March 28, 2020 10:02:50
Thousands of Australians have found themselves unemployed in the economic downturn caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
For many, they are now in a situation they never thought they would be in: navigating the Centrelink process.
We reached out to people who had lost their jobs and asked how they felt about the prospect of relying on welfare.
On working hard to get off welfare
I’ve been on welfare for years and, eight months ago, I managed to find secure work and get off welfare.
Now my hours are being cut to nothing and I’m having to go back on welfare.
I’m worried about getting work again when this is over.
I spent six years looking for stable employment before finding my current work and am worried that I’m going to have to spend another six looking for work again once this is over.
I’ve only just started to get my life back on track and in the space of 48 hours, everything has fallen down around me.
— Melissa Duncan
On the possibility of not being eligible
I had just got my first full-time job in property development, so I left four of my five part-time jobs. After the virus started getting bigger and bigger, I was cut off due to cash-flow reasons.
Now I’ve now been job hunting for over a month and nothing has come up.
My background is all retail and hospitality, being a university student, so there’s not really much for me out there.
I don’t mind relying on welfare for a short while, but I’m nervous about the application process and being rejected.
I already have been asked to upload documents I don’t have access to and never will, and I don’t have any income and a rent to pay.
Getting rejected would be my last straw.
— Kyle Arnold
On giving up a dream
My husband Pete was a mechanic, but left to start his dream of a home handyman business last year.
We’ve taken a bit hit in our household income during that time, getting the business started.
The business has dried up because people don’t want others in their home.
We are worried we may not even be entitled to any payment … but there is not enough information available to know.
We have no idea where to start.
— Rebekah Stevens
On seeing a career come undone
I’m a salsa dance teacher. Now I have no work at all because of social distancing.
I’m terrified about relying on welfare.
I’ve never gone on Centrelink before and up until now, while I haven’t made lots of money, I’ve survived.
I’ve always wanted to be a valued member of society and I studied and trained hard for 10 years to finally become a senior dance teacher — now I’m scared the whole industry might die and I’ll have wasted my whole adult life.
— Kristi Hall
On working since childhood
I’m a 38-year-old chef and butcher who’s never been unemployed in my whole entire life.
I started work at 15 and now for the first time I’m forced to deal with the welfare system.
I have no idea how to approach it because I’ve always worked to provide for my family and now that I have a four-year-old daughter and my wife works full time as a teacher and I work in hospitality as a chef, we were the first ones to feel the brunt of the crackdown and will probably the last sector to restart again.
God knows when I’ll get back to work.
— James Mead
On being the bearer of bad news
I’m a cafe manager for a corporate-owned store for a large franchise chain. The majority of corporate stores have been closed for the duration of the ban.
I have been told I will be contacted when the ban is lifted but for now we have all been terminated.
I had to terminate [the jobs of] eight young people.
All of them wanted advice on what comes next and, apart from separation certificates and to contact Centrelink, I had no advice.
I don’t know what comes next.
I’ve never been on the dole before. I’ve been in hospitality management for 25 years.
The permanent background ‘work’ noise in my head is desperately looking for something to do.
We’ll survive since the Centrelink payment amount has doubled, but I have no idea how people have been doing that before now. How long do I prepare for?
At least, for the first time I can ever remember, there is some sympathy for people who are unemployed… so there’s that I suppose.
— Anita Norman
On not knowing what comes next
I’m a full-time drag queen! Or at least I was.
All the venues I perform at have been forced to close and I’m running out of fabulous finances.
I’ll be fine living on Centrelink but have little to no idea when I’ll receive payment or how to do it from home!
I’m self-isolating and don’t want to physically go into the office.
Nothing is clear at the moment and I’m waiting until it is made transparent for sequinned sisters like myself!
— Oliver Levi-Malouf
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
I’m a 24-year-old lawyer and just got laid off as the courts are shutting and it’s all slowing.
I now have no job.
It’s already hard to get a job in law so even after the virus I have no idea what I will do because I live in a regional area.
I am stressed about even being accepted for welfare.
— Abby Thorne
On feeling grateful for a safety net
I have three jobs: one in hospitality, one in with school leadership programs and one as an event photographer.
When the Government announced no more than 100 people in an indoor gathering, I lost all three of those income supplies.
I’ve worked since I was 14. I am now 28. I have, more often than not, had at least two jobs at one time and I have never thought I would have to access welfare.
I am grateful that we live in a country that has a welfare system that we can access and I am grateful that I have a very strong support network around me.
— Nathan Bassett
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
I was working as a ski travel specialist.
As you can imagine, anything travel related is basically dead at the moment, especially international travel in a niche market.
The prospect of going onto Jobseeker is pretty daunting, especially having never navigated the welfare system like this before.
I was really surprised and happy at how empathetic and professional the staff at Centrelink were. They made sure I had all the information I needed to proceed.
I’m worried about living on around $1,100 a fortnight, but if it was still at $560 a fortnight I’d be wigging out.
— Jono Edwards
On taking a new perspective
I’m actually on maternity leave from a major university.
My husband is a sole trader whose income comes primarily from being a civil celebrant and from doing private violin tuition from home.
In the last eight days, I have watched his income drop to almost zero and, in real terms, we have already lost the equivalent of a month’s worth of mortgage repayments.
We are now facing the prospect of the two of us being on welfare for the next six months.
I feel like there’s a great empathy building opportunity here — for example, understanding a little how refugees might feel; how people suddenly become homeless through no fault of their own; how the hardest-working people don’t make the most money.
— Megan Redfern
The Federal Government estimates at least 1 million people could be made unemployed as the economic effect of coronavirus sets in.
All week, people lined up at Centrelink offices across the country to try and seek access to welfare payments — namely, the $550 fortnightly Coronavirus Supplement payment.
The demand for help was so high on Monday it crashed Centrelink’s website.
The Government Services Minister responsible for the MyGov website, which is linked to Centrelink services, admitted he didn’t anticipate the scale of demand for the site.
Disclaimer: Some of these responses have been edited for length.
March 28, 2020 06:33:20