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COTA

Story 1

The whole time it was happening to me I thought this is unreal; I should be recording this.

I became redundant in March 2014. I have only recently landed a job and from my redundancy to now it has been an exhausting, humiliating and psychologically destructive experience. I had to work really, really hard not to fall off the perch. At times it was a constant process of learning to do the same thing over and over again - and failing.

Wasn't it Einstein who said if you enjoy doing the same thing over and over again to no effect, it's a sign of madness? For me it was a nightmare. Being unemployed and then realising what is expected of you is really crazy stuff.

I was a wholesale manager of solar products.Story 1

First I tried employment agencies and when I first got an interview the woman told me honestly that my age was the reason I was having so many problems. I was then only 59. She also said that I wasn't tech-savvy and that employers want young people who do Linked In, Facebook, Instagram and all that stuff. She said there was a job that she wasn't even going to put me forward for because she knew the male employer wanted a young, tech-savvy person.

About ten weeks later I saw this same job advertised again so I rang her up and said "Now look, obviously whoever you've sent hasn't got the skills - tell him I'll do the job for free for ten weeks just so he can see that I'm good at it." But she wouldn't even give me a go. That sort of attitude is so humiliating.

With the Centrelink job network you have to apply for so many jobs a week. I had a very wide skill base but I wasn't getting past the interviews.

All this stress has affected my health and made my skin break out a bit. One guy kept staring at my face and asking "are you sure you're going to get to work on time?"

A few of them asked me how old I was and I said "you do realise you are not supposed to ask me about my age." One of them said "yes I know but if I employ you then you'll have to tell me how old you are anyway."

Being a woman of maturity is a disability.

Then I started ringing up people after the interviews to ask why I didn't get the jobs. I was consistently told that it was my age, that I was close to retirement and they didn't want to spend the money retraining me. I was spending an enormous number of hours looking and then applying for jobs and then travelling to the interviews. If you didn't have a computer and a car you just couldn't do it.

The unemployment system is broken if you are a woman and over 50. Your life experience just doesn't count. You have life skills that you never lose but they are never in consideration.

So many volunteer jobs could become real jobs. Bigger companies are getting cheap labour by using volunteers. Why not have a system whereby the firm pays part of the salary and the government the rest so that we can show the value of our skills and our experience? Even political parties were using volunteers for real jobs. And they should be paying them. There are ways that we could fix this broken system.

One of the people in the Centrelink jobs network said to me: "It's like winning the Lotto; you just have to keep buying the tickets." So I kept applying for more and more jobs. The government doesn't make it easy for you to work for two weeks without being cut off from the unemployment pension.

I do not want to go into retirement. One male interviewer was as old as me - he was a pompous ass - and I had to say to him "I will be 62 and I'm not going to retire or die soon!"

They don't seem to believe in the transference of skills from one job to a different one. I was told "we want to hire someone who has done this job before."

Finally I was forced to face the fact that my age was my biggest problem. I was determined that they were not going to knock me down. You just have to keep putting yourself up and trying again and again. I've lost count of the number of jobs I've applied for and the number of interviews I did.

A lot of the employment places are using what are known as algorithms so if you don't use the right words in your application you don't get past the gate-keeper. Then there are health checks and psychological tests.

Once you are over 60 Centrelink don't expect you to work more than 20 hours a week. What if you are in a desperate financial situation? There are all these dichotomies that exacerbate the problem.

I have a BA and a post graduate diploma in conflict management. No one took any notice of my qualifications. They never referred to them.

Eventually I got a job back in the solar industry. I was one of the lucky ones. If the government wants women to work at least until they are 70 or over they are going to have to change the system and the culture.