by Lauren Hislop Click a chapter link (right) to follow this story from the beginning. When my contract with CPA drew to a close, I strongly believed that due to my previous position I would find employment relatively soon. I wrote job applications on a weekly basis without receiving any responses. It felt like Groundhog Day. The disability employment service that helped me find work was based in Sydney but, for practical reasons they needed to transfer me to a local employment consultant agency. In writing this post, for privacy reasons, I’ll call my new employment consultant ‘Sam’. I still was skeptical of employment agencies but, because I had success with the previous agency, I decided to give it a try. I would regularly catch up with Sam. He promised to assist me in finding work. As I didn’t receive any income support, my desperation for any form of revenue grew. So, once again, I was churning out job applications weekly without receiving any positive response. I relayed to Sam my financial situation, stressing the fact that I needed work of some sort. Although he never appeared alert and highly responsive, his willingness to help me seemed sincere. However, incidents began to occur with Sam that made me question his intention to find me employment. One day, Sam and I were having our weekly debriefing over the phone. As usual, I relayed to him the job applications I had made that week. He responded with, ‘well what else are you going to do, watch TV?’ I was so insulted. Enraged I slammed the hang up button on my mobile. A minute later my mobile started to ring—it was Sam. I refused to answer it. Later that afternoon, his supervisor spoke to me, claiming that Sam didn’t mean it, that I should give him another chance etc. Sam proceeded to write me a profusely apologetic email. I stupidly gave him another try as I was desperate for employment. Although it was difficult to not feel some animosity towards him, this led to him becoming the source of mockery at our house. My partner Dudley would patiently listen to my regular rants regarding Sam. I would spit his name out in between obscenities. During this time I joined a working group for a local disability service—a peer led organisation designed to prepare people with disabilities for the Nation Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The working group was comprised of people with disabilities, parents and allies of people with disabilities. It was a welcome distraction from my employment search and my employment consultant Sam. One of the allies of the group, Barbel, was a researcher so, I took the opportunity to network by showing her my resume. I told her that I was qualified in social research and asked her if she knew of any opportunity for researchers could she please let me know. Barbel beamed. She did have 10 hours of contract work to offer me. She needed someone to conduct interviews, transcribe them and write reports. I felt as though I came across a pot of gold. She said I would need an ABN, so this began my work as a contractor/consultant. At my next meeting with Sam, I told him about the opportunity Barbel offered me. He asked if I could give him Barbel’s details so he could chat to her about the opportunity. I naively gave him her details in good faith, trusting he would promote my abilities. The following week, after my next meeting with the working party, Barbel pulled me aside, and in the poorly lit meeting room, she revealed a horrendous fact. ‘What are you doing with Sam?’ she exclaimed. I was perplexed. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘He was trying to talk me out of hiringyou,’ she explained. I felt ill. He apparently tried to discourage her from hiring me. Heat cascaded through my body, my muscles grew tense. The person who was remunerated to assist me in acquiring employment was acting as a deterrent. I am not a violent person, but visions of slapping his dour face with my uncoordinated hand intruded my thoughts. Fortunately, Barbel wasn’t dissuaded in hiring me. I produced what she requested and she seemed satisfied with the result. It was an amazing feeling knowing I was rewarded for my time. The years of study may be starting to pay off. Although I was consumed with rage towards Sam I never confronted him about this because he had helped with a job application to the NDIS which resulted in receiving a call back for an interview. I told Sam who seemed to be elated for me. While I was quite prepared to attend the interview alone, Sam offered to take me. As I recall, we arranged for him to pick me up early so I would be prompt for the interview. He was a little late, however, we were still ahead of schedule. I was required to bring photocopies of documents with me to the interview but I didn’t have these. Sam wanted to call by somewhere to make copies of the documents. As I saw the time, I explained that if we made copies, I could be late and I’m sure that we would be able to make them after the interview. He insisted on stopping somewhere and making copies, resulting in me being fifteen minutes late for the interview. As the sun beat down on me in the car, I remained silent but my anxiety was at a heightened state. When we parked outside the office, my phone started ringing. No doubt, it was the interviewer asking where I was. As I walked into the interview room, the panel had three people. One of the panel members was a woman from the disability service organisation working party I was on. She smiled at me sympathetically, which gave me a moment of solace. I do not recall the questions, or my response. Due to my late arrival, I believed the interview was doomed from the onset. When it ended, I asked Sam if he could take me to see my partner at work, as he was close by. Before we pulled up outside of his work, I texted Dudley and told him about the traumatic incidents. I needed reassurance. He came out to meet me and when I saw him, he wrapped his arms around me and my distress melted away. The rage I felt toward Sam wasn’t because I felt it lost me a position. Realistically, I viewed the interview as practice for future job applications. The fact was, it appeared that consciously or unconsciously, he was sabotaging every opportunity I had to secure employment. As Sam dropped me home, I gently closed my front door, exhaling a sigh of relief. I would no longer use Sam’s services. I was determined to attain employment independently!
August is Grief Awareness month in Australia. Hunter Writers Centre holds an annual writing competition in honour of this month. The print and e-anthology (click to purchase) features over 100 works but here are the 22 prizewinning pieces read with captions.
