benjamin has a message of tolerance asking us to look more sensitively on people in the community who at times have struggled as he has.

 

So Benjamin thank you for joining us on the Streets of your Town podcast today really appreciate it.

 

Benjamin:

Thanks for having me.

 

Nance:

So here we are in Inala. Have you lived around this area for long?

 

Benjamin:

I was here when I was 14 so I moved when I was, since I was the age of 14 but we've had family that's lived here all my life so I originally come from a place called Goodna, which is the same as Inala, in the way of the community and how we get judged.

 

Nance:

Yeah you reckon?

 

Benjamin:

Yeah, but I do know that Inala is a little bit different than Goodna. In the community who means that if you need help they're always there for you so if you struggle to buy left bread and they've got a spare loaf from the fridge so I'll give it to you. So it’s all about giving but it's also about taking, as well. So my, my focus on that is if someone came to me and they're an elderly person and they couldn't afford what the milk or something and I've got change in my pocket, I've always been taught through my parents to help them out. And then they'll help you. So it kind of ties him with my mental health too because if I'm down, a lot of the services in Inala are good, but they don't they don't understand me. Whereas someone who's 70, who's had 70 years previous to me understands it a bit more. And they can give you advice and maybe suggestions on how to fix problems or to have to help. So that's why I like to volunteer my time in the community, just, not to the community centre but to people on I guess the outside. And the elderly the people that struggle, the people that have disabilities. So it's just not about mental, mental health of me even as it's important.

 

And I kind of feel that even Inala has services they lack. And the reason why they lack is because the government's cutting funding. So I've been in programs and I've noticed that they've pretty much weened me up him or cut me out because of government funding.

 

Nance:

So you've noticed that but the services being offered have lessened.

 

Benjamin:

Yes, yeah, um, for me personally yes, I used to get three lots of support. Now I'm down to one lot, which is my GP and psychologist rolled into one. Now if the government was to give more funding I would feel that the rate of suicide, especially in Australia, especially in Queensland, would go down you know. I, I've seen people think it's funny to jump on railroad tracks and play in front of trains. I've seen people cut their wrists then you know. And especially in Inala, you know, there's a big amount of drug overdose, there's a big amount of alcoholism, you know, of suicide. I’ve been on the edge myself, but I just kind of feel that the services that Inala offer could be better and that's why we struggle in Inala. I mean, I worked for Saint Vincent de Paul for four years and I used to do the Furniture drop we go and deliver furniture to people that struggle. Now, I'm grateful for what I've got, you know, what I've saved up, what I own. But going into these house and seeing the poverty line, I guess you could say, it's bad, you know. Because I live in a house where, you know, I’ve got a nice lounge and a nice bed. Some people don't have anything, you know, and they're just grateful to get something. So at the end of the day I kind of feel like I am blessed to live in Inala. And we do have good services, but I feel the governments could do more, you know.

 

Nance:

Do you think people could open their eyes a bit to the poverty in, in their communities, I suppose, not just Inala.

 

Benjamin:

Well, it's just not Inala, I've noticed, okay, in Woodridge, Beenleigh, like also in Bethania, Logan Central, you know. I've done deliveries to places like Kelvin Grove, where people think it's a rich great suburb, but one half of it is Housing Commission units, at one end of the campus. And I've been there and seen the way people live and how they hang their washing on rope. And how they don't have much, you know. And there was just one time, that I was doing delivery and these two boys were sitting on the ground just playing with rocks. And I'm like hang on, I've got some Hot Wheels in the back of the truck, you know, that I was going to buy. So I just went back to the truck and I just said ‘here you get boys’ and I wrote it down in my book, that I'd given out a car or two each. And I'll go back and pay for that, so it's not stealing. But to help them out and see the joy on their face, you know, it's great. Because you know you go home feeling like you've accomplished something and you've done something you know. No, I just feel that, yeah, the place I live in or the suburb I live is a nice place to live, it's just people look down on us.

 

It's same in Goodna, you know, my dad used to live in Goodna when my parents split. And my dad had a mental health issue, as well, and getting services in the Ipswich area, it's tricky too because I've got friends that tell me that it's the same as Inala the services are cut. No one wants to know you, no one wants to help you. So, yeah, my, my advice to anybody with a mental health condition try and get as much help as you can. And don't be shy to reach out to the community, like you know, there’s Facebook. Get on the community pages and say now I'm struggling, well hey I need some help.

 

Nance:

So nothing to be ashamed of you think?

 

Benjamin:

No, because I did it, you know. I had a problem with the Department of Housing. I'm threatening to, I guess you could say to end my tenancy because I wasn't clean. And it was a real wake-up call and that was because my mental health was going down the tube and no one was there to help me. and I asked people on Facebook what they helped me and that's what made me realise that you know someone came and helped me so I can go help somebody else. So, you know you can't help yourself at least ask for help.

