John Abraham - Issues with the Repat system
Yeah, one bad accident I had was, I was Noyce's driver, and we had a ... I forget the name of the ship now. I keep thinking it was Channing but I know … The first one come into Oro Bay with a lot of equipment for us, and I'd taken Noyce out, and he was on board and I'm laying off. And they had a go at it, but they missed it. And the splashes blew us up in the water. We could see the pattern coming and the coxswain and myself, we dived for the engine room where it was.
I got there first, then he came with me and we got lifted up in the water, my chest got damaged. And I never took any notice, I would really ... But my chest got damaged, and I spent a bit of time in hospital with what they thought was, not dengue fever ... something they called it anyway.
But anyway, I went back on there and thought nothing of it. But it came against me later on. Well, then I went back to Balmoral, and I was transferred, and I can't think of the name of the ship. I got an idea it was Wilcannia. I was transferred to Wilcannia and I ... on there about five days and all of a sudden the radio operator, who I knew, received a message because I was still interested in radio. " Ask Stoker Abrahams to report immediately to Rushcutters Bay hospital immediately."
And I said, "What's all this about?" To ... I can't remember his name now. He said "I don't know," he said. Anyway, the officer on duty told me pack my gear, and I went ashore. What had happened was that when I came down from New Guinea, and I was in the depot, I went and got a medical check-up to make sure I had no more problems with malaria and other things I'd contracted up there.
What I didn't know was that that accident I had on the ship that I told you about, when it got damaged. I didn't realize any damage had been done. So, I went down, had the medical test, got married, came back, went to sea… got the signal, go to Rushcutters Bay, they said: "You've got TB." I said "what?" They said, "You got TB." I said, "Hang on a minute" I said, "Where did you get that?" Said, "That medical test we gave you when you came down." It took six or eight weeks to catch up to me. In the meantime, I'd gotten married and that's what they found. So, I spent round ... Naval wing hospital. I'm in there, married man. And then they decided I was no longer needed in the Navy. They discharged me in November, the 11th I think somewhere in November, the 11th.
And where I was on the equivalent of £14 a fortnight, I was on the equivalent. I was getting three-pound roughly, my wife was getting half of my wages, which was £3. And an allotment for being a wife was £8. So, I think that makes, 8, 6, 14. We're getting £14 a fortnight. When they discharged myself, I found I was on £2.10 a fortnight for all of us. So, I was kicked out of the services, on £2.10 a fortnight. As much as I complained at the RSL, parliamentarians "Oh no, we can't interfere."
To everyone like that. I finished up, eventually after six months, they put me up to £4.10, which was the TPI pension. I went onto a TPI pension. For £4.10, if you could try and manage a wife, a home on £4.10 a fortnight. It was only for my mother and people that lived in our street, that helped us, I'd have never got through. So, after I put up with that for a while, with TPI pension in those days, you were never allowed to work. Not with a TPI pension. So, I'd had enough of it and I think that lasted until about ... I lasted about another six months after that. That was six months to get the TPI, six months I had the TPI.
And I was studying all the time, which I was doing on the ship, for engineering. I was doing a technical college course, but I couldn't do it while I was in the hospital. And I went to the repat, and I had an interview, and I told them ... It was repatriation then, not veteran affairs. I said, "Look, I can't live on that." They said, "You definitely can't work with TPI" I said, "Well, take the TPI away." I reverted back to my £2.10. So, they took the TPI pension off me, I handed it in, and I went and did light work. And I could earn seven pound a week, part-time. I couldn't always do it cause my chest was playing up with me. So, I battled with that for quite a few years and then I found I could keep going, selected my light work. And I managed to go from then till 1980. In 1980 I couldn't work anymore I could never work full-time because my chest always played up with me. And I made application to veteran affairs to be reinstated to TPI.
They said, "No, you cannot be reinstated." And the appeal board scrubbed me. So, my minister, who was very active in the Christian world. He said, "I'll act as your advocate." Because I was never any good at putting my case forward. So, we had another set-up, and we went down to the appeals board, and they called me a malingerer. That's what they called me, a malingerer.