A breakfast of eggs, bread and tea is the only meal Perth woman Tiba Moeini eats every day.
Living on a Newstart allowance, the 40-year-old single mum spends most of her fortnightly income on rent, bills, petrol and three hot meals a day for her two children, leaving her to often skip meals to make ends meet.
Out of cash by day nine, Ms Moeini scrambles to find change in pockets and bags, and is often left with no other choice but to ask her seven-year-old daughter for pocket money to buy groceries.
“I have to pay for rent, for petrol, for internet, for clothes, for me it’s very hard at wintertime, kids need to use the heater and it’s hard for me [to afford it],” she said.
“We can not go to the cinema because we can not pay for that, we can not go to some playgrounds that we have to pay for.
“My children ask me to take them to the swimming pool, my children ask me to go to get a good meal outside in some restaurant but I can not.
“I can not cover everything with this amount of money, even though I am thankful to the government that I am eligible for the payment it’s just not enough.”
Ms Moeini is not alone.
Newstart has not increased in nearly 25 years, or in line with other welfare benefits, pushing other families like hers below the poverty line.
Anglicare data shows private rental properties in the Perth metro area are out of reach for most people living on welfare payments, with only 0.3 per cent of listings being affordable for people receiving parenting income.
Up to 85 per cent of families living on Newstart and other income support payments don’t have $500 in savings for emergencies, and 82 per cent live with at least one chronic health condition.
When Ms Moeini decided to embark on the dangerous journey from her home country of Iran to Australia she never imagined she’d be struggling financially six years into the move.
A former flight attendant and logistics co-ordinator for Mahan Air with more than a decade’s experience, the mother-of-two had a stable income and was about to go on long-service leave.
In her native Tehran, Iran’s sprawling capital city, she was raising a one-year-old daughter and enjoyed a relatively comfortable life.
However, Ms Moeini said her violent husband forced her to flee Iran with their daughter in 2012, after he was blacklisted by authorities on political grounds.
“According to family rules and family law in my country when a couple gets separated or divorced children stay with their dad, not their mum,” she said.
“When he told me ‘if you are not going to leave the country with me I will take our daughter and go’, I didn’t have any choice.”
Less than a 24 hours later, the family was on an aeroplane en route to Indonesia, where they were placed in provisional accommodation with other asylum seekers as they waited for an illegal vessel to set off on the perilous journey.
Six days after arriving to Jakarta, a group of men knocked on their door in the middle of the night and guided them to a waiting car headed for a port, where an old rusty boat was ready for departure.
Ms Moeini was terrified as big waves violently rocked the boat backwards and forwards, with no safety equipment in sight to save them in the event of an emergency.
“I was under a lot of stress, I was under a lot of pressure and unfortunately because of [my husband’s] temper I had to just be silent and be an obedient wife,” she said.
On December 15, 2012, the Australian Navy intercepted the boat and sent the family to Christmas Island where they spent three months before being transported to a Darwin detention centre.
“Everything was in his hands,” she said.
Finally, on March 2013, they were granted a bridging visa and were allowed to move to Perth while their asylum application was being reviewed.
Despite being isolated from family and friends and barely allowed to leave the home, Ms Moeini finally gathered the courage to reach out to UnitingCare West who supported her in leaving her husband and to file for a violence restraining order.
Six years into living in Australia, she is on her way to getting an English certificate at TAFE and plans on studying social work to assist others struggling with domestic violence and financial stress.
“I have promised to myself I will pay back, or return to the cycle or something like that because I couldn’t survive without this support, otherwise I had a very bad destiny,” she said.
“I think God’s hand took me and just put me in Australia, even after coming by boat and all this situations that I tolerated, for me it’s a big miracle in my life.”
Life is tough and money is scarce, but Ms Moeini is optimistic a better future for her and her children lies ahead.
“I am very happy for my children, even though I suffered with lots of issues,” she said.
“Now I am very grateful in my heart because I can see my children can live freely, without any force, to choose any culture, any religion. Everything is up to them.”
Anti-Poverty Week runs from October 13-19, with events to raise awareness about poverty held across the country. This year’s campaign Raise the Rate, calls for increased Newstart and other income support payments. For more information click here.