A generous Australian man has handed out $100 in cash to dozens of jobless workers waiting outside a Centrelink office in Melbourne.
Good Samaritan Peter Darmos, who was earlier identified under pseudonym John, gave each person queuing up outside the office in Box Hill a $100 note – or what he called ‘lettuce leaves’ – after the sight left him ‘feeling sick to his stomach’.
‘These are all innocent people with no means to put some bread on the table for their family,’ he told 3AW on Friday.
‘Their Centrelink payments aren’t until next week. They need to put food in the table tonight.’
Mr Darmos, 62, from Balwyn North, drove to his bank where he queued up for an hour before withdrawing the maximum amount of $10,000.
He then distributed notes to each person inside and outside the office until there were no more to hand out.
‘The gratitude, the tears in peoples’ eyes, it was unbelievable,’ he said.
‘I had to do that because these people need instant relief. They can’t wait for tomorrow or the day after.’
He told the Herald Sun: ‘I couldn’t stand to see my kids fed and others starve. This is a tragedy of profound proportion.’
Mr Darmos, a businessman who emigrated from Greece as a child, urged other wealthy Australians to donate to workers in industries that have been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘We can all hit the Centrelink offices across the country in 30 seconds today and hand out a lettuce leaf to each person in need so they can put some food on the table for their families,’ he said.
‘This country has been good to me, and my heart goes out to these people who are really suffering. ‘
Hundreds of thousands of Australians are expected to lose their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic that has forced businesses across the country to shut down.
Earlier this week, thousands of newly-unemployed workers flocked to their local Centrelink offices to claim unemployment welfare.
Economists predict 814,000 Australians will be added to dole queues before the end of June.
Centrelink is rapidly recruiting an extra 5,000 staff to deal with the influx of demand.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said while the Centrelink queues are heartbreaking, the alternative is worse.
‘What we don’t want is queues for people who need a machine to help them breathe. We cannot have people queuing for intensive care beds. That will mean they will die,’ he said in Melbourne on Wednesday.
‘We’ve got to buy time … if you can stay home, you must stay home. No dinner party, no shopping trip is worth a life.’