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What it is REALLY like to be unemployed

Unemployed. If there has been any day in my 61.5 years of life when I’ve felt it is all just too much, yesterday was that day. Today is not much better. While sharing the pain I feel publicly may further hinder my employment prospects (is that even possible?) I share in the hope my experience may help others know they are not alone and may, just may, encourage some employers and recruitment agents to rethink their approach to candidates. The government also needs to walk a mile in my shoes, then tell me I can get a job and they can safely cut the Newstart Allowance. And yes, Grace Collier, I am training to start my own business – if I can hold my body together. Holding my body together costs money.

Where to start? Some background for context, perhaps. I was diagnosed late 2014/early 2015 with autoimmune (AI) conditions. Nothing I can’t manage, providing I can AFFORD to manage them. In my experience, AI conditions can take a lot of time and money to manage to the point where I look and feel normal (photo supplied as evidence). With a couple of exceptions: I can no longer sit for hours without moving, like a good little accountant should. I have to move reasonably often.

In June 2015 I was made redundant. In September 2015 I secured a new job which lasted a massively long six weeks. It seemed to boil down to the fact I refused to get my hair cut short, but I was called at home and told not to go back in, by “mutual agreement”. It was indeed mutual, as I found it a very toxic environment and had already contacted the recruitment agency with my concerns. The agency had encouraged me to “hold on until January”, which I had tried to do.

Having been made redundant in June then effectively fired (for the first time in my working life) in October, I wasn’t feeling very good psychologically. Off to the psychologist who was my saviour and the GP for anxiety medication.

AI needs time to manage properly, so a senior management role is no longer an option for me. Given the medical situation Centrelink have me in the disability support stream of job seekers to provide additional employment assistance – but most of that assistance seems only to kick in AFTER I secure a job, such as they can provide a sit-stand desk. In all the time I’ve been with this Job Search Provider, I have been referred for ONE interview! ONE! The Job Search Provider network seems, to me, to be more about meeting the contractual compliance obligation paperwork to “earn” their revenue (funded by the taxpayer) than actually finding work for the unemployed. That is an analysis for another day. When I ended up in tears one day I was told to go and get a medical certificate to exempt me from job hunting. I was in tears because I DON’T HAVE A JOB! Getting a medical certificate to stop me looking for a job wasn’t going to improve the situation!

I started studying a Diploma of Fitness Coaching with the objective of setting up my own business providing training to people like myself who need exercise for pain control/management. I understand what it is like to not be able to move first thing in the morning and I know the benefits exercise has provided me. My doctors (of whom I have a battalion) all support my business plan. Getting the qualification, however has proven difficult. Registered training organisations (RTOs) seem to me to be of a similar ilk in many instances to the Job Search Provider network. I need 120 hours of practical placement and within that be able to train five people for about six weeks to complete a final assignment. That is just one complication: we were told on enrollment we would be able to work after six months of the twelve month course (obviously an attractive proposition to an unemployed person). Well, yes, if we can find someone to employ us without insurance. I’m a CPA – am I likely to do that? Anyway, really, a minor problem. I just don’t need people like Grace Collier telling me to “start my own business” – I’m trying, but I’d like to stay alive in the meantime.

I am under the care of four specialists: endocrinologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist and gastroenterologist. Then there is my GP (who thankfully bulk-bills), my physiotherapist and massage therapist. Luckily these days I see the specialists less frequently than I used to: every three or six months, but they are not cheap. Yes, Medicare covers some of the cost, but the patient still has to pay up-front. No, I am not going the public health system route with chronic conditions unless I absolutely have to, because I need this team of specialists to provide continuity of care, not be seeing a different one of each specialty each visit. The specialists’ visits vary between $120 and $180 a visit. Then I am to have three skin biopsies next month – that’s not cheap either. At one stage I was having endoscopies every six months: private patient with health insurance I may soon have to give up. Not to mention the travel costs to see all these health professionals.

Then there is the cost of the prescriptions: because I have a pension card (thanks Centrelink, I really needed to be reminded you think I am a hopeless case too old for a Health Care Card) these are reduced to $5.20, but the other supplements, like fish oil, glucosamine, Vitamin D, magnesium etc are not. I get a Pharmaceutical Allowance of $3.10 a week.

Are you stressed out so far just reading this? Actually, NONE of that is too bad. With exercise I am rebuilding my muscle strength (working on hip adductor strength at the moment for the physically inclined among you) and keep the pain away almost 100% of the time. Until my stress levels get too high and cause a flare.

Job hunting is the most stressful thing in my life. Ever. Worse than the suicides of my parents or my four divorces. The four divorces? That’s why I am not independently wealthy at my age, which is what people like Scott Morrison no doubt expect. Pity I’m not a famous film star – they always seem to stay rich after divorces. I digress.

Let me share some examples that stand out in my mind. One major hospital interviewed me for a job I really was very keen on. They didn’t employ me, but subsequently interviewed one of my ex-staff for the same position and asked her about me. They did tell me to keep applying for other jobs at the hospital. So I did. Never got one. In the end you dread being the resume the HR staff member looks at and goes “oh, no, not her AGAIN!” and automatically throws your resume in the reject pile. So I don’t apply to that organisation any more.