 

Nance:

You were saying, yeah, people think when it's pain that it, it's just a physical condition but it can actually be a mental condition as well.

 

Benjamin:

Yeah and that's what my doctor didn't understand at the time. But, um, basically I went to him and he told me oh just go home and do some breathing exercises and go for a walk every day. And I'm like, hmm, no, so I tried that next night I had the same pain again. and at the time living with my mum I was kind of freaking her out, so it was like I need to get a better doctor that understands me. So I went to a lovely doctor now that I've had since I was 14. We sat down and talk out about how I feel and what I feel. And he was like you’ve got to go on medication for your depression. And at that time watching my father go through the same thing and, you know, tried, he tried to commit suicide a second time, when I was 16. So, so just watching that and knowing that, you know he was on medication, made me kind of think about my mental health and I agreed to it. Hey, like you have your good and bad days, guess you could say, so you know I'm what I'm trying to say is, you know, medication is not gonna be a fix. And I don't encourage you to take the bottle up every day either. Because I've seen people do that and it wrecks your life. I've tried it you know I've been there, you know, I used to drink eight, nine glasses on a Friday night and now I know like you know that wasn't even the start. I'd have a couple before I went to the pub you know. And it's done crazy things to me, but all I can say is that you know, don't be scared to consult your GP, don't be scared to have talked with somebody. And you know if you've suffered abuse in the past, or you've had a bad family life don't blame it on that, but just, you know, get over that. But always remember that, you know, if you have children or you've had children or you see children you know in the world that are suffering you know don't be scared to go out and have a chat with them either because, you know, it all helps someone's there for someone else and it all helps.

 

Nance:

What supports do you think could help people to come out the other side of it like you have, you know, and to help the community back?

 

Benjamin:

Well, I guess you could say like the, the, main supports is knowing that you have good friends, you know. Knowing that you can go and sit and talk to a, an 80-year-old mate, you know. And I guess you could say you pick up a guitar, you know, you know, he’s bought you, you pick up a guitar, and you, you talk it out, or you, you play it, out I guess you could say. That's, that's one good support, that I have that I wish the community you could have you know. we used to have a music group in an hour until FSG folded.

 

Nance:

What’s FSG?

 

Benjamin:

FSG was a disability support group, based out of Beenleigh, Ipswich, and the Bayside.

 

Nance:

So losing those little groups is hard.

 

Benjamin:

We lost those groups because of the NDIS. That's now coming in. Now NDIS is supposed to help us. But I don't see how it's going to help us you know. We need those groups to be able to, not make a cure for it, but to have somewhere to go to talk to people. And to be honest the Inala community hub wants a men's group to start and they want me to help facilitate it. Now I've done my groups here I've done our groups with disabilities I've done, you know, I've helped the music group here in the past you know. I'm happy to run a men's group. But for any group to establish and be successful we need funding, as well, and that's another thing in Inala, to get funding is very, very hard.

 

 

Nance:

It's getting harder do you think?

 

Benjamin:

Very hard, because you know the government's tightening up all their funding, they're closing down all their networks, you know. Even the job networks, that's another thing in Inala, people complain that there is no jobs. There are jobs but then the, what do you call it? The job networks all they do is think of you as money. they don't think you as a person and I've been through this too, and my struggles or going for job interviews and just getting plonked into a job, is, is really hard you know. And there are people in Inala like are genuine that, do want to work, like myself, you know. But we just get treated, I guess you could say, not unfairly, but not what a normal person.

 

Nance:  

Like lack of understanding there do you think?

 

Benjamin:

There is with the government agencies too you know, like they think that you know, we get a pair of boots, some overalls, and we'll go and do anything. It's, it's not like that you know, where I'm not saying that we're not dumb in Inala but you know we need a little bit more TLC. we've got we've got lovely schools around here, and we get a good education. but it's just there's no no one wants to give us an opportunity, you know. and it's because we live in Inala and that's what the government, I think needs to help, you know. give more incentives, give more funding for even the community neighbourhood centre to maybe do some training.

 

Nance:

And those support groups like you mentioned.

 

Benjamin:

Yeah, like you know I used to be with a group called Near My for a support. Now for three years they were really good and then the funding went down the drain, you know. It's like if they gave more funding and they stopped and they cut it in other, other, areas where the funding is not needed I think Inala would benefit more, the same with Beenleigh. Like Woodridge would probably clean up a lot better. Then you know what it is at the moment, you know, because the crime rate in Woodridge is three times of what Inala is and I can tell you that now. And it's because there's nowhere for the youth to go in Woodridge. But Inala has the skate park and that. But we still, if we had more funding for more programs even if it was like a small school of some type that we could be you know skills could be retrained or we need more of a drop-in centre for the youth, because we don't have just a youth drop-in centre and I know that they're planning to build a new neighbourhood community centre, but that's the other thing they're building in the wrong place. So they're building it away from the main heart of Inala, they're building it on the outskirts when no one will be able to access, no one will be able to get to.