Choose to watch individual pieces read with captions here or watch the entire 1 hour film below:
|Title||First Name||Family Name|
|A black point||Niko||Campbell-Ellis|
|A Day in October||Kim||Waters|
|A hard won Spring||Tahra||Baulch|
|A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife||Brett||Dionysius|
|A Love Letter to My Incarcerated Sister||Trixi||Rosa|
|A tea-rose for Frieda||Louise||Wakeling|
|Blood and bone||Justine||Hyde|
|Circumference of desire||Jenny||Pollak|
|Debt for Life||Barbara||Rosie|
|Everything I need to know||Susan||Bradley Smith|
|Farewell to Billy Duluth||Lesley||Carnus|
|Grieving is Overrated||Mark||Bromhead|
|Hot and Cold||Belinda||Oliver|
|How it is||Alison||Flett|
|I have the weight of a life that is substantive and real on my shoulders||Sook||Samsara|
|I wish I knew||Helen Angela||Taylor|
|In black and white||Ian||Wicks|
|In the Quiet Moments||Emma||Pasinati|
|KNITTING, ENDINGS and GRIEVING||Anne||Boyd|
|Let it not be this||Jennifer||Chen|
|Let Me Introduce You||Vanessa||Farrer|
|Looking for Clark Gable||Alexandra||Geneve|
|Memoria in aeterna||Sandie||Walker|
|My Dear Son||Michelle||Wong|
|No one is ever really gone.||Tim||Hardy|
|Not Crying, Dancing||Linda||Stevenson|
|Not Horses, or Mothers||Lisa||Jacobson|
|Not long, my darling||Audrey||Molloy|
|On My Mum’s Passing||Belinda||Paxton|
|On the hottest midwinter day on record||Peter||Lach-Newinsky|
|One Lump or Two||Billie||Ruth|
|Scenes from a Hospital||Kate||Ryan|
|Skin and Bone||Melissa||Manning|
|Some time later||PS||Cottier|
|Sometimes, Love Isn’t Enough||Louisa||Simmonds|
|Stuff going on while I’m paying rent||Glenn||Aljatreux|
|The day after coming home from hospital||Claire||Watson|
|The Hobs of Drought||Jan||Iwaszkiewicz|
|The lactic acid in the calves of your despair||Ali||Whitelock|
|The Line Our Thread||Cynthia||Troup|
|The little ones||Christine||Kearney|
|The Stone Jar||Chris||Lynch|
|There are days||Penny||Lane|
|This big bright land||Simone||King|
|Three Unbearable Things||Helen||Richardson|
|Time for Grief||Seetha||Nambiar Dodd|
|Vincero, I will overcome||Merran||Hughes|
|What About Me?||Samantha||Noble|
|Where has my family gone?||Michael||Cole|
|Why I can’t talk||Eleni||Hale|
|Words out my mouth||Kathryn||Lyster|
Congratulations to all the prizewinners:
First Prize – sponsored by the University of Newcastle, awarded to Shaynah Andrews (pictured R with Prof Darrell Evans and Ryan O’Neill, judge)
Here is an excerpt from her winning story ‘Not for Me to Understand’:
My blood feels too hot. I want to beat my fists against Dad for treating me like a kid. I smash a cup on the kitchen tiles, half on purpose. There are little bits of glass all around me. Dad and Linda rush into the room.
‘I’m sorry, it was an accident,’ I say.
‘It’s OK, possum,’ says Dad. I want him to yell and scream at me but he is gentle. ‘I’ll clean this up darlin’, just get away from all the glass. Careful now.’
Dad and Linda hover over plastic dustpans. I walk out the front door and ride my pushie to the beach with Ellie behind me.
Cassie Hamer (R) won second prize donated by Newcastle Law Society represented by Sally Davies (L)
L to R: Megan Buxton, HWC President, Ryan O’Neill, judge, Kate Griffith from sponsor Westfield Kotara
Wayne Strudwick, Commended award winner for his story ‘Postcard‘
Shawn Sherlock, Foghorn Brewhouse donated the Highly Commended awarded to Jane O’Sullivan
Amanda Shirley from MacLean’s Booksellers donated the Highly Commended awarded to Tanya Vavilova
M.J. Reidy (pictured here with judge Ryan O’Neill) won a Commended award donated by Dymocks, Charlestown.
Derice McDonald from Macquariedale Organic Wines donated a $120 wine pack awarded to Rhona Hammond, local writer’s award.
Local Award Winners Shaynah Andrews, Edyn Carter and Stephanie Holm
Sometimes writing about the loss of a close family member can feel too hard because the enormity of all you have lost might stop you even starting. You may feel that in trying to describe it all you lose the sense of the person. What about writing about one aspect of the person? Start with a small physical characteristic or a small feature you loved about him or her – their smile, the way he sat to read, chat, write; the way she dressed or cooked or performed a regular chore. Below, Maree Reedman writes (in Grieve Volume 5) about hands as a recurring image which creates a clear and intimate portrait of her father. Enter your poem or story/essay into the Grieve writing competition.
About the Newcastle Poetry Prize
The Newcastle Poetry Prize is a significant cultural achievement and is a testament to the commitment of its sponsor – the University of Newcastle – to celebrate literary excellence in Australian poetry.
In September 1980, Peter Goldman stood in the middle of Civic Park, Newcastle, during the Mattara Festival and handed out an A4 photocopied anthology of poetry to passers-by. The collection featured poems from local Hunter writers, with contributors ranging in age from six to eightyone. This humble anthology paved the way for the first official Mattara Poetry Prize in 1981, which has gone on to become the most prestigious poetry competition in the country, and is now known as the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Today the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of the major events on the literary calender in Australia, bringing entries from across the nation.
Each year, local and national poets compete with internationally recognised names and no less illustrious has been the list of judges casting their eye over the entries. The association with Newcastle is no accident. The Hunter Region has a long history of fostering poetry and an active community of local poets who punch above their weight nationally in awards, publication and events. In the words of the late Novocastrian poet, Bill Iden, “Newcastle’s environment makes its poets”. Co-ordinated by the Hunter Writers Centre (a not-for-profit organisation since 1995), the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most important literary competitions in Australia. This is made possible through the generous provision of the prize money by the University of Newcastle and through funding from Create NSW.