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02 Jun 2020


COVID-19 causes talented asylum-seeking artist to lose work, but not hope

Despite paying tax on his work for years, Damon is ineligible for the federal government’s COVID-19 emergency stimulus payments for people who have lost their jobs, due to his status as an individual seeking asylum.

“It’s been so hard for me to face and cope all the circumstances of this [pandemic]. It is so hard to suddenly lose my small photography business that I have worked on it for years, even with all the hardships and barriers of living in Australia on restricted visa conditions,” said Damon.

Unfortunately, Damon is not alone in loosing employment as a result of the pandemic.

A pulse survey conducted by SSI has identified that more than 80% of people on temporary visas had lost their job or had their hours reduced in the past eight weeks. This is far higher than the rate of job losses in the wider NSW economy.

State governments around the country have stepped up to support those seeking asylum, reducing, but not eliminating, the extreme financial distress many individuals on temporary and bridging visas are facing.
But in NSW — without access to emergency relief measures or the recently introduced JobKeeper and JobSeeker initiatives — some of the state’s most vulnerable residents are falling into poverty, unable to pay their rent or bills and put food on the table.

You can support people like Damon to stay on their feet by donating a care package of food staples here.

Damon photographed in an abstract way

Damon photographed by Jenny Papalexandris.

Individuals and families seeking asylum, an already vulnerable demographic, are not only facing extreme financial hardship, but also the mental stress the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown may have on their lives.

While many Australians have been able to use the shutdown to spend quality time with their loved ones and family, many individuals like Damon have little or no family in Australia to lean on for support. Damon has not seen the majority of his family members for seven years.

The lack of Government support can only work to increase these feelings of isolation, with Damon explaining the omission of federal support for individuals seeking asylum has left him feeling alienated from wider Australia.

“As a refugee, I feel separated out from other parts of society in terms of government supports. It is hard being rejected for Job Seeker support because of my conditional visa, despite paying tax like other Australians.”

Despite his current situation, Damon still hold onto his dream to establish himself as an artist in Australia.

“My high hopes have changed to [just] hopes, but I am optimistic that I will not lose all my hope,” he said.

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