 

Nance:

Because public transport around here in Inala is pretty difficult to access at times isn't it? Getting around.

 

Benjamin:

It's really difficult to access and I kind of find that you know the way the bus services are done too, they're not always on time, and they're not frequent.

 

Nance:

It's expensive.

 

Benjamin:

It can be, yes, it is expensive. And I can tell you right now, this is from a bus drivers point of view, the amount of fare invaders that fare invade from here to the city and out to Springfield, either train or bus, is 10 times the rate of say north side, somewhere.

 

Nance:

So maybe that's something the government could help with to, is actually helping people who you know, have mental illnesses or trying to get back on their feet give him some help with, with public transport costs as well?

 

Benjamin:

Um, yeah, you know, even if they I guess you could say lowered the bus fare. Hmm ‘cause when I first moved to Inala it was 80, 80 cents or a dollar to get around now, it's two dollars forty on a concession. And to be honest, I was Newstart for a very long time, after I quit my third job. Not because I wanted to be but because no one would take me on and give me a job. And after I paid all my bills, 320 a fortnight, I was struggling. And some days I would go without food and I would go and gamble just to try and make more money. And to be honest it didn't work so then I went stole from my mum just to cover the cost of living. And it wasn't just a little cost you know when, when you throw forty two thousand dollars down the drain, in a four year period, because you have a gambling problem and you can't. You, in Inala there's no support for gambling so I'd have to go all the way out to Ipswich just to see a counsellor, once a week, just to get that help.

You know we don't, we don’t, have anything in Inala, like for relationships or for gambling. We do have Alcoholics Anonymous and AA whatever it is AA (inaudible) or something. But a lot of our services are lacking and I can tell you this, because my wife who also has depression uses not alcohol services, but she knows people that work in those services, because she used to be a community and mental health support worker. So she knows where we're lacking. And she tells me that all those services in Inala are fizzling out because of funding, you know. And it's just not like as I said it's just not the Australian government it's the Queensland Government too that need to understand that the mental health system they put in place is not working. Because we're in the catchment area for PA, for instance, I was at Alexandra Hospital. Now just so people know if you want to go to hospital for your feeling mentally depressed or suicidal if you've been three or four times before with the same symptoms they're not gonna see you, they're not gonna do anything for you, they will turn you away. My wife who really needs to support goes and they just turn her away. And I've been there three times and after the third time they've just turned me away and referred me back to my doctor. And now my doctor shakes his head and is like, if I'm really having a bad day and then I go and see him, the only thing he can do is tell me to ring my mum. Or, you know, ring out my psychologist if she's got five minutes she'll talk to me, or go see a friend, because there is nothing he can do. He can, he can send me to a private psychiatrist and you know and if you've got $200 spare on the day he go and see him. But for us in Inala you don't really have that, you know, you pay the gap, whatever it is, $40 and you get the rest back from Medicare.

But if you don't have that money how are you supposed to get the help, so what I'm trying to say is the government if they want to help they should, they should, put a service in place, that you don't have to pay that money you know, but you fill out a form and the government helps pay and you just pay the gap, which is $40 on the day. Even though $40 is hard to get yeah, you know.

 

Nance:

Would that be a really practical thing that would help you?

 

Benjamin:

Yeah it's, it's very hard to, to get services you know in Inala and that's where I think they need to fix it, if you know what I mean. like they need to focus more on that than spending money on overseas trips and, and these big pay rises they get you know.

Because if we had more money in the government's funding, and you know we had more I guess you could say a little bit more money in our own pockets, you know, we could afford to do more, life would be more happier you know more services would make it a lot happier.

 

Nance:

You might be able to hold down a job for longer, yeah.

 

Benjamin:

You know I can, look I can hold down a job okay. But with my mental health capacity I've been deemed, like I can’t drive, I can't operate machinery, I can’t you know. my last job was just horrific ‘cause like it wasn't even going the job I was supposed to be doing. I was going out with somebody else that was uninsured and unqualified and throwing tools up onto a roof and you know, just sitting there all day doing nothing and my mental health just went down the plughole. So, you know, I think you know, they need to make, the government need to create real jobs, just not will put you in, you know with this employer, and you get a six months, you know, we'll pay the employer for six months and then after that you don't know what you're doing. Because, it's, it makes your life unstable going from one job to another every six months, as well.

 

Nance:

It sounds like you've really come through a lot to survive this, Ben, you've done amazingly.

