The six thousand dollar a week man lives in a
house like ours. Well, it has walls, floors and ceilings. He
earns his six thousand dollars a week by occupying a chair in an
office in a central city high-rise building. The six thousand
dollar a week man has to make important decisions. He is paid,
not by the number of decisions he makes, but by remaining
committed to the ‘team’ and by ensuring that all his decisions
are positive towards the ‘team’ outcomes.
We have an office. Well it’s really an
enclosed veranda but it does have walls, a floor and a ceiling.
Like the six thousand dollar a week man, we also make decisions.
Important ones at that! Like him, we make decisions that,
hopefully, have a positive impact on the ‘team’ outcome. After
that, well, its all relative I suppose.
The six thousand dollar a week man is able to
organise his week as he pleases. As
long as all is going well, he can plan his week to suit his
moods and work related expectations. The six thousand dollar a
week man has all the trinkets one expects of a person who makes
important decisions. He has the department subsidised
superannuation – which at current rates should see him retire
rather comfortably. He has a department supplied car – updated
every two years. He has the department supplied laptop – updated
every year. He has the department supplied mobile – with blue
tooth, internet and video capability. He has the network of
mates and ex ‘team’ members. He never has to worry about future
employment should he choose to ‘consult’ rather than make the
actual decisions any more.
Like the six thousand dollar a week man, we
are able to plan our week, providing there are no unexpected
interruptions. We also have the trinkets that are expected of
people who make important decisions. We have the superannuation
– that we paid into before Helen* was born. We have the
incontinence nappies – updated every four hours and paid for by
us. We have the laptop … pillow so Helen’s bony bottom doesn’t
hurt our knees while we nurse her through the long, painful
nights. We have the mobile … in case we need to ring the
ambulance when we’re out. We have the network of mates and ex
‘team’ members … who don’t call much any more and who we consult
only if we really need help. After that, its all relative I
The six thousand dollar a week man makes
decisions that affect our family. He also writes letters. Most
of these letters travel up the management chain to the floors
above. His job is to ensure that the shit from below doesn’t
pass his level and hit the fan in the office one floor up. The
six thousand dollar a week man doesn’t know who Helen is. He
says he does have concerns that the carer’s pension is, perhaps,
not enough to support us. He wrote that he "understands our
frustration" that we can’t access enough respite care and, yes,
he wrote us, he is aware that its "family carers, like
yourselves, who save the Australian economy upwards of $20
billion a year". He refers us, once more, to the regional office
and gives us a new contact name.
We, like the six thousand dollar a week man,
make decisions that affect our family. We write letters. Our job
is to ensure that the shit Helen often passes doesn’t soil the
furniture or carpet in the doctor’s or the specialist’s office.
We know who Helen is. We see, each week, our dwindling savings
and now that the part-time work is not as frequent as it was, we
really wonder how we will cope. We haven’t had a weekend respite
for six months and the $48 a week carer’s allowance and the once
a year bonus doesn’t even cover the cost of disposable nappies,
dry cleaning and tissues. We don’t know what we save the
community each year but caring for Helen is costing us our
lives. The name at the regional office had left before we got
the letter from the six thousand dollar a week man. After that,
its all relative I suppose.
The six thousand dollar a week man went to
Turtle Island for his annual departmental senior management
conference. His wife went as well and then they spent a week
relaxing in the Whitsundays. His office staff took care of
inquiries and fielded the calls. He was so tanned when he got
back he won the weekly ‘best dressed manager’ award.
We had last Friday night off when Helen’s nan
came over. We bought Subway for dinner and went to the movies.
We stopped in at Safeway on the way home and bought Magnum Egos
for us and mum. While we were out she took care of inquiries and
fielded vomit and faeces. We were so tired when we went to bed
we didn’t even make love. After that, its all relative I
The six thousand dollar a week man spoke at a
conference in Canberra last week. He was on the news. He made an
announcement that his department had been allocated extra funds
for respite and out of home care programs. He said the extra
millions would benefit families directly. The six thousand
dollar a week man was interviewed on the radio the next day. He
said he was all too aware of how much families who cared for
their disabled loved ones needed support. He said the latest
increase in funding would go towards building a national
telecentre with a 1800 number. He said carers could call to find
out information about what respite services they might be
eligible for. He said that ads would be in the paper on the
weekend asking for applicants for the new telecentre jobs.
We read the weekend paper and found that ad.
It was for a "chief executive officer", a "human resource
manager", a "unit co-ordinator" and a "senior financial
officer". All were to be paid in accordance with Federal Public
Service Awards and their salary packages started at $110,000pa
plus, car, private health insurance and a "relocation allowance
for successful applicants". When we read the fine print, it said
the telecentre was to be based in Mumbai and the successful
applicants would be based there for up to six months while it
was established. A valid passport was essential. After that, its
all relative I suppose.
We used to travel, before Helen was born.
She’s almost 10 now and I guess the first two years were the
easiest. Her prognosis is not good. I mean, she will probably
live for a long time if she doesn’t succumb to an infection,
lung collapse, bowel or heart failure or a stroke. The local
Rotary club raised $7,000 it cost to fly us interstate so she
could have experimental surgery. The doctors and the hospital
donated their time. We only found out later that the department
could have funded the trip.
The six thousand dollar a week man is
thinking of buying his daughter a horse for Christmas. The
property near Druin would comfortably accommodate it. Given his
recent incremental salary increase, the monthly food, vet and
other bills would easily be covered. The renovations on the city
flat will be finished by December so at least this New Years Eve
they won’t have to bunk down with paint tins, plaster dust and
bare concrete floors.
We think that a day at the park will be a
great Christmas break this year. At least Helen’s brothers can
play on their new (second hand) bikes – thanks to my union
friends. The local church will probably offer us another
Christmas hamper. They’ve been good to us. We hope to not spend
this New Years Eve in hospital with Helen. Her brothers need a
night out at the Lion’s fireworks display and we need to laugh
and cheer as a family for at least one night each year. After
that, its all relative I suppose.
*All names are fictitious and any resemblance
to living human beings and their family circumstances is not