The government department that sends you an email stating you were “in this instance rated non-competitive” and then sends you a follow-up email of how to break the government job application code/secret.

The private, family owned company who did a phone interview with me for forty minutes and invited me to a job interview the next day for which I had to take a day off work from my then eight week contract position (so lost a day’s pay) – and never got back to me to tell me I didn’t have the job, despite promising to contact me the following week. They ALWAYS promise to be in touch tomorrow, by the end of the week, next week….. they lie. If recruiters actually interview an applicant, surely they can have the common courtesy to notify the applicant of the outcome?

The state government authority that wrote to tell me a job I had applied for had been withdrawn. When I saw it advertised again a fortnight later I wrote and asked if I could submit another application. Oh yes, was the response, “but please note the criteria includes specific knowledge of our INTERNAL computer system”. Then why advertise externally? Policy requirements, yes, I know. Easy to circumvent by framing the selection criteria in such a way only an internal applicant will qualify.

The sporting body that sends you an email with a subject line of “Not this time around…”. I accept that if you haven’t been unemployed for twelve months, the subject line might not bother you. When it is just another in a long line of rejections, the impact is harsh.

The legal firm that promises second round interviews will be held in two weeks time and unsuccessful applicants will be notified with feedback. Dead silence.

Over time, the rejections become just too damaging to the soul. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger? No, I’m sorry, not always true. As a very wise psychologist once said to me, the reality is more like water dripping on a stone – eventually the stone wears away. There comes times when you just can’t bear another rejection. Hiding under the doona with digital dragons is less soul-destroying than applying for yet another job you won’t get.

Then there is Centrelink demanding a certain number of job applications per week. Just to meet the KPIs. It doesn’t matter if the jobs are suitable, just anything to meet the numbers. Naturally, this results in more rejections which heightens the stress levels.

Network, they say. So you do. You contact people you have worked with in the past via the professional version of Facebook. Dead silence. That is depressing, because you think you had a good working relationship with many of those people – but that was in many cases years ago – perhaps they no longer even remember you, although you remember them. Thank you to the few that did respond, I appreciate it.

Younger people tell me today’s recruitment environment requires that applicants follow-up as it shows interest to the recruiter. In my day that was frowned upon, just was not done. So while I do it, it goes against every fibre of my upbringing. More stress.

Other advice I am given – change my resume. Basically, turn it into a lie. I can’t do that, I can’t lie about who I am – I don’t want to work for people to whom I have to pretend I’m something I’m not. I am a CPA, I have skills and experience which, while I may not be able to work 100% as a desk jockey any more, I can still use. My brain still works, damn it. Also another thing that wasn’t done when I was growing up.

When I was in my twenties, if you got the job you were most likely offered the job at the end of the interview. Yes, I know the competition is greater today, I know unemployment is higher – all those logical points don’t reduce the stress of being unemployed.

I’ve joked no-one wants to employ their mothers. Hiring managers are predominantly mid-thirties to mid-forties. And woe-betide you if you want a less senior role for medical reasons. These days people want carbon copies of the previous incumbent of a position, nothing more, nothing less. If an applicant doesn’t fit the mould: rejection. The knowledge that in most cases the recruiter only has time to read the first three lines of any application, if that, isn’t comforting.

I’m scared. Scared I will never get a job, scared I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and will therefore not be able to keep my AI conditions controlled. Scared I’ll never have my own private space again. Yes, I don’t even have my own space. Thanks to the generosity of my wonderful daughter and her equally wonderful husband, I have a roof over my head – but it costs me $120 a month to have my stuff in storage. I am 61, I want my own space! I feel I am interrupting their lives and it makes me cringe inside. I’ve been independent since I was 15 years old – this is an adjustment I am not dealing with well at all. More stress. There is no-where I could rent for less than the Newstart Allowance of $264.35 a week and still pay for food, utilities and medical care.

There is a known relationship between stress and AI conditions. The doctors say over and over “reduce the stress in your life”. Yesterday was a day when the stress boiled over and the pain had flared. The physiotherapist sent me home to lay on a heat pack and I woke this morning with a very sore back. She also strongly suggested I revisit my psychologist and was concerned I hadn’t had a massage (money considerations). I went to the psychologist’s office and made an appointment. As I got back in my car, a gust of wind slammed the car door into the side of my head. I burst into tears for the umpteenth time that day, I came home (missing class), lay on the heat pack and took a Serepax – the first I’ve taken in months. Physiotherapist suggests I touch base with my rheumatologist….. in other words, she is suggesting I have a condition flare. First in over six months.

How do I REALLY feel? As if life has no point any more. No-one needs me, no-one wants me. I have no social life: a social life is expensive and I have no idea how much longer I have to survive on what little money I do have. I feel I am a burden to my daughter. If this is what the next twenty years is going to be like then please stop the planet, I want to get off. There are days when I ask myself why am I bothering to fight back? Why push my body through the bench press and leg press? Why bother taking all these damn medicines and supplements? Just why in the hell bother at all?

