Tuesday 15 October
I arrived promptly at half past nine and checked in with a different concierge at the Centrelink office. A lady came down from her desk and called my Christian name. Myself and two others with the same first name stood up. She picked me seemingly at random and we got started. Her first question was what my Centrelink number was. I informed her that I still didn’t have one. She looked up my name and date of birth in the database and confirmed that I was there and was an adult. She also confirmed all the details I had given the lady on the phone the previous day. It turned out that a few of them were wrong, so we fixed them.
Most troubling of all was that I had elected “prefer not to disclose” in the field that identified whether I was Indigenous or not. The lady on the phone just went ahead and filled in “no”. It’s not that she was wrong, because I’m as white as it gets, but more that she just completely ignored my input and went with own assumption based on the sound of my voice (and possibly the fact that I used the phrase “prefer not to disclose”). And the lady face-to-face in the office refused to fix it, because I so obviously wasn’t indigenous, and she clearly didn’t understand why I was upset about it. It seems like such a small thing, but when you’re working for a world that treats everyone the same, to have the box casually ticked for me against my wishes really made me mad.
She asked me if I had brought my bank statements with me. I said I hadn’t but that I had a hundred points of ID with me and had been emailed a separation certificate. I got that look of “what are you talking about, you idiot?” I pointed out that the lady on the phone had asked for my separation certificate, which I hadn’t had a chance to print yet. The Centrelink lady used her “patience with the pre-schoolers” voice and told me I didn’t need it, that I needed three month worth of bank statements. I pointed out to her that she had already obtained all my BSB and account numbers, that she should be able to make the enquiries herself.
She couldn’t, so I asked if I could make another appointment to come back and see her in an hour with my bank statements. The earliest she could see me was half past two that afternoon. So I went down to the bank for my printed statements and then home to kill an extra four hours.
At twenty past two I fronted up again and gave the name of the lady I needed to see. She had gone home for the day, so I was given to someone else to look after.
“What is your Centrelink number?”
I explained that I didn’t have one and that I had been in earlier to register my details and had returned with my back statement, which I presented to him on his desk.
“Do you have a hundred points of ID?”
Luckily for the idiot, I still had my passport in my pocket, but I explained again that my ID had already been registered that morning.
“I’ll just have to get my supervisor”.
His supervisor turned out to be the charmingly level-voiced woman I had spoken to the previous afternoon before being handed over to the phone lady.
“What’s your Centrelink number?” she asked.
“I don’t have one,” I answered and I pointed to the idiot’s computer screen.
“Ok, let’s have a look here.” She spent a few minutes reading over the file, before firing up the pre-school teacher voice again “It says here you need to come back with three months’ worth of bank statements.” I pointed to the documents on the desk in front of her and decided to remain silent.
The lady and the idiot both looked slightly confused. Having someone show up at their desk on time with all the paperwork they needed obviously didn’t compute with their understanding of how their job was supposed to work.
“So do I just scan these onto the database, and then give him his number?” asked the idiot in a moment of serendipitous clarity. The lady considered this for a few moments, before answering
“Yes,” and walking off to ‘assist’ someone else.
So after two full days of errand running and appointments, I took my nine digit Centrelink number and left. Easy as that.