RESIDENTS from across the Limestone Coast region flocked to Mount Gambier’s Centrelink office yesterday morning following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s historic Sunday night address to the nation, leaving many out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dozens of people were given numbered tickets and asked to sit in the foyer at the Percy Street building as employees tried to navigate the influx of demands.
To put further pressure on the Australian Government Department of Human Services, the myGov website crashed early yesterday morning as Australians sought information about services.
It followed Mr Morrison’s press conference to announce the first stage of COVID-19 restrictions, closing a number of services deemed non-essential by the government from midday yesterday.
Millicent man Scott Golding, 18, was among those waiting in line at Centrelink, with new federal guidelines and the effective closure of South Australian borders resulting in the loss of his employment.
“I had a couple of jobs working on a vintage and as a canola farmer both across the border and I got a couple of phone calls this morning saying it would be canned for up to six months,” he said.
“It was devastating because I was working a few days a week at each and earning pretty good money.”
Mr Golding said he foreshadowed this scenario once the pandemic was announced and understood his employers’ difficult position.
“There’s a lot of businesses around town closing, so I know I am not alone,” he said.
“I am hoping I will be able to access some benefits and will just go into self-isolation myself now and try not to get the virus.”
As he tried to come to terms with the reality of his situation, Mr Golding said he would miss going to work each day.
“I will miss the routine and earning good money, but once this is over I will try to get work again,” he said.
“There are no guarantees because the work I was doing is seasonal, so it will probably be over by the time this virus goes away.”
Penola man Scott McDonald was also in the queue yesterday, waiting to make inquiries about his Medicare scheme.
His current living situation was in a caravan at the Penola Caravan Park and admitted the pandemic had left him feeling anxious.
“I am currently waiting on my housing situation to be sorted and I am a bit worried about this social isolation stuff,” he said.
“I am only on a pension, which has to last me a fortnight and after I have paid rent there’s not much left.”
The decision to close the South Australian borders also left him separated from family members.
“My son and ex-wife live over the border and were meant to be coming to visit, but that does not look like it’s going to happen,” he said.
“I guess we might have to meet at the border and talk to each other across it.”
He said it was frustrating to see how the situation was being handled by the powers that be.
“This is a serious situation and all I’m hearing is them moaning and carrying on, it would be good if they heeded their own messaging as well.”