Once I can’t afford to maintain my health, then I will be unemployable and end up on the Disability Pension. Hopefully, in my specific case my studies will prevent that, but on a daily basis it can be hard to see past just today. Not everyone in my sort of situation has the option to develop a new career and I do worry about the chances of business success at my age. But 68 year-old Hillary Clinton ran for President of the United States, so there is hope.

The lack of physical contact with anyone other than my physiotherapist or massage therapist grows more stressful each passing day.

Other unemployed have different sets of problems: mortgages, children to feed, car loans to pay. The emotional feelings, the stress, the sheer degradation of it all, is the same.

RUOK? No, I’m not OK. Not that anyone ever asks. We are just numbers – the great unwashed of unemployed. Past our prime, not valuable any more. A burden on society, our government keeps telling us. Malcolm Turnbull, do you have ANY idea what it is like to be told in the news cycle nearly every single day what you and your government ministers think about us?

I’ll bounce back, I always do. But not everyone can, not everyone does.

NB: I have deliberately not tried to “take the emotion out” of this article. If it is to serve any purpose, the emotion needs to be there. It is why I have written it today, a day when I feel absolutely NOT OK.

I also want to add that while I have criticised the Job Provider Network and RTOs in this article, I want to make it clear in both those systems there are some wonderfully caring people and in the latter some terrific teachers. It is the system I’m railing against, not the front line staff. Centrelink staff have always also been very nice to me.


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  1. Graham

    Great story Robyn. I’ve been there and there are no easy answers. I hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I hope it’s soon.

  2. Barry Thompson.

    As a case manager in the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) and later in the new job network, I can tell you that age discrimination is prevalent in the workforce. In my experience it was difficult to obtain an interview for anyone over 45 years of age, let alone 61 years.

    Of course that is beyond your control, but it may be of some small comfort to consider that your qualifications, experience and personal attributes may not be in question.

    Given your health problems it is admirable that you persist in seeking suitable employment.

    I wish you all the best.

  3. Andreas Bimba

    A powerful and depressing story of our current world for so many.

    Robyn I have a possible idea that may work. Get an ABN for yourself and hire a few young accountants each with their own ABN on contract, you could do the paperwork and hire out their services. They only get paid when they are placed. You know the accountancy business and have all the skills required. Start up costs should be minimal.

  4. Robyn Dunphy

    @ Graham – thank you.

    @ Barry – thank you for being a reliable source confirming the age bias out there. Barry, I know you don’t mean it to sound this way at all, but I’d like to point out your sentence of “Given your health problems it is admirable that you persist in seeking suitable employment” is exactly part of the problem. I am probably healthier than a lot of 45 year-olds – because I have to put in the effort to be so. My blood pressure (a typical health metric) is 110/62. I can leg press 100 kgs (I want to get to more, but slowly, slowly). When I say my conditions are managed, I do mean managed. But what I hear from your words is “Oh, that poor woman, she really should just accept her situation, but isn’t it admirable that she keeps trying”. I do know it isn’t what you mean, but when we are facing the negative every day, that’s what we hear.

    @ Andreas – I have an ABN, and am putting my business energies into establishing my fitness practice as a priority given the circumstances. I don’t really know the “accounting business” as well as you may think. I don’t have a public practice certificate and haven’t worked in an accounting practice since I was 18, always in business and most recently always in IT. I am told unless you have worked for the last five years in accounting forget about applying for accounting roles. There are so many agencies out there already performing that exact service, I’d be a tadpole competing with sharks! I’m an excellent management accountant, extremely out-of-practice financial accountant.

  5. Barry Thompson.

    Robyn, no I did not mean it to sound that way, but given you consult 4 specialists, a Psychologist, Physiotherapist and a massage therapist I think I can be forgiven for believing your health to be a problem. I am pleased that it is not as bad as I assumed

  6. Jane

    Hooray. Thankyou Robyn for telling exactly as it is.

    I too am struggling with health issues, trying to be self employed and centrelink. Having held many professional positions over the years until my health issues become worse as I reached my 40’s it just seems like the system is totally designed to wear you down, tear away your self respect, and not help people into work.

    While people like RTO’s and Job Providers get rich from our plight, and MP’s use us as scapegoats to justify their trickle down, open market agenda our lives get wrecked and our self esteem gets worse.

    And yes there are all sorts of biases out there, anybody who is older, part of a minority group, a different race, gender diverse or has some particular attribute that makes them different from what the “privileged people” consider normal is at an extreme disadvantage in this system.

    I thought perhaps the answer might be to study while my health settled down. At least students are not considered “leaners” by this government, right? So I studied. Two Diplomas in two years.

    Nearing completion of the first diploma my class was told unofficially that there is really not enough work in this field and you will have to supplement your income or perhaps teach it to other people. Again at the completion of my second diploma the class was unofficially advised that sometimes you just have to accept that you will not make a living from this career. Of course, the sales person at the start of the courses tells you the opposite.

