Ageism is alive and well

Posted: December 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

Don’t let anyone kid you that ageism doesn’t exist in our society. It is very much alive and well.

I was forced to leave the labour force at age 44 through no fault of mine, on invalidity. It as a matter of record that the health injury concerned was directly linked to the workplace although no regulatory body is the slightest bit interested in the fact that my dodgy, former employer, part of the public sector, quite wrongfully pursued a program of denying any such finding being made. So I was eventually forced out.

Interestingly, representatives of my former employer tried to tell me what a wonderful life I was about to start enjoying as an invalid pensioner and how easy it was going to be to be employed once more once my health improved. Not that I believed it for a moment.

The reality is that there are virtually no prospects for someone once they are over forty and have the slightest hint of disability. And on almost every single occasion when I just ‘miss’ out, it is beyond mere coincidence that the successful applicant is younger than me. Now I am intelligent enough to realise that a great many applicants are going to be younger than me so it stands to reason that a large number of successful applicants shall be younger than me. But when it happens on each and every occasion?

Mind you, ageism is nothing new. I did my accounting degree in the early 1990s as a mature age student finishing at the grand old age of 29. During my final year, along with a lot of other commerce students, I attended an open day for the accounting profession at the Ballarat University. There, the Education and Recruitment Director for the Institute of Chartered Accountants blatantly told several students including me, that we were too old. “The profession doesn’t want you,” she said. Those incredibly inappropriate words are burned into my brain. At 29, I was too old? I spat the dummy and spent the rest of the afternoon sulking in the student bar.

Her words proved quite prophetic. When I began applying to the major accounting firms, there was no interest despite good results. My mistake? I admitted to being 29 in my applications. I whinged about it to some of the senior accounting staff at the uni who sympathised. As far as they were concerned, this was a common occurrence. The first thing that the major firms looked at was an applicant’s age. If it was more than in their early twenties, an automatic rejection occurred. Of course the profession would hotly deny it, but any analysis of their hiring practices would tell a different story.

I put all that behind me and started a new life. But at 44, I was thrown in the scrap heap. I refused to accept it. I retrained, improving my qualifications and experience. All for nothing.

Now because my pension is paid from a superannuation fund, not via Centrelink, I am automatically disqualified from various forms of assistance. My pension is just enough to disqualify me from yet other forms of assistance such as a health care card, never mind that I carry not one but two disabilities, but nowhere near enough to be able to rent somewhere myself. So I am unable to live anywhere other than community housing in the company of junkies etc. I cannot even get into public housing, although they did tell me that as a single person, even if they were able to house me, it would most like just to be placed in one of the notorious public housing drug dens which is as bad if not worse than where I am now.

Not long before starting to type this entry, I had to call the police because in the adjoining block, a drug user was screaming threats at another resident and the police intervention was required. Of course now I am a going to be target for being a ‘dog’ and calling the cops.

Thanks to stunning degrees of misinformation and, ultimately, outright lies at the hands of my former employer, I was denