Category Archives: Read others’ stories

Work for the Dole Updates: Members’ Stories

Recently the union asked our members for stories and information regarding their experiences with work for the dole. The response has been amazing! In this series of posts we want to share some of the harrowing tales from the coalface of this ridiculous programme.

If you or anyone you know has done work for the dole, make sure to fill out our survey to help us Boycott Work for the Dole #BoycottWFTD

Kara from Queensland says her work was demeaning, abusive and pointless:

Utterly disgusting. No training, no explanation of tasks needing to be done. Slave labor for zero benefit. Verbally abused by the “supervisor”. Made a formal written complaint, site manager brushed it off completely. I left and never returned. Sorting rotten fruit and vegetables for 8 hours a day. Mopping floors multiple times a day when once was more than sufficient. Biggest waste of my time ever!

Lisa from the Blue Mountains was forced to work at Vinnies, but there was little to do, seems like another situation where the JSA and the host are more interested in getting their government payouts than actually getting people into work.

I was not allowed to be trained on the till or anything else. The only job I was allowed to do was to colour code the clothes on the racks and pick up dropped coathangers. So nothing, really. I was not allowed any breaks at all, while the volunteers got morning tea supplied and a lunch break, I was required to “work” through, though there was no actual work to be done.

The irony is not lost on James in Sydney who reckons his host organisation’s mission was undermined by their methods:

Coercive slavery for a religious organisation that claimed to provide respite for the less fortunate but forcibly employed those same people instead of actually being a good corporate citizen and paying someone for their work!

We were not told about safety issues, we were encouraged by the Work for the Dole not to bother with insurance for accidents, we could not use it for a resume, and the whole exercise took us away from actually applying for actual work!

A story from the other side, Judith, a worker hired to implement a WFTD programme in Victoria, says she was massively under-resourced and had to reach into her own pocket to get basic needs met. At the AUWU we ask, where does all the funding for this programme disappear to?

I was employed under contract by St Vincent De Paul to run a Work For The Dole program over 10 years ago, and I found the facilities for participants were incredibly substandard, while expectations of them were incredibly high. Likewise, the conditions for me as the sole staff member onsite. I endeavored to make the environment as safe and comfortable for participants as possible, but I was untrained and unable to secure the necessary resources from my employer. I often had to use my own money and resources to run the program. It was among the more humiliating treatment of human beings that I have ever seen and I would not work in such a role ever again. I felt that the participants and I were all trapped in a cruel, unfair and broken system. I have also lost all belief in, and respect for, St Vincent De Paul as a charitable organisation, and for the Work For the Dole program.

Sandor from Ethelton in South Australia was exposed to asbestos before he successfully got the worksite shut down. This is an absolute outrage and there are many questions unanswered:

I was exposed to Asbestos at my work for the dole site. Safe work SA cover up. They denied any information about the investigation. All they would tell me is the site is shut down. I am the person who started the investigation. I have photos of the Asbestos also the asbestos managment center confirmed how dangerous it was. Michalea Cash claims the asbestos i was exposed to was safe and the site was safe. I have her letter from her saying this and other lies. No one from work for dole site the supervior host or job network was held liable or prosecuted for my exposure. Every day I think about what they done to me. If it will affect me it’s a matter of time. Shut Work for the dole down it has killed inocent people already and will injure and kill more.
Pissed off

Ted from Brisbane was forced to perform skilled labour with no training, under extremely unsafe conditions:

Very exhausting , my job is doing a fully qualified tradies would do. eg. putting up a corrugated steel ceiling and insulation in the roof system . two persons get hoisted up using a forklift and standing on a pellet without a cage or a harness. One wrong move and can you can fall onto a concrete floor. Very unsafe , I mentioned it to the team leader , he just said it is fine.

That’s it for this update, but we’ve got more to come. In the mean time we’d love to hear your story and if you want to help Boycott Work for the Dole, please fill out our survey!

The Nightmare That Is The DES


Disability Employment Services Provider

C/- Site Manager


Subject: Disability Employment Services Assistance – 11 Years


Just following up on my request of 5th September, 2016 and wondered if you had yet followed up with the Department of Employment / Department of Social Services to seek guidance and advice as to how your employment service can assist registered jobseekers ‘against all odds’.  The National Customer Service Line’s repeatitive approach for jobseekers to routinely transfer from one job agency to another on a yearly basis, is not a solution, nor is it welcomed.


In terms of Disability Employment support, the Department of Social Services have made their mission clear that they  are not willing to assist improve employment services, policies and quality of life for  Australian jobseekers left long term disadvantaged and in social exclusion by discrimination, the system, legislation, disability or other reasons.


I have also been informed by  the Department of Social Services that they are no longer acknowledging nor responding to jobseeker’s feedback regarding jobseeker’s time in the system actively looking for work, as they feel they have adequately addressed all issues raised despite no change in outcome every single year.  Feedback of which now sits electronically filed away and closed in government’s Employment Services Feedback System.


At our next fortnightly employment consultant appointment, rather than me continue to apply for work endlessly that is repeatitively unsuccessful or may not exist through illegitimate, unproductive and unsuccessful cyberspace applications on a yearly basis, I would please like to discuss what the Department of Employment or Department of Social Services’s recommendations are as to how your agency can assist me re-enter ‘paid’ employment taking into consideration all of the below, as clearly government is either ignoring or not aware of the ill health impact of yearly jobseeking has on Australian jobseekers.


Ongoing barriers:-

  1. Denied eligibility as a mature age jobseeker to ‘Restart’, a government iniative implemented to assist mature age jobseeker’s enter or re-enter employment.
  2. Denied access to government funded traineeships into a new career pathway regularly in demand in my region by The Department of Education & Training, Traineeship centres and Government’s eligibility criterias
  3. Denied access to Australian apprenticeships
  4. Denied access to ALL employers and suitable employment opportunities in my profession of 25+ years by the private recruiting sector based on – discrimination, age, unemployment gaps, Australian nationality and disclosure of medical condition.
  5. Denied access to ALL employment opportunities within my profession through online jobboard sites due to discrimination, age, unemployment gaps on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis.  I note that employers continue to advertise the same roles up to and in excess of 3 months despite having already, suitably qualified applicants  for the role, of which your agency has not been able to assist with, and which online job boards fail to do anything about it, despite Australian jobseekers being ‘desperate’ for work.
  6. Limited and inadequate employment assistance (no outcome) – 2006 Wise Employment, 2007 Wise Employment, 2008 Wise Employment, 2009 Wise Employment & Tracy Placement People, 2010 Matchworks, 2011 WCIG & Matchworks, 2012 Jobco, 2013 Jobco & Matchworks, 2014 Wise Employment & Job Prospects, 2015 WCIG, Employment Plus, Advanced Personnel Management, ORS Group, 2016 ORS Group, current WCIG.


I note I have been willingly attending fortnightly DES appointments to gain fulltime employment as a voluntary skilled Australian jobseeker coming up to now –  11 years  .  Appauling at every level.


It is clear to everyone in the system that the Australian government does not wish to adequately fund or assist long term unemployed Australians into ‘paid’ employment and it is extremely clear that the Department of Social Services has no intention of implementing change for those left long term disadvantaged by the system.  In terms of women being affected by domestic violence as a result of being left long term unemployed without adequate assistance, again government is failing in its duty of care to provide adequate assistance and funding.


I would like to obtain a response next appointment please of the department’s recommendations as to what their expectations are as to how your agency is expected to assist me, given all the exclusions above which they consider ‘acceptable’.


Thanks again.


Kind regards


Registered Australian Jobseeker – 11 Years

Australian families matter!

Centrelink and Job Agencies Discriminate Against the Sick

I would like to give you a scenario of reverse discrimination as a Newstart Job Seeker. I have two permanent medical conditions that prevent me from working efficiently at my old professions, mainly in Accounting and administration work.
I became so ill that I was eventually qualified for a very expensive govt subsidised drug called Humira, an anti-rheumatic disease modifying agent. I applied for sickness benefit and disability pension as my illness is no longer something I can hide in the workplace, like I used to have to do, after getting so many sessions of counselling about my sick leave being greater than four incidents in one year!  I have a limp that Is too painful to hide due to arthritis in the sacro-iliac joint. I eventually had to leave that job in my own account as it became too stressful for me due to my health condition, as I was not being taken seriously, in a job in NSW.
I then moved to Qld to assist in the pain management of my condition, sold my house, which I have had to live on the proceeds for the last couple of years working out how I find a job with the health condition and keep it. Some job providers I have had have not recognised my medical condition, and have done things like change my resume and distribute it to employers without my knowledge, or consent. I had a course I wanted to finish which cost me $3000 but Centrelink said it is not recognised, so I had to leave the course I had almost completed to meet my job plan applying for jobs. I no longer have access to that course as it has now expired, while I was too ill to apply for jobs and finish my study.
When I had a job in 2015, I got without the help of the job provider, one disability employment provider sent me daily messages and threatening letters saying I was breaking the law by not coming in to their office after I had obtained a full time temporary job. The job was 2.5 hrs from the job provider’s office, in Brisbane, where I commute to with a medical condition.  I told Centrelink immediately I had the job, who confirmed to me on on one of my days off, face to face e, that this agency should not be expecting me to turn up for meetings now I was in a full time temporary role. I even had this agency ringing me with my supervisor sitting next to me training me insisting I had to report into their offices, although I had told them and Centrelink multiple times I am in a full time role 100km from the job provider, and no longer looking for work. They lied about the multiple phone calls I had with them issuing letter that I was uncontactable.  When I made a formal complaint to the appropriate govt body, they took the side of the job provider, saying they were not acting inappropriately.
I have since had to re-register with Centrelink Newstart, and immediately on doing so this same agency started with the the threatening letters again, and issuing appointments without providing sufficient notice, the evening before and appointment, by text message. When I arranged to transfer to my current provider, they instructed the current provider to cut my signature off the wrong transfer form and paste it onto the right transfer form. I was sitting at the desk of the job provider who refused to do this, and said they would leave me the right form to come back in and sign once they have received it from the agency I had the issue with.
Anyhow, I am now back unemployed and refused to go back to that last job provider, as I am afraid of them.  Anxiety drives my medical condition. The punitive system has driven my auto immune condition to get worse at times.
While looking for other avenues that would suit my medical condition, in each and every case, the training I would otherwise be eligible for being unemployed and living on Centrelink which does not even cover food and rent, now that I have spent all my savings surviving, I am ineligible for simply because I have a degree. I cannot have something higher than a Cert III to get assistance, yet I cannot physically do what I used to do because of my physical condition. So where do I fit in? Nowhere.
Just this morning, I applied for an apprenticeship as a medical receptionist, part time which would have been perfect for me, and my health condition. It all was looking fantastic when suddenly they learnt I had a degree, and therefore, did not qualify. So now I am back to the drawing board to apply for jobs that won’t suit my medical condition that I will have to try and hide, if I get one of them, rather than focus in what I can physically handle.
I am genuinely afraid of my future prospects. I will eventually completely run out of money to survive.
Every job I go for is already taken by the time I apply for it, isn’t a real job advertisement, or I don’t have current software and experience in my accounting field, medical receptionist and admin field, according to job recruiters, yet I have no assistance to do anything about it as I have higher than a Cert III. Yet, had I been recognised for suitable re-training, I most probably would be in a job by now as I genuinely want to work had I not had a degree.
I spent another $2000 doing a comprehensive medical terminology course to get employed, but again, said I did not have the experience other candidates have. I have no more money left for my own personal training, and I am not recognised for government sponsored training into a role, because I have a degree.
That is reverse discrimination. Things need to change, as I could be employed, only for a  policy that is one size fits all.
I have gone to my local and federal MP Offices, they suggested I discuss my issue with Centrelink.

How Job Agencies Bully the Sick

To whom it may concern at Advance Personel/ Workways,

Hello my name is Anastasia (Ana) Hanson, I spoke to you today about what has become in my opinion a destructive relationship with my Advance Personnel worker, possibly with the organization as a whole. Attached is the Centrelink medical certificate for you asked for. I tried to message it to the phone number you gave me, apparently it wasn’t received by Melony* and later this afternoon I received a message saying that it was not a valid phone number for a client to message to. I wish to outline how things have gotten to the point where I feel that this program is actually being destructive to my health, well-being, and in the long term – employment outcomes. Please take the time to read these concerns.