    (Barry) Many people with chronic health conditions want nothing more than to be able to work. Unfortunately many must learn how to manage the new limitations placed them by their condition, but it’s not black and white there are many shades in between being able to work and too sick to work and for many it changes from day to day. Unfortunately the system is not designed to help people in this situation get the best they can out of themselves.

  7. Catriona Thoolen

    Robyn, I just wish you better luck. I have found Centrelink staff to be kind to anyone ‘having a go’. I have found the Job Network system useless and when we (my husband and myself) got jobs (our farm became insufficient to support us) the Job Network people were constantly in touch to ensure they maximised the payments they got from the govt requesting copies of pay slips etc. To my mind, if they didn’t find the job…they should get nothing.

    I have my fingers crossed for the success of your business concept.

  8. Kim Southwood

    I heartily agree with you that our political and social welfare system is highly deficient and SO out of touch with reality. There is an inherent lack of empathy served well by an attitude that if we are struggling it is our own fault. It is fortunate that there are individuals within the system who do care and try hard to compensate for its deficiencies. But they fly beneath the radar with little acknowledgement.

    Understanding that the system is broken provides some intellectual relief, at least. We do need change and there are people out there with great ideas on how to effectively bring it about. It seems to me that you are part of that movement, perhaps without being fully aware of it.

    I think that on a personal level your initiative to establish a fitness practice supporting others with similar needs to your own is an extremely worthwhile and viable idea. But I also understand how frustrating, etc. it is to be placed in a ‘square hole/round peg’ situation.

    Hopefully you can seek out the support necessary to launch your own small business. I’m sure you’ve explored many avenues and I can really only think of the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS), which the government offers which I’m sure you’ve looked into. [Then there is also the crowd-funding model which no doubt requires some temerity].

    Meanwhile I take heart from your resilience and think you have captured the feeling of many an Australian jobseeker, both in the unemployed and under-employed category.

  9. Francis McMahon

    Robyn, the problem is not your health, not your age, it is the attitudes of the little ‘Johnny come lately’ and the ‘I’m alright F U’ brigades that have pervaded our culture. All of these problems come about through the human failing to understand that we invented money for a reason, but that reason has been lost eons ago. The myth that money is finite and there is only so much of the stuff out there is bullshitt. The truth is political poison so no-one really is in a position to challenge the myth, simply calling it a sad reality. So many people starving, homeless, forever, so that some can ‘have it all’ and say they ‘worked hard and were clever’. Its a crock… I feel for you and I do hope that some luck comes your way. Good luck!

  10. Harquebus

    I can empathize. Fortunately for me, my condition, not at all like yours, has been alleviated somewhat however, I do know what you are going through. Keep going. It’s all you can do.

  11. Miriam English

    Robyn, I know what you feel — well, the unemployment part, and lack of own space, not the autoimmune issues (I’m glad you’ve succeeded in keeping them under control). I’m single, live out in the country, renting (cheaply) part of a house owned by one of my former girlfriends.

    You probably won’t want to hear my advice: give up fighting it.

    The system seems to me set up to discard people like us (I’m 63). I’ve given up fighting against it. When I was doing the jobsearch bullshit I played the game of pretending to apply for all those non-existent jobs. I do actually want work and am still on the lookout for something genuine, but I consider the Job Search Network to be a business rort established purely for political reasons, which is meant to put obstacles in my way, not to help me.

    I now volunteer for a local charity which has excused me from the stupid jobseeker treadmill. The people in the charity are lovely. I help mostly with computer-oriented things, including making a website for them.

    In the meantime I do things for myself, such as writing short stories (26 of them on my website) and books (5 of them on my website), creating artwork, and continuing to hone my skills as a computer programmer (I’ve taught myself more than 20 different computer programming languages). I’m currently turning one of my very short stories into a 3D cartoon using the brilliant, free software, Blender3D. At the same time I’m trying to finish my latest book which I’ve been working on intermittently for about a year. Also, I’m hoping to create a very different kind of movie using some of my writings and computer skills. I might be able to generate some money from some of that, eventually… maybe.

    Give up fighting the system. It is way too stressful. I don’t think we can win against those bastards. We just need to look after ourselves. I make my own peace. I’m taking my time and working gently toward making something worthwhile, and perhaps, in time, a good income. But I’m not going to really worry about it. That doesn’t help me. I just do what I can without letting the obscenity of the business/political world get to me.

    Any time I feel worry or fear overtaking me I retreat into reading a book (Project Gutenberg has tens of thousands of free ebooks for free download) or listening to a talk (try Radiolab talks — they’re wonderful), or watching a movie (preferably a comedy). Music is great for lifting me up too. Another thing I do if I feel stressed is to stretch out on my bed and daydream for a while. That’s often very restorative. I’ve often wondered if it’s what others call meditation. Whatever it is it seems to really help me avoid stress.

    I live alone, way out in the country (my ex only lives here a couple of months out of the year). I have no children, no savings, no formal qualifications, I don’t own a car. Although I’ve had occasional freelance work, I’ve been unemployed for more than a decade and have zero prospects of getting a normal job again. But I think I’m one of the happiest people that I know of. I’ve learned how to let go of the things that hurt me.

  12. Keitha Granville

    My heart breaks for you, and for my son and his partner and many other young and old people who are not bludgers, or leaners. They are human beings desperately clinging on to a broken system that does very little to help them. The Job Network as far as a can tell is an excuse for the companies involved to make money from unemployed people. Why on earth do they get paid if someone finds a job with no help from their provider ? Does thatmake any kind of sense ? Give the money to the unemployed person and cut out the middle man who just sits at a desk ticking theboxes and occasionally making helpful suggestions about resumes. Bring back þe CES wher there were actually people to help, and jobs on boards you could really apply for and were helped to do so. Goodness knows it’s hard enough with a phone and your own car, but what if youhave neither ? Tough .

    When is someone in politics actually going to DO something about this, not just spout slogans and figures.

    I just had a thought. Start a Job Network business and get paid to help others like yourself. There’s a plan . Except you wouldn’t be accepted becauseyou actually migĥ do something useful and that is not in the plan.

    The very best of good luck to you, please follow up with a story if you find something.

  13. Ella

    Robyn, how true and real your story is to many of us.
    My daughter attended an employment agency for 2 years…not on referral for an interview. When she complained they made a couple of referrals to jobs she had no hope of getting….she was loosing her self belief , respect ,and worth.
    She like you decided to start her own business …BUT …. the requirements of the start up funding are such that she was unable to get help there.
    I despair for the young and not so young.
    I wish we could somehow combine all the experiences above and send them as part of a petition to the employment minister asking him to STOP demonising , for their political ends, those who are doing it tough. Especially when they know full well that they can’t create jobs let alone growth.

  14. Robyn Dunphy

    @ Barry – AI conditions are like that – there is no AI specialist. Co-morbidity is common. So having two AI conditions is not at all surprising, but each requires a different specialist, hence the endo and rheumatologist. Then some of the drugs have nothing short of horrendous possible side effects. One can destroy your liver, another destroy your eye-sight (comfortingly, after 5 years). One of the common drug relating side effects is skin related issues like photo-sensitivity, but if you get any of those side effects, guess what? Off you go to the applicable specialist – hence the dermatologist! The physiotherapist and massage therapist are to keep everything moving – in fact the massage therapy is part of my own research (and working amazingly well, I have to say). The number of treating doctors is NOT an indication of severity, but an indication of the lengths I will go to defeat the AI conditions. Unfortunately, such is not understood by many people at all, and understandably – this isn’t something anyone learns in high school. It isn’t until you are personally affected you find out the details.

    I took absolutely no offence, Barry, but I did want to explain/share how language can be problematic. 🙂

  15. Robyn Dunphy

    @ Miriam – “I consider the Job Search Network to be a business rort” – AGREE! This outsourcing to private enterprise of what used to be public services, such as the Job Search Network and education, is simply a way for people to set up fly-by-night businesses to rake in revenue from the government. Even the premises they operate from look shonky. It is awful. Your advice is sound and most of the time I am OK – I’ve got my study and my writer’s block is slowly lifting (I think, readers are better judges of that).

    To everyone else – thank you for your support, understanding and empathy. It is sad to hear so many similar experiences and I don’t see anything getting any better without a major shakeup of the systems. I know it is as bad for the young with no experience. A young man said to me recently he had to do a Masters simply to get an entry level job. What hope is there for anyone?

  16. Robyn Dunphy

    @ Miriam – something I just remembered about the Job Search Provider – after there was a change of staff I called to say I hadn’t had an appointment for a while, wasn’t I due for one? It turns out my resume was not even on my file – probably in the staff member’s inbox, but not on file for other staff members to access. I’d only sent in three copies. My email address had not been updated on their records. I’m surprised they even knew who I was!

  17. Roscoe

    We have two Job Search offices at our local shopping centre. They are only open three days a week!!! but they obviously make enough money to pay a weeks rent. I rarely see any job seekers in the place and I pass both offices often. Not bad if you can get it

  18. keerti

    You are one gutsy lady! Somethings that you might look into , if you haven’t already: “Neuroptimal” a brain training system which works wonders with memory and a few other things, Trager (a movement based bodywork system and get your massage therapist to work trigger points (if she doesn’t already), binaural beats (also brain training, but used from a recording with headphones ( this is very helpful for stress, depression and deep relaxation.) Theebst of these is by an australian company called unison ascension )their website seems to have issues at the moment , but usually you can try out tracks free. Also relatively inexpensive. Dragon Speaking Naturally voice to text program…it takes some perseverance to train it, but once there it takes the tedium out of typing. Someone else suggested writing to you. Ditto! You write well. breaking writers block is a lot to do with just starting and not being critical. you could probably make a good living writing shorts for Kindle with a good genre.Nil carborundum illegitimi!

  19. Jack Straw

    The Job network system has been a monumental waste of time and waste of Taxpayers money. But we still persist.I could save the Taxpayer billions by axing the scheme tomorrow. Simply assist job seekers with travel and phone expenses and put all the jobs online so job seekers can contact the company directly. And I wonder if the Companies pay Job network agencies or not?

  20. Ella

    Jack Straw,
    I wrote to the relevant minister a couple of years ago. I pointed out that an unemployed person , as a part of their obligation ,had to attend the Job network provider every two weeks . For this the provider got payed . I asked if they had examined the cost / benefit of this scheme and knew how many interviews were followed up with job interviews and or jobs found. Needless to say the reply was not worth reading!
    Same old same old….slogans …no action.
    If they don’t know the answer to the above questions …it means they do not evaluate programs…..they continue to throw good money after bad. But they are very quick to demonise people …I guess it is easier .
    Perhaps you could try to write to the minister and see if you can get a better response.

  21. Robyn Dunphy

    Perhaps we should all write to the minister.

    One thing that really annoys me is that we, the unemployed, are supposed to at all times “put on a front” that we are ABSOLUTELY FINE! Because of course if we don’t APPEAR absolutely fine, then we are considered (extremely unfairly) unemployable.

    I’d like someone involved in recruitment or the government to explain to me how that is a realistic expectation. It isn’t. Maybe I should audition for Broadway – my acting skills are improving daily.

    @ Jack and Ella – bingo. Many of us here with the same impression, I see.

  22. Annie

    Hats off to you!! for speaking out!!

  23. Robyn Dunphy

    Annie, and everyone really, I realise there are many worse off than I am – but I can only speak of my own situation. I’ve had better chances in life than many and I still have a roof over my head, even if it is not my roof. There are those out there in worse situations and with less abilities or resources to give voice to the issues.

    Sadly, the risk is by publishing I am likely to be now permanently on the “do not employ” list somewhere – and THAT really bothers me. What does that say about us as a society? We should be able to look at reality and deal with it. Yes, it might take time, but running from the truth has never solved anything. Not in my experience anyway.

  24. Jane

    Even our Human Rights Commissioner is not safe from speaking out about an unfair system (even though it’s her job).

    That said, you are probably safe Robyn the mainstream media only give oxygen to stories painting unemployed people in a negative light so not many will see it?

  25. Testybarkofanoldbiddy

    @Miriam If only I could get them off my back.

    I can’t find voluntary work of 15hrs per week and I enrolled in a TAFE program only to have my case manager tell me that I’m not eligible to do this even though according to social security legislation of you have a partial capacity to work you can. After 18 months with DES provider I’m now up for a review of my capacity to work. I’m told that anyone on 15hrs automatically has their hours increased to 23/25. Why bother with the assessment then if It’s a forgone conclusion.

    @Robyn I’m 58 and have DDD in my spine and a lumbar vetebrae has slipped over another vetebrae. I went from being a very active person; surfing, bushwalking, bike riding, to being someone who can walk for ten minutes only but is in considerable pain. Carrying anything heavy, even shopping bags places undue pressure on my spine and I’m in incredible pain. Sitting for too long hurts, standing for too long hurts. All things that are required of work and using public transport to get to work. I also have strange periods of fatigue in my legs. Heaven help me if I get sick and need to be bedridden as this leaves me in so much stiffness and pain that it’s almost impossible to walk, let alone get my job network provider or even get to the doctor. I was managing it ok even continuing to cycle but it just got harder and harder. I also orthotic shoes, cheap shoes can actually make things worse.

    Getting Centrelink and the Job Network to understand my disability has only been met with disdain and the usual …..’oh you have a bit of a bad back”. Invisible disabilities are difficult for people to understand. If they can’t see it it’s not there.

    I don’t have the money to manage my condition properly either. I was in physiotherapy for twelve months but I found that after the initial education of my spine and managing chronic pain there was no further benefit from the manipulation. I also found most health professionals to be totally unaware of the centrelink system, mutual obligations and breaching mechanisms.

    On my good days I want to work, on my bad days don’t. I have plenty of university qualifications and some good experience. Plus I’m a registered mental health practitioners but don’t have money for private practice work.

    I’m also quite socially isolated and I never go anywhere. I read when I can, do free courses online through Coursera and Udemy and others. Watch fee online documentaries and movies. I grow a few things in the garden.

    I rescued two beautiful cats who bring me love, joy and laughter. Vet bills a bit tricky though.

    I never feel allow the judgements of others around unemployment make me feel useless. My value as an individual isn’t reliant on earning money from work, but rather what kind of person I am, the values I hold important. I help my neighbours, I help my flatmate, I do activism. Justice, equity, fairness are things I work towards, in helping others when I can.

    As difficult as it is to rail against the din of the “leaner’, “dole bludger” rhetoric, when are no longer alive our friends, family aren’t going to talk about what we did for a living they are going to talk about what kind of person we were and how we made them feel.

  26. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Robyn Dunphy tells it like it is.

    My cynical self tells me it is the neoliberalist way of killing vulnerable unemployed people off surreptiously to improve the budget bottom line.

