My mother, as her situation got more and more unbearable, often threatened to go down to the river and drown herself.

To this dad’s reply never changed.

‘Don’t be ridiculous. You wouldn’t even know how to find the river.’


I am in the queue. My expected wait is over 30 minutes due to high demand o customer service officers. The music loops over a few bars of Mozart and my dog howls as the violins leap into the high notes. I have headphones on to stop this. Every so often the looping bars are interrupted by a woman who tells me I can simply go online to my.gov.au and find what I am looking for.


I am making the call for my 88-year old father. He is blind. My mother’s Alzheimers got too much for him to manage and we have just put her into a nursing home and paid a $300.000 bond. To do this my father sold shares and now he must report his new asset position to Centrelink. It is a requirement. I did this for him last week. The customer service officer needed to know what shares he sold and the number and the amount he received. My dad says,

‘My assets have been reduced by $300.000, isn’t that enough information for them?’


Centrelink has sent him a document listing his new asset position and we cannot make sense of it. A note at the end of the figures says,

If any of the above figures are incorrect please contact us as soon as possible.’


I have worked carefully through the figures and none of them match those on his bank statements. We cannot work out how they have calculated the value of the shares that he still has. To sort this out, I took him to his financial adviser and even he was dismayed when he looked at the document we received from Centrelink.


‘It isn’t even written in accounting language!’ he said.


He printed out copies of the shares and an up to date statement of his holdings. We called in on his banks and got current statements. All this running around: My father can do nothing on line. Even making a phone call is almost impossible for him

Yesterday, when I dropped my father at home after our trip into town to get the documents and the information we needed to make this call today, he said,

‘I don’t know why they make it so hard. I think they want us to just drop of and not bother them.’

I said,

‘I think they just want you to go down to the river.’