Emily's story - Work for the Dole


Emily had a plan after finishing high school. She was going to work to save money so she could support herself through University.

Three years, 720 job applications and 4 interviews later, Emily is still looking for work.

Emily’s transition from high school to paid employment hasn’t gone as she hoped.

In this chapter, Emily talks about her experiences with Work for the Dole.

So I did my Work for the Dole at an Op Shop

I had to work 25 hours a week for six months for basically $10 a week – I got an extra $20 a fortnight on top of my youth allowance.

The [charity op shop] was an eight minute walk from where I live. The tasks I had to do were: clean all the dressing rooms, clean the store, work the till, do the money handling (which I was not supposed to do, but my manager did not care), dealt with customer complaints & refunds (which once again I was not supposed to do), and I was almost always the only one on the floor, so had to do all this by myself.

At one point I was sorting hats, bric-a-brac and jewellery out the front while I was serving everyone while at the same time I was supposed to be cleaning the store.

There was just a general disinterest for my wellbeing.

I felt like I was being treated like a slave.  Especially after he [manager] told me that people who were casual staff for [charity op shop] were getting laid off because work for the dole was taking their jobs. And good people were losing their jobs. We had casuals come in every Saturday - It used to be a different person every week but then it was just the same person and I asked what was up and they were like “there’s none of us left”.


I worked as hard as a normal employee, had the same responsibilities as a normal employee, but I didn’t have the same rights as a normal employee.

Everything was fine in the first two weeks, but after that I didn’t get a break for like at least two and a half weeks.

The manager took breaks whenever he wanted. There were other volunteers who weren’t from Work for the Dole - if they had a little inconvenience at work they would be like “I’m going home” and they would be allowed to and I would have to pick up all their work.

I almost had to beg from my break every day. I worked there five days a week for five hours, and because I was the only one on the floor I had to almost beg for a break.  I worked 12pm to 5:30pm every day, sometimes it would get to like 4:30pm and I still hadn’t had lunch, and I would be asking and he [manager] would be like “well it’s almost home time do you really need it?”.

Because I was the only one there, people would steal something from the other side of the store and I wouldn’t be able to see, but it was my fault.  

They did not care.

Some customers would scream abuse at me because they wanted a discount - and I would have to take it ‘cos I was the only one there.


There was no one I could really talk to.

I told my job provider worker everything and they were like “oh that’s awful” and then did absolutely nothing.

There was this other work for the dole person at [charity op shop] and he has a really bad back injury from previous work which is why he can’t get hired, cos you know you get injured at work- it’s over. He can’t stand up for an extended amount of time, but the manager was just like “oh you’ll be fine”. He hasn’t worked in there for three weeks because he’s been in hospital.

And the job provider was also like “you’ll be alright, it’ll be fine”. Basically their [job provider] attitude was ‘if it’s not fine, it will be’. It was terrible.


You can add these new skills and experiences to your resume, but it’s still not enough to help you get a job.

It’s why I’ve actually had to continue [volunteering] at the [charity op shop] to try and bring that [experience] up. It’s still the same, but now I can go home when I want because I’m no longer on Work for the Dole, but the manager still treating like I am. So whenever I go to go home he’s like “no you’re not allowed to” and I’m literally told not to leave. I still don’t have the same rights as volunteers. I’ve been at the [charity op shop] for 7 months.

I don’t have to do another Work for the Dole program for six months, then I have to start again, which I’m not looking forward to because once you’ve done the first one you know what to expect and what you have to expect is not fun.

I’m dreading it.

Now work for the dole is over, I’m basically doing the same thing as before - applying for 20 jobs a month.


I’ll tell you the worst thing that happened…

At Work for the Dole, this girl came into the shop, I’d had known her from previous experiences. She came in and straight to counter and started screaming at me, to the point where everyone in store was staring; I was terrified, in tears and about to fall onto floor in terror. When she finished and walked out of the store - I was distraught.

I walked out the back to my manager, tears flowing down my face, I was snotty, I was obviously in a very bad place. I asked manager to take a break. He said “it’s not my problem” and sent me back.


I tried to explain the situation and he said he’s not interested in knowing, that my personal life none of his concern. And I was like, this is not personal life anymore, this is work - it’s not even work it’s volunteering.


There were times where I definitely felt unsafe.

There have been people who generally want a massive discount on stuff and when I say no (because I’m not allowed to) they scream, throw things, and one person grabbed my hair.

Then there have been other times, when I’ve asked customers whether they need help or something and they’ve been blatantly rude - it’s not as bad but it’s still not great. They’re probably having a bad day, but so am I. And I’ve had people just be rude - it’s not fun to work at especially when you have to deal with it all of it yourself as your manager doesn’t give a [expletive] .

It's just six months of crap basically.

It needs to be fixed...

Again, massive thanks to Emily. Keep tabs on Our News to see the rest of her story, and to see what we have to say about employment, unemployment, and what needs to happen moving forward.

If you have any thoughts or opinions, let us know below.

Do you have an experience with Work for the Dole? What could/should be done? What are your questions, concerns, ideas or opinions?

Read our story on why the narrative around youth unemployment needs to change