    That’s why Aussies haven’t seen the LNP frauds from even pretending to bother and why Labor is happy to play Lib-lite with silence on increasing Newstart.

  27. Lisa Rayner

    Robyn sadly I concur with all you say. I’m the same age as you and my story is very similar. I am simply worn out from applying for jobs at different periods in my life and workplace bullying hadn’t helped the overall situation. I am highly skilled and successful in my field, a hard worker and a congenial workmate. My most recent position has just been made redundant and I’m back to this scenario once again. I’m hoping I’ll get something soon and avoid getting to Job Network stsge. The Job Network is an absolute joke! It would take an entire article to talk about what’s wrong with it – but what a rort of taxpayers money. I can only say good luck and keep on touch. I am planning to start a blog soon and one of the topics will be based around the world of work but you can also find me on Twitter @LissettaV

  28. Robyn Dunphy

    @ Testybarkofanoldbiddy – can you not prove disability with MRIs and medical reports. DDD is not exactly “a bit of a bad back”. You are one of the people I referred to when I stated I know my situation could be worse – because despite my conditions, I am pretty fit and active. I have had to learn to pace myself because if I try to be 40 again I end up wiped out the next day – since a change of medication that is a LOT better and hopefully will continue to improve, but essentially, day-to-day, no-one would ever suspect I had any conditions at all. It is when I forget I end up in trouble! I wish you well and suggest you have a very long talk with your doctor and maybe seek some advocacy. I know the good/bad day cycle only too well from the early days – even I doubted my ability to hold down a job back then – now I have no doubts whatsoever, but I realise how lucky I am.

    @ Jennifer – thank you!

    @ Lisa – thank you for providing more experience of the Job Network. I have followed you on Twitter and will keep in touch. Good luck in the job hunt!

  29. Les

    I like it. She has described the situation exactly. No, you’re not alone, many of us go through the same nonsense.
    Job Actives, (as there now called), don’t have to look for work for you anymore. You’re lucky they even found you one. They are now there to “assist with you looking for work”.
    However, they are privatised. Anyone over 50, let alone 60, it’s just not economically viable to find them a job, so they don’t. It costs too much time and money to find an older person work.

    Any medical problems make the situation a vast amount worse, and it is bad enough already.

    I just read the comments. Most of this has been said before. I’m luckier than @ Testybarkofanoldbiddy. I’ve been doing a few hours of volunteer work for some time. When my illness hit me, I asked them for more hours and they agreed.

    I’d like to start a new political party to oust both Lab and Lib and do things to help people. This is one example. A UBI can help in cases like this.

    Also, we NEED to get rid of this far too strong work ethic idea. Yes, we want to work, but work is changing. Many places employ part-timers nowadays. Far too many use contract workers. And the workers get blamed for not being able to get full-time work.

  30. Christian Marx

    Good article. The whole system is corrupt to the core. Employment agencies are nothing but parasites,
    gouging huge money from tax payers in the form of government subsidies. Added to this, the ideology of neoliberalism wants
    less jobs, so they can push workers into desperation and pay them nothing. The current system is designed to suck all money up to the already wealthy 1-2% and destroy the middle class.

  31. yes no

    Am I being cynical? I am not supply chain/logistics industry savvy so please forgive laymens language… but I would like to know which offshore global companies are in the “welfare” supply chain who then also benefit from a commercial interest in australian job agency ‘contracts’. Does such a welfare supply industry exist? Scenario could happen that when an unemployed person is sanctioned for whatever reason by a job agency, there is a high probability they will then need some extra good/services support in that particular fortnight so they are then referred on, go around the corner (so to speak) to a welfare agency who then gives them a ‘gift card’ only to be used in certain stores. I am not having a go at the charities and providers of much needed food and assistance – I repeat it is a vital and wonderful service!! — I am just wondering if there is some link (potential for profits?). Good that people are speaking out, and thankyou Robyn for sharing your story. I hope you feel proud of your gumption and thrift (because I know I am). One thing I remind people of is that even those on unemployment benefits or pensions etc still paying ‘taxes’. GST, petrol, car rego, council rates, and other. Money spent within a community contributes equally no matter where it is sourced. I am proud of Australian social security system that our forefathers fought hard to implement, but there needs to be an increase to Newstart and youth allowance payments! (apparently no real increase in over 20 years)

  32. Testybarkofanoldbiddy

    @Robyn Dunphy, Yes I have medical reports and x rays etc to provide evidence of my DDD and spondylolisthesis and other osteoarthritis problems in my spine. However, most of the health, and allied health and government departments see this as an inevitable result of aging. I have had trouble finding a doctor who understands the Centrelink system, mutual obligations etc. The bulk billed GP’s in particular seem to lack understanding. Sure I’ve had some GP’s reluctantly give me medical certificates for a couple of months to exclude me from mutual obligations but then they can be denied by Centrelink. Especially if they are not filled out correctly. A lot of GP’s write Guarded when talking about the prognosis particularly for my situation.

