‘I fell in love with the industry quickly because we make a significant positive impact on people’s lives. Not many people can say they’re going to work and changing people’s lives for the better’ 

– Employment consultant

‘My mum asks me why I do this job. It’s tough, but if I get one success out of twenty I’ve changed a life’

– Employment consultant


Cassandra is a secretary who completed tertiary education in her 30s. She has been ‘cycling on and off Newstart for 20 years’ and is ‘trapped in temporary work’.

Newstart fills the gaps between jobs and tops up her income when she can’t get enough work. Now in her 50s, she says it gets harder and harder to find work: employers ‘think I’m old and ugly’. ‘All the jobs are insecure so they can and will fire you because they don’t like the fact that you looked at them sideways. There is no conceivable way that I could possibly make ends meet on Newstart. There’s no money to pay the electricity, there’s no money to pay the gas and there’s no money to look for a job. It’s just not enough money on any level whatsoever. I’m actually watching my future being chewed up while I try to find a job.


An engineer, Will spent many years overseas. When he returned it was hard to find work so he retrained as a teacher.

‘A lot of it ended up being emergency teaching. So I would fill in the gaps occasionally by warehousing. It was three or four years ago that I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. It’s helped me understand how I’ve managed to struggle getting jobs and squeezing myself out of jobs because you could think that you’re a bit of a perfectionist. In the past, the job market was quite flexible. I wasn’t worried about leaving one because I would get another one. Now things are much harder.’


Jack, a bookseller, has been on Newstart for six years while working in casual jobs.

‘It’s sort of like a week-to-week proposition and sometimes you’ve got to factor in rent, electricity, phone bills, that sort of thing, and sometimes I had to go without food in order to pay the bills.’

Jack now has two casual part-time jobs. ‘If there were enough jobs to go around in the fields that people are experienced in then there’d be no problem, but because you’re told you’ve got to get this number of applications you’ve got to apply for positions you have no experience in. Employers must get a whole heap of applications from people who have just got no business applying for them.’


Daisy who had experienced domestic violence struggled with depression.

‘I have recovered from that, but am having heaps of trouble getting back into the workforce, with the combination of no-one wants me because I’m old and too qualified or not experienced, or haven’t been employed. You can’t live on the Newstart. You get really nervous about applying for jobs that are any distance from home because you’ve got to figure out how to cover the cost to get there. If you can’t socialise and you’re not mixing with people, you lose confidence. That stands out when you go for job interviews. do not have any recognition of any skills, so that’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking, I know I’m a capable person.’

The stories are based on interviews with mature age job seekers. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Share your own story with us at the Work and Economic Security team. Email wes@bsl.org.au. All submissions will be kept confidential.

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