Working on the creative team as company manager for touring Spiegeltent shows was a dream job for entertainment industry veteran Nicci Brooks.
But in March, Covid-19 hit hard. With the entertainment and live event industry completely shut down midway through a Hobart season in the Spiegeltent, Brooks was sent home.
“I rallied myself and embraced the whole not working thing as I’m used to working non-stop and being on the hamster wheel of life,” Brooks said.
“I did feel lucky to have been able to be on JobKeeper at the start of Covid because I know of so many who couldn’t - and I’d heard lots of horror stories from my international friends.”
About one in four adult Australians are on JobKeeper payments of some kind. The scheme started in April this year – and a slightly more restricted version of that same payment system has been extended until March 2021.
But for thousands of Australians like Brooks, the initial relief of gaining access to JobKeeper, and the news that it would extend into 2021, was short lived, as more and more employers realised they wouldn’t be able to keep their businesses afloat.
Also read: JobKeeper and JobSeeker: What has changed?
Those that were initially put on JobKeeper were beginning to realise they wouldn’t be able to keep their job.
Brooks said that her and her colleagues were informed via email that they were being stood down at the end of September, but two weeks later their employment was terminated.
Now, she had to face the reality that she no longer had financial stability, and the industry she loved may never recover.
“It’s the first time I’ve felt the unease – what’s my next step? The reality is, for a lot of us that may be an entire career change and that itself is daunting and confusing,” she said.
“I know when and if we return to shows I would be offered a contract but not knowing how long you have to doggy paddle about life is totally unnerving and scary. I seriously don’t know what I want to do….I was hoping to get through until next year on JobKeeper just so there was some sort of hope to hold onto.”
Amanda De Boire, a successful freelance marketing consultant based in Sydney, also found herself on JobKeeper in April.
While De Boire said the security of having some regular income from JobKeeper was helpful, but eventually being unemployed took its toll.
“I was busy looking for other work, and I applied to freeze my outgoings with the companies that were offering, like credit cards and insurance. I also signed up for one of the free TAFE courses, web design, and completed it, so overall was feeling quite positive and grateful that I was getting JobKeeper,” she said.
“But after months of applying for lots of jobs and not getting anywhere I began to feel a little despondent and wondering what I could do, and I was beginning to feel a little trapped at home all the time.”
After networking on social media, De Boire managed to launch a new marketing business, which gave her a renewed focus to carry on.
But being a sole trader and relying on a single income, the prospect of the new year and a recession bringing even fewer freelance marketing projects is daunting.
“I am feeling a little scared about 2021,” she said. “The main thing that worries me is not having enough money for somewhere to live in the new year if I don’t get work.”
And Brooks shares similar fears.
“Now that the safety net of JobKeeper has gone I feel anxious, emotional and grieving the loss of my job as well as feeling sad for the entire company, owners, hospitality staff, technical crew and performers, who have all lost the subsidy,” she said.
“I like to be self-sufficient so relying on my partner for now is challenging and I don’t like the feel of not financially contributing.
“We are lucky as his industry hasn’t been affected at all but it doesn’t make it any easier. I’m trying to not let myself think too far into the future as that is way too much right now, I’ve literally been thinking day by day, week by week and not get overwhelmed.”
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