    Indeed many have said we are all going to get this at some point in time. It certainly doesn’t qualify for a disability pension, but then since they’ve made that so difficult, very very very few people successfully apply and sometimes that’s after multiple attempts each year. The new policies are so extreme that people in far worse conditions than I am are sent to work and others are sent to work for the dole.

    So I’m deemed fit for work for at least 15hrs per week and soon my new capacity assessment will arbitrarily place it up to around 25hrs.

    Yes! I have had staff at centrelink and the job network system tell me that ….”oh you have a bid of a bad back”, plenty of people have that and are still working. I’ve even had one case manager tell me to go for a good “jog around the block” to loosen things up.

    Thank you for writing your story, it helps us all.

  33. Robyn Dunphy

    @ Yes No – yes, there are global organisations involved in the supply change. One, Max Employment, has been in the news several times lately: Townsville Bulletin and The Guardian. These articles speak to the concerns you express.

    Thank you for your kind words. Gumption is driven by sheer and utter frustration.

  34. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Mission Providence is another global organisation created out of Mission Australia and Providence joining a corporate partnership under the veil of a quasi welfare veil.

  35. yes no

    relatively speaking australia has a small population …so let’s just say I am a big corporation that is in the business of australian food supply … I am also in the market of job agency (government contracts?) (an aside, but I wonder if any ownership of prison supply companies from overseas in that mix). Could I then benefit from sanctioning the unemployed which forces clients to seek “gift cards” that I am possibly supplying as a tax write off? The real cost $$value of those limited-to-supplier welfare “gift cards” is less than face value. I’m of the age where I think I remember the good old days.. when at least it felt like the general aussie population/government were in charge. Might be far fetched and cynical sorry. I’m one of the ‘lucky’ ones on DSP pension due to c-ptsd. I’m also a displaced asbestos refugee (no disrespect to war refugees/crisis) but a home owner. ie. naive, and young, newly divorced mother of large family with school age children. I sold an un-affordable to me, public housing home in suburbs to buy a ‘renovators delight’ a bit further out in the 1990s. In denial about the old cement sheeting. Whole rural region silently undervalued due to asbestos and it won’t make sense for me to sell off at loss. Can’t remedy unless I borrow more $$ which is difficult while also renting elsewhere. Refuse to allow next generations to potentially be exposed, so I am on a quest. Blessings to everyone! Inner selves are stronger than we ever imagined 🙂

  36. yes no

    sorry Robyn for aussie gran ramble, but in answer to my own questions I did a google search. I think I could ‘smell’ something about the culture of the beast. I am not feeling very happy about what showed up. Please delete if you wish.

    Providence Service Corporation is an American social services corporation listed on the NASDAQ. One of its subsidiaries, Providence Community Corrections, has been sued for racketeering and extortion.[4][5]
    Providence Service Corporation was established in 1997.[1] It has a payroll of 13,697.[2] Its Chairman is Christopher S. Shackelton and its Chief Executive Officer is James M. Lindstrom.[3]

    The company provides social services, and it is “reimbursed by government programs such as welfare, juvenile justice, Medicaid or corrections.”[6] It comprises four subsidiaries: Ingeus, LogistiCare, Matrix Medical Network, and Providence Human Services (including Providence Community Corrections).[7]

    It is listed on the NASDAQ.[8]
    Providence Community Corrections

    Providence Community Corrections was established in 1972.[9] It is headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina.[9]

    The subsidiary was accused of “extortion” in Rutherford County, Tennessee in 2015.[4] By October 2015, it was sued by Equal Justice Under Law, the pro bono wing of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, for “violating racketeering laws by jailing impoverished people who fail to pay court fines for traffic violations and misdemeanor offenses, and by refusing to waive fees for the indigent” in Rutherford County, Tennessee.[5] Additionally, the lawsuit “accuses Rutherford County officials of conspiring with Providence Community Corrections in the scheme and violating federal racketeering laws.”[10]

  37. Angus McTavish

    Hi Robyn,

    Thank you for sharing your story and very good luck to you…I’m incredibly lucky to have an employer who knows about my condition and is understanding, many days are ok but some are incredibly hard – I hear you about getting out of bed! Eventually I know I’ll need to move towards a different role as the stress can be very high in my field – a very daunting prospect even with support to study and gaining experience within my current role.

    If you were to start up either face-to-face or online subscriptions/advice/support?? I’d be really interested! I go though stages of building myself up and starting to get fit, then having a flare and losing condition/motivation…it’s a vicious cycle and those of us with AI conditions need people like you – who know firsthand how hard it can be!!

  38. Max Gross

    I have a tidbit of interest too. When I was jobless and stuck with the Salvos Mission Plus and after a year of NOTHING asked to be moved to another (*cough*) “provider”, I got a phone call from the manager. I had never met or heard from this manager in the entire year. Until I requested a transfer. Why? she asked me, do I want to leave their loving arms? Because, I replied, in a year not once had they referred me for an interview or offered a job. Her response. “It is not our role to find you a job, we are here to get you job-ready”. I admit to then using a four letter word.

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