Interview: Tommy Wentworth had $28k credit card debt at 23


THE URBAN JUNGLE  interviews Tommy Wentworth, now 26, about how he ended up with $28, 000 debt, and whose fault it might be.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: How old were you when you first got any form of credit?
I was 18 when I got my first credit card.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: How did you get that credit card?
I think it was offered to me.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: What were you earning then?
20k a year? Maybe less?

THE URBAN JUNGLE: Why did you get it?
Young and naive, credit then felt a lot different to how I see credit now. It felt like free money. $3,500 was a lot to an 18 year old working part-time for $15 an hour.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: How did your debt escalate?
I pretty much considered credit as cash. I bought anything and everything I wanted without reason. I used to get cash advances to buy all sorts of unnecessary things; cigarettes, drugs, beer, clothes, etc. It began spiralling out of control, as I just ignored most of the letters/calls from the bank because I had no where near the income needed to support a credit card with that limit. I ended up buying a $15,000 classic car (ridiculous car, mind you), among other stupid things which still haunt me.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: How much did you owe at the height of your debt?
I recently just cleared my debt (end of 2014), which had been lingering for more than 7 years. At 23 I owed $28,000, which all spawned from that initial credit card.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: Any times that you’ve been offered more credit in any form?
Many times, too many to count. My current CBA credit card has a limit of $29,000, and its the same credit account I initially got at 18 years old. I’ve probably upped my limit 15-20 times.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: What was, and is,  your attitude to debt/credit?
It’s pretty awful, and pretty soul shattering at times. There have been many times that rent/loan/CC have been due in one week and wiped a paycheck. It has left me with literally zero savings. It’s a crappy situation to be in, and I feel that I’m only now emotionally equipped to have one, and even then I have trouble trusting myself with finance.
The thing is, it’s totally unnecessary. I have used my credit card for ’emergencies’ (which is the reason I got it) a handful of times. Most purchases are impulse and indulgent in nature.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: Whose fault do you think it is that young Australian’s have more debt than ever before?
I don’t really want to pass the buck, as I feel its 99% my fault for getting into debt. It’s naivety at it’s finest, as the majority of young people are not equipped to start a debt. I do however think it shouldn’t be offered to people willy-nilly, as surely banks know what they are getting people into. It is a little unfair offering a $3,500 limit credit card to a broke 18 year old, as they are going to bite at it.

THE URBAN JUNGLE: Any advice to young people considering over-reaching themselves?
Avoid credit cards at all costs. If you must have one, I would suggest getting a really low limit at a young age ($500-$1,000), and use it strictly for emergencies/travelling. Being in debt drains the life out of you. I haven’t received a paycheck in 7 years that went directly to me, its always destined to pay something off. My tax return goes into debt, lump cash from freelance work goes into debt— it can be a bit heartbreaking!

Manly Embraces Waste


In recently embracing the ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign, Manly Council is set to begin a trial food waste collection service. The service aims to increase the council’s sustainable credibility, help residents save money and be an integral part of the resource recovery centre that is in the pipeline for the community (organic material will be removed from the general waste stream to create compost/revenue). The Council will issue new bins for households to separate out their food waste from their general garbage, to be collected separately and recycled.


When food is thrown away and breaks down in landfill, together with other organic materials, it becomes the main contributor to the generation of methane – a gas 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change.  The National greenhouse inventory data tells us landfills contribute two per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, if food waste produced by households is reduced by 66 per cent the greenhouse gas savings would be equivalent to taking 117,000 cars permanently off the road in NSW

To encourage participants, the council is highlighting the financial burdens of food waste, with Australians chucking out $5.2 billion a year, with the average household wasting $616 a year, they believe that by separating out food waste participants will better understand exactly how much is going to waste.

This scheme has been successful in several areas in Sydney, with Leichardt’s being the most pervasive, it will be interesting to see how the Manly locals take to this new wave of waste.