I came to this service as a volunteer whilst on the Disability Pension because I wanted to work; unemployment making me bored, poor and depressed. At the time this seemed the right thing for me to do although in hindsight maybe it was a mistake.

I did not have Centrelink requirements to participate in eight hours of work before I engaged with this service independently. I never had a meeting with this agency or  Centrelink where a doctor’s certificate outlined that I should be obliged to work for eight hours a week. I do not know how this change came about, although I suspect it was forced on me because I wanted to find employment. I wanted to work… this does not mean I was in a medically stable position to have that forced on me. Regardless, these requirements have been put in place although at this moment I am not well enough to meet them. I do know that advance personnel has certain requirements to engage with me but I believe the following such incidences explain why I believe it is actually become quite toxic.

  • I was hospitalised for two weeks in which time Melony* was still making appointments for me to come and see her – obviously I could not make these. I got the impression that Melinda did not believe I was in hospital to begin with, however she called the hospital and found I was indeed an inpatient. She continued to make appointments for me the entire time I was in Hospital. Almost every day I asked my nurses and doctors to write a letter as Melinda suggested but it was not until my discharge that I received a medical certificate. I handed this certificate to Melinda as soon I what’s I was able to come to Advance Personnel.
  • I went virtually from one acute illness to another, for which I am being treated now and for which my doctor has recommended a few months to recover without any threat to my welfare payment. During this period I decided that it was not safe for me to drive (and I cannot walk to the closest bus stop)… Regardless Melony* keeps telling me to come in for appointments without offering any realistic solutions as to how I can do that. I have between three and five medical or disability support appointments a week at present, I also need to go to the pharmacy twice a week, (grocery shopping is something I’m not prioritising the moment, although I know it is important – I am often hungry). It is very difficult for me to attend medical appointments but I do have a worker from the organization TREC who has been helping me. However when I explained that I am doing my best to work on recovery – by trying to get to appointments for example- this was met with a kind of accusation: (paraphrasing) that if I can make it to my doctors, how come I can’t meet the requirements to look for eight hours of work a week?
  • I feel like my illness has too often been questioned despite my best attempts to give evidence, a kind of accusation that I am not really ill – (paraphrasing ) because Centrelink hasn’t approved an exemption for work requirements within  24 hours of me going to Centrelink, then did I really go to Centrelink at all? Do I even have adoctor’s certificate? If I am so sick how did I even get to Centrelink? As explained:  from the moment I went to hospital I have done everything to try and get doctor’s certificates to Advance Personnel and to Centrelink, however once I have asked my doctor (as in hospital), or lodged something to Centrelink  (as in yesterday), sent MMS messages to a phone number that was later revealed to have never received it, there really is nothing more in my power I can do. I am sending this email now with attachments, but please bear in mind that I only got the letter yesterday and I was given the impression that sending the letter via MMS would be adequate. And I am very unwell.
  •  When I try to explain all of this to Melony* she says, “I understand mate but you have to come in”, it seems she does not understand all -I CANNOT come in. Furthermore I do not want to come in simply to placate Centrelink, when from the beginning I wanted to treat looking for work seriously. I do not think my worker seriously cares about my prospects for employment. I feel the decisions I have made such as focusing on recovery, not driving when I feel I am too unwell to do it safely, with only limited access to transport prioritising medical appointments over seeing Advance Personnel etc – are the right decisions to make when I bear in mind long-term recovery and long-term prospects of employment. I feel that Melony* does not care why I am making these decisions, she only cares that I come in so she can mark me off for Centrelink
  • Melony* is calling me every second day – ‘You have to come in, You have to come in – no ‘buts’, I understand mate but you have to come in’, now she is threatening me with ‘disciplianry action’.

I do understand there are certain obligations AdvancePersonnel workers have to follow, however; I had a much better relationship with my previous worker Sarah*. Although I still had periods of illness at that time, we had a constructive relationship that was focused on eventually getting me into work (encouraging me to focus on my health while looking for work, introducing me to volunteer work, taking my obstacles to work seriously and engaging in things that would make me more prepared to have meaningful employment in the long-term). In contrast, the one time I saw Melony* in between these two acute periods of illness I expressed my concerns about how my disability/illness would affect my reliability in the workplace – she simply said, ‘just don’t worry about it ’. All of the above gives me the impression that my worker sees her job with me to simply mark me off for Centrelink, but is not really interested in my long-term prospects of working which MUST involve considering the impact of my disability on my ability to work, hopefully working around it, but it seems unrealistic to just “not worry about it.”

