Stories from the streets: one job, 1,500 job seekers; life on $275 a week and how sex workers have been hit

By Bernadette Chua |


The pandemic has affected almost every household and every individual – and their stories of struggle make astonishing reading. And many believe we haven’t seen anything yet, now relief is being reduced and more firms will hit the wall.

In Australia, government benefits like JobKeeper and JobSeeker have propped up many businesses and families. Superannuation withdrawals have also helped. But there are still hundreds of thousands of Australians which have struggled to find work and wrestled to look after their families or even feed themselves with the little savings they might have.

Here are some of their stories:

From the InDaily, South Australia:

James wrote:

I was made redundant on July 10 and have not seen a red penny in support.

I will not see my first (reduced) payment until October 15.

This is due to the meagre redundancy ($18,000) I received, of which a decent chunk went to paying down debt and trying to manoeuvre myself into a better financial position in order to get through and past this corona nightmare.

I have tried three times to have my claim reassessed, only to be either ignored or told things like “The last person didn’t process it properly”… which from where I’m standing seem like fairly underhanded delay tactics.

I’ve always worked in the hospitality industry, I’m 49, and for me prospects seem fairly grim. I’m not looking for free money, I’m just looking for meaningful support that doesn’t drive me to the poverty line, only to trap me in a poverty cycle.

I’ve tried to do the right thing all the way and feel like I’m being punished for trying to do the right thing. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Robyn said:

I am on JobSeeker. Although I would love to work, I’m apparently “past my use by date” according to employers who often tell me that I “don’t fit their demographic”.

The increase we have had since the coronavirus supplement was introduced has been a godsend. I no longer have to scrimp on my food and bills and I’ve actually been able to afford a proper haircut.

Although I think that doubling the original JobSeeker was a bit unnecessary, it did show how far below the poverty line we really are. I think that trying to live on $275 per week is just plain cruel.

I understand that the idea is to get people back to work, but to make them feel like substandard humans is not the way to go.


From the ABC

Khanh Q wrote:

I was stood down. The first role I applied for [had] 1,500 candidates … Whatever I applied for, I got the response ‘please wait until the lockdown is over’. So I decided to hold up my jobs searching. In other words, I give up.

Lachlan C

My palaeontology lab closed early into the pandemic, since the rocks are millions of years old they can wait another one. Tried applying to geology jobs but even if I get an interview people don’t really want a Victorian right now.

Colin W

I was a qualified psychologist that during COVID was stood down along with the rest of my team, after which I struggled to find any work, I’m now running two restaurants instead.

Caitlin S

I’ve worked as a full-service sex worker in mainly brothels in Melbourne city for five years as my only income. When the pandemic happened, I’d already taken two months off work due to an (unrelated to work) injury. My Grandma also died within the first weeks of the pandemic.

I had to stop work immediately. I decided to start studying at Tafe a while ago because all the days were blurring into one. The work experience I had before the pandemic could maybe have helped me find a new job but how can I explain a five-year gap in my resume?

I have no idea how I’ll explain it to employers in the future. I have learned so many useful skills from my job but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use those experiences as a way to get my foot in the door of a new job. I have no idea what the future holds for me but I hope my reskilling can help me figure out something new.


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