The Grey Headed Flying Fox is once again facing relocation and condemnation

Flying Foxes reside on the East coast of AUS, ranging from QLD to VIC, they are an important part of the ecosystem, dispersing seeds and pollinating many native tree species.

In the 1930’s the population was estimated in the many millions, today their population has declined to approximately 400,000 and are consequently listed as a ‘vulnerable species’.
Loss of habitat, urban relocation programs, climate change, population control methods and disease have all impacted on the Flying Fox. Despite this decline, the Grey Headed Flying Fox is increasingly found in urban environments which has resulted in human and Flying Fox conflict. This conflict was evident in the controversial Flying Fox relocation of Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens, and more recently in the Burnt Bridge Creek Park area in Balgowlah, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
The Burnt Bridge Creek Park is home to a 6000 plus population of Flying Foxes, with its locale embedded right in the middle of a residential area, surrounded by apartment blocks. Due to the growing population there have been many complaints made by residents of the area with concerns of noise and disease, and the residents are lobbying for these bats to be ‘dispersed’ The community have voiced their growing opposition to the flying foxes, essentially believing that the flying foxes didn’t ‘belong’ in such a densely populated residential area.
Jacob Sife, the Biodiversity Manager at Manly Council, is currently managing this issue. He reiterated that this was a growing mentality, disclosing that he has received many complaints from residents. Interestingly, he mentioned that the complaints are almost solely restricted to those residents who adjacently surround the camp, not from the general public or wider community.
Peggy Ebby, a Behavioural Ecologist suggests the Burnt Bridge Creek resident are guilty of the ‘not in my backyard notion’ Something that she has recurrently observed in people sharing space with flying foxes, and which only exacerbates the issue associated with urban flying foxes. As camps are dispersed for one reason or another (community complaints, land developments) the camps split and subsequently camp sites grow only exposing more residential areas and other urban landscapes to camps and so on and so on.

Thinking of moving abroad and dissing your HEC’s Debt? Hec no, says Christopher Pyne.


There is currently no legal obligation for university graduates to pay back their HEC’s debt if they decide to move overseas to live and work. Christopher Pyne, Australia’s federal education minister has decided to tighten this loophole once and for all.

Grace Gallagher talks to Professor Bruce Chapman, the architect of HEC’s, and high education policy pro Dr Tim Higgins on their thoughts on the matter.


Education min Christopher Pyne has proposed a crackdown on graduates working overseas.
Mr Pyne says that from 2017 Australians living overseas will be obliged to repay their HEC’s and HELP debts, making the system fairer and raising an expected $140 million for the government over 10 years. University graduates that leave Australia for more than six months could be made to repay a minimum of $2000 per annum of their outstanding debt to raise this revenue.
Dr Tim Higgins, a Higher Education Policy Expert at ANU says “at the end of the day the amount they are talking about collecting; $15 to $20 million per year, is very small fry compared to the overall budget. So this isn’t really a budgetary measure for revenue, it’s a measure for fairness. Australia’s total outstanding HECS debt presently is approximately $30 billion dollars”.
Whilst the philosophy of the policy in uncontroversial and its not the first time the budget has been floated, the logistics of the how to actually collect the debt are more difficult. Mr Pyne hasn’t detailed his proposed method yet, but he has said that it will be dependent on income thresholds, like it is for Australian Residents.
Dr Higgins says “ how they are going to do this, or how the tax office is going to collect this information remains to be seen, moreover, how is the tax office going to check if the information provided by the student is correct”. Professor Bruce Chapman, one of the architects of HEC’S says “it’s been suggested in Australia for about 25 years, and the simplest possible way, is to recognise that making it depend on peoples income while they are living overseas is too hard, it’s too hard administratively, you have got to chase people, you have go to know what they are earning, and both of those things are very expensive”.
If Minister Pyne proposes this popular policy as part of his unpopular higher education reform package, he may fail to get it through parliament. Dr Higgins says “I think it will be popular, but then it shouldn’t be popular that the collection methods outweigh the revenue.


By Grace Gallagher