The first Steven Arman knew of his daughter becoming the public face of a “new breed of Aussie bludger”
There, on the front page of the Sydney tabloid, was Amy and an older friend, Ashleigh, under the banner “Young, able and unwilling to work”. A few days later the treasurer, Scott Morrison, was threatening to strip them of Centrelink benefits in an interview with radio host Ray Hadley and the pair had become figures of hate online.
But there was just one problem. Amy wasn’t on Centrelink benefits. She had just finished year 12 the week before, she held down a part-time job while at school and she was going to Tafe next year. She was excitedly planning for her year 12 formal next month.
“We’ve never been on the dole in our lives,” Steven Arman told Guardian Australia. “We are honest people and we own our own home. Our whole family has been dragged through the mud. She is a 17-year-old teenage girl and they should at least have done some checking.”
Amy and Ashleigh were typical “Neets” – young people not in employment, education or training – who would rather spend their days “chilling at Maccas” than looking for a job.
The pair were further demonised in an editorial that said they posed a danger to Australia.
Arman is furious that the Telegraph interviewed an impressionable 17-year-old girl and put her on page one without checking any of the facts with her parents or her school.
In the page one article Amy is quoted saying the wages for her job are so low it’s not worth working. “They pay you nothing so why would I rock up? I call in sick when I’m over it and then they just get rid of me. Not fair really because I just want to have a good time and chill but I don’t want to be fired.”
In an accompanying video she says “yeah” when the reporter asks the two friends if they applied for Centrelink that day, and agrees with her friend Ashleigh.
“She was taking her friend to Centrelink and she just wanted to go along with it and back her friend,” Steven Arman said. “That same day she went to work.
“My daughter was not totally innocent but she did say to the reporter ‘I work and I have just finished year 12’ and he said ‘that’s OK we’re just going to ask you few questions’. And then she just got caught up in it.
“She didn’t apply for Centrelink. The story said she is not educated but she just left year 12 a week ago. She went to a trade high school and she studied business management. She is educated and she funded herself through high school by working at night.
“But they didn’t put in any of that. She just fell into the five minutes of fame and went along with the story.”
Arman said when he contacted the Telegraph he told them “to do some investigative journalism” and find out the facts.
“I was very, very upset about it because it can affect her life forever,” Arman said. “I contacted the media and told them it wasn’t the truth. Although she may have lied, it’s not the truth.”
Amy has taken all the negative attention very badly, Arman said, and was now depressed. Her mother is organising counselling.
“She is usually a vibrant girl but now she is bawling her eyes out and spending all day in her room,” he said. “She is too scared about what people think of her. I told her if people say anything to say to them it’s not true. Her face is plastered all over the place.”
A few days after Arman complained to the Telegraph they sent a different reporter and photographer around to do a second story, published on Wednesday under the headline “Neet Amy is a good girl who has actually been working, says her father”. But it was far from sympathetic.
“A Centrelink layabout who said she prefers to have a good time being unemployed was ‘acting up’, her dad said after treasurer Scott Morrison threatened to strip her of benefits,” the report said.
Arman said they again failed to mention that Amy was an educated girl who had just finished year 12.