Joan’s story

Joan telling her story about rising costs putting pressure on her pension

Joan is a retired chef and grandmother. Her husband passed away suddenly 21 years ago and she was left to raise her children. She is now an avid gardener and lives in a unit in a small social housing complex. 

“Well, the price of power is just ridiculous.” Says Joan. She is very worried about the rising costs of energy. “The way I save money on the power bill is, I turn off my hot water system at the power wall. The hot water in my hot water system will last for three days. And I’m still having a warm shower in three days. And then I switch it back on again. At night when it’s cheaper. And two hours later, the tank is hot again. And it has cut my power bill exponentially. It really has. I don’t have any technical stuff. Because I’m a dinosaur. I don’t watch a great deal of TV or watch the news of the night.”


“So basically, I hardly ever use appliances at all. Also, I invested in a $25 little gas cooker. And a packet of four canisters is $6. And that will last for ages, absolute ages. It’s great. And I’ve found that doing this and the hot water system. It has nearly halved my electricity bill.”


She is worried about the increase in electricity bills that are coming in the months ahead. “I’m living as frugally as I can. I can’t think of anything else that I can do except maybe sit in the dark of the night and watch nothing. That does not exactly have much appeal.”


Like many others Joan draws on the support of local neighbourhood centres and pantries, which help her balance her budget to pay her bills. “Financially, I’m not doing too bad. Because I live very modestly. I don’t drink. I don’t gamble. I eat a lot of fresh food, because that’s what I’ve been trying to do. And fresh food is reasonably available. You know, through different agencies.” 


But she is worried that community groups are not able to meet the growing demands. “I have lost a community centre that I’ve been going to. 


“The neighbourhood centres are great, but they’re not sustainable. They’re struggling the same as their clients.


Joan is angry that pensioners like her are having to go to such great lengths, and are struggling more and more to make ends meet. 


“It’s not really kosher, that I have to do all this to save money on the power bill. Because we don’t live in a third world country. We live in a country that is excellent. And for elderly people who have worked all their working lives, paid taxes, they should not have to, because of circumstances, should not have to struggle to pay their bills. You know something so basic as electricity. 


Joan also tries to limit her energy and consumption, not just to save money, but because she cares deeply about the environment, and the impact climate pollution is having. 


“The environment is really important. Not just for us, but for future generations,” she said.

“And if we’re not using as much power, then there’s no need to generate it. Or they can take a breath from the coal and the gas and the oil, and do something about renewables, particularly solar. Because it’s got to happen. Otherwise we are destroying the planet.”


“I would like to think, and I would hope, that everyone else would like to think that their grandchildren’s children have got a safe and decent place to live with no pollution. And the animals that we’ve got now, no more extinct animals.”


Ultimately, Joan knows individuals can only do so much. 


“The government has got to step in on new builds, it must be compulsory to have solar. We have sunshine in this country. You know, how long 365 days of the year and the sunshine in, what 300 days of it?”


She  would love to have solar on her own unit, but isn’t allowed to. 


“The Department of Housing should be looking at installing solar in the Department of Housing places, because, well, it’s a win-win situation, it’s a win for them. And it’s a win for the residents. And it’s a win for the planet. You know, it’s not just a win win, it’s a win win win, you know, so, I mean, what, what’s not to like?” 


“Basically, I just think something has to be done. Or we won’t have a future. It’s as simple as that. Or two or three generations away. They will not have a future. So do something now to protect it. Renewable solar.”