MICK Sullivan is 77 and has lived an active life.
The Dutton Park pensioner, lives a simple, frugal life, but he does miss a few of the pleasures that he once took for granted.
“I love a leg of lamb but I haven’t been able to afford one since I’ve been on the pension,” he said.
Mr Sullivan also waits for the monthly specials to buy two casks of shiraz.
“I’d prefer to be drinking a Henschke ‘Hill of Grace’,” he said, “but I can’t afford that.”
During his working years, Mr Sullivan was the national director of Australian Catholic Relief and later the executive director of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid.
He is grateful for many, sparkling memories.
He met St John Paul II and St Teresa.
These days, Mr Sullivan struggles for his existence.
After paying 25 per cent of his fortnightly cheque on housing commission rent, his money is spent on groceries, transport and pharmaceutical needs including prescription medication.
“I budget very carefully to pay my bills first,” he said.
“If you get an urgent and unexpected expense, well that’s trouble.”
For clothing – even simple needs like new underpants or more expensive items like shoes – Mr Sullivan has to plan ahead carefully.
“Thank God I have a younger brother who can loan me money for emergencies.”
Mr Sullivan said he’d read a quarter of all Australians had less than $500 in a bank account at any one time.
“That would be typical of pensioners,” he said.
Mr Sullivan faces physical as well as economic barriers.
His legs cause him problems.
He relies on a wheelie walker and struggles to step up on to buses. He can no longer walk up the hill to attend his local church, St Ita’s.
But he finds ways to continue doing what’s important to him – with the help of the community around him.
“There are six practising Catholics living in these housing commission units and Communion is brought to us. I can also get across the road to the school Mass,” he said.
“And if I go to the movies I go with someone with a carer’s card, and so I can act as their carer and get in for free.”
By Mark Bowling