When Advance Personnel merged with Work Ways and I somehow went from being a volunteer to having paperwork for Centrelink at my appointments, I expressed some concern- while I was happy to sign the documentation for Centrelink I worried that the focus of the organisation would become orientated to meeting the requirements ABOVE realistic engagement in employment. I hope that this isn’t true overall of Advance Personnel/Work Ways… But my recent experiences seem to warrant my concerns. Melony* is most likely following all of the protocol of her job, however I hope you can see that for me it seems that the focus ISN’T employment: I feel I am being hassled, accused of feigning illness and threatened with poverty as ‘disciplinary action’, while the truth is I am dealing with health problems that are a matter of life and death.

Obviously this is highly stressful for me or I wouldn’t be writing such a letter. As you know I am hoping that Centrelink will exempt me from looking for work for the next three months. I DID  go to Centrelink yesterday, I believe they probably just haven’t processed for form yet. I s believe I will be exempted. If I am not – I will appeal that decision and I am pretty sure I will have the support of my healthorkers. I need this period to focus on my health. If I recover adequately I truly do wish to work, I spent seven years at university and have post-graduate qualifications. When I start to look for work I would really appreciate some help from a disability organisation (Advance Personnel or otherwise). I have worked before and when I look for work I take it very seriously. When I need to focus on my health I take that very seriously as well. Those two priorities have to coexist. And for me to truly progress with employment I believe I need a worker (Sarah* was a fine example), who will understand this struggle, and take me seriously as well.

Thank you for taking the time to read this,

Yours sincerely,

Ana Hanson.

You Are Not Legally Obliged to Sign Privacy Agreement: AUWU Member

Rozie, AUWU member

8 August 2016

I was given a job plan and told I must sign it immediately.  When I questioned my caseworker if I was legally required to do this she said that if I didn’t, my benefits may be cancelled.  After I told her that as a member of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, I was aware of my right to take the “contract” home to read it, I asked her again if I was legally required to sign the job plan that day. Her reply this time was “no”.


My next meeting was a month later with a new, and hopefully more honest, caseworker.  I produced my signed job plan but hadn’t signed the privacy statement as I had a number of concerns.  The statement said in part:

I understand that the information I provide may be used by AMES Consortium and the department of Employment.  It may also be given to:


  • Organisations listed under the AMES Consortium that I am referred to for assessment or training.
  • Any other assessment or training providers.

I told the CW that I was concerned that if I signed this document, I would be giving AMES Consortium permission to forward my details to ANY assessment or training providers.  I also stated that as I had already completed the highest level of training needed to perform the tasks of my profession, I could not understand how AMES could believe I would benefit from “further training”.


When I asked for further information about specific training courses he thought would increase my chances of finding employment, he was unable to provide this.


I then asked the CW if I was legally required to sign this document.  His first answer was yes.  He also stated that if I didn’t sign it, he would be obliged to report me to Centrelink and that my benefits would be reduced or cancelled.


It was at this point that I asked to speak to the office manager.  She informed me that I was legally obliged to sign the document.  I didn’t believe this so I questioned her further and also asked her to clarify which, if any, “assessment” or “training providers” my personal information would be sent to.  She seemed unable to answer this question beyond a vague reassurance that further training and assessment would greatly increase my chances of finding employment.


The office manager stated that if I didn’t sign the document, AMES would be obliged to report me to Centrelink and that this would affect my eligibility to receive Newstart payments.  She also stated that they would be unable to sign me up to their “job club” or to provide “individually tailored employment assistance”. I replied that I was more than capable of writing job applications and arranging interviews and as such, could not see the benefit of attending their office for weekly job club pep talks.


After once again asking the office manager if I was obliged to sign the privacy statement, she finally conceded that I was not legally required to do so.


It was a great outcome because I was then able to spend all my time job searching at home instead of having to travel to their office.


I’ve now started a new full-time job and I did it all on my own without further “assessment” or “training” provided by AMES Consortium.


Accredited Specialist Personal Injury Law (1)