Tracey Phillips often heads to the supermarket late at night. The shops are closed but she's there to collect what's been thrown out."Why do I dumpster dive? It helps keep my food bill down and it's saving all this food from going to landfill," she told 7.30.
"This soft drink you've seen us get tonight, I'd never buy that at the supermarket. It's just a nice treat to have."
Ms Phillips, 50, from Adelaide, has turned to dumpster diving because despite having a casual hospitality job and receiving unemployment benefits, she's finding it difficult to make ends meet.
"I've got around three to four [hours of work] a week and yeah, I'd love more work," she said.
Ms Phillips is one of 750,000 Australians on the Government income support scheme, Newstart.
The maximum payment for a single person is about $40 a day and the allowance hasn't increased in real terms for 24 years.
"Living on Newstart, it's really hard," Ms Phillips said.She gets about $500 a fortnight in Newstart and about $200 from her casual job. Then $179 goes towards rent, $100 for groceries and $126 on fuel, her phone, her pets and incidentals.
"You get these politicians that say that they can live on $40 a day. How long are they going to do that for? A fortnight?" she said.
"Well of course they could live on $40 a day for a fortnight period. You need to do it over a long period.
"Maybe we could have a reality show, stick politicians on Newstart Island and see how they go. That would be a show I'd actually watch."Ms Phillips said her life has been a struggle since childhood. She was in and out of care homes and now lives with depression.
She said volunteering with the Anti-Poverty Network SA had brought her close to her dream job of working in the community sector.
"People see what they see just in front of them," she said.
"They know nothing about my background, they know nothing about where I've come from, they know nothing about the struggles I've gone through my entire life.
"They just judge what they see in front of them," she said.
'I don't like to think of myself as a dole bludger'
Photo: Jaieyre Lewis says he saves money on food by eating a lot of soup. (ABC News: Angelique Donnellan)
Welfare groups have been pushing hard for an increase to Newstart, a campaign which now has the support of some key business groups.
The Business Council of Australia and The Australian Council of Social Services have both called for an increase to Newstart.
Newstart recipient Jaieyre Lewis, 26, said he was pleased to see former prime minister John Howard, who set up the Work For The Dole scheme, was among those who believed the payment was too low.
"I think it's an important message and speaks volumes that someone like John Howard, who is traditionally a Liberal conservative, has said that he wants to support the increase to Newstart," Mr Lewis said.
He said he received $634 a fortnight on Newstart, which included rent assistance. He said $300 went to rent, $180 to food and about $60 on his phone and internet.
"At the end of each fortnight, after everything's been all said and done, I might have $50 to $80 left over and that'll immediately get put away," he said.Mr Lewis, who rents in Adelaide, said he understood why some people had little sympathy for those living on unemployment benefits.
"I don't like to think of myself as a welfare or dole bludger. I like to think of myself as a person first who'd like to survive and exist.
"I understand why people have that idea of personal responsibility and yeah, I think there is personal responsibility to find work."
'I've applied for 160 jobs in three months'Mr Lewis loves to cook but said being on Newstart forced him to keep meals simple and affordable.
"Soup is so good because it's cheap, nutritious and easy to make. I can get $2.50 chicken carcasses from the butcher."
He would like to turn his passion for food into full-time work, but said hospitality jobs in Adelaide were in short supply.
South Australia's unemployment rate has regularly topped the nation, not helped by manufacturing and car industry closures.
"I've applied for 160 jobs over the past two to three months and that's been a variation of online applications, going in, cold calling and just dropping off my resume," he said."I've heard back from maybe 20 of them and had maybe three trial shifts out of that."
He said if Newstart was increased he'd spend the money to get retrained.
"I'd like people to look deep down in their hearts and say to themselves, 'can I really not afford to raise Newstart?' because this is affecting thousands of people.
"The work market has changed over the years. It is more difficult to get full-time or casual work in nearly any kind of sector or role," he said.