 

Benjamin:

Well, yes I have, but you know the one thing that's got me through this, and I always say this to people is my mum. My mum always believes in me so and you know, you can get married you can have a wife you could have children they could believe in you. But, as someone once said to me as I saying you only get one mum, you see.

And right from the day I guess you're born you know your mum's always gonna be there for you no matter what. I mean I throw sticks and stones at my mum. I've burnt bridges with my mum. But at the end the day, we’re still, I don't know how were still, doing it but we're still hanging on, you know. And my mum believes in me, you know, so if, if, I was to pack up and go to Melbourne tomorrow for a music career, I think my mum would question it but she’d go well if you're happy, you know, go and do it.

 

Nance:

So that’s good so you're writing music and things now?

 

Benjamin:

I write my thoughts so it's not really I'm writing music to publish, it's more of a way to get out those bad thoughts and those suicidal thoughts, and I guess you know release the pain. Because you know living I'm not saying it's bad but living with someone that has a mental illness - it's hard you know. And there are days where you want to run away and that's where it's good to have a mum or an eighty-year-old mate you can go pick up a guitar and play with, or someone you can don't visit. Because if you don't have that you feel like you're in an enclosed space and that you feel like that you know you're hopeless. And that you feel like you're not wanted. So even though it's good to be around people you know if they've got a mental illness it's also good to have timeout and that's, that's a big thing with me, you know, that's why, you know ,if there's no supports and you need support, you suppose, sometimes you have to make your own support or find your own support. And that is hard in the community and, you know, not many people want to deal with someone, who okay, I guess is suicidal. Or someone who has a mental illness or especially has autism. Because most people don't understand what autism is even though I’ve only got a low level, I've worked with people and have autism and I've seen what autism is on a high scale. And I've always got time for someone with autism.

 

Nance:

Sounds like people could just take a bit more time and really think about the person behind the façade, sometimes behind what they see and think about what's happening in their life, there's sometimes a lot going on isn't it?

 

Benjamin:

There is a lot, you know, and people take life for granted and some people just take the opportunities they get and throw them out the window. But I've learned that after throwing through opportunities away, that whatever I get from now on or whatever on dealt with in life, I guess I just take it you know. So if someone walks up to me in the street and says ‘oh do you have 30 cents I could borrow?’, do you think I'm gonna say ‘oh now don't get lost?’ If it’s 30 cents I'll give it if I've got it. But you know, when they start asking for real, like you know, for tens and, and, fifty dollar notes and you gotta think to yourself, you know.

Yeah as I said in my younger years I took life for granted drinking, gambling. Thinking that life was a great trip or an adventure, you know. Like, because when you turn eighteen your pretty much an adult, so you want to go and I suppose you wanna go I'm drinking you want to go and smoke, if that's what you do. You want to jump into bed with the first I guess real person that you know, that you meet at a club or something. And I've been there and I've done that. And it's not the greatest feeling but, you know, we’ve all got to experience something in life. They don’t write a book on when you turn 18 what you can do what you can't do. And that's where we fall through the cracks too in Inala. Because, you know, if we had more educational services, for example, I guess you know safe sex or or educational classes, or advocates you could go to or you know if you think it's cool to inject the needle, maybe go and talk to someone with voice yet being in a Hep C and AIDS or whatever. You know, we don't have, we don't really have anything for the younger generation, you know, we need more of that in our community, you know, people taking time out to teach the younger generation. Because I'm not being rude but in Inala the unemployment rate is not great. And the baby rate is not great either and I'm being honest, because I've come from a working-class background, you could take. So I guess you know we need more education on you know life's decisions and life’s challenges to answer your question.

 

Nance:

Thank you so much for joining us I really appreciate it but is there anything else that you'd like to mention for our streets of your town podcast the stories of survival it's been great talking to you.

 

Benjamin:

The only thing I could say is that, yeah, don't, don't be scared to ask for help, don't be scared to go see your GP, if you think you have a mental health condition or any condition relating to what suicidal or anything like that, because in my time I've had so many mates that have done stupid things and now they're not with me.

And some of it was because they were depressed but some of it was because they thought they could show off to their mates and be cool. And they didn't know how to deal with that depression say thought showing off was a big thing. And also no matter where you live don't be scared to go to your hospital and tell them that you have a mental health condition, you know. And, and fight for your rights because I feel if you don't

fight, you don't get what you deserve. So you just, just, fight you know you can get people to help you fight as well.

 

Nance:

Thank you so much Ben.

 

That was Benjamin speaking to us from the Inala Community Centre, in Brisbane. Streets of your Town is produced by Nance Haxton, aka the Wandering Journo, with production assistance from Michael Adams. That's it for this episode, I'm Nance Haxton. Stay up to date with the latest episode of Streets of your Town by subscribing on your podcast app on iTunes or SoundCloud. See you next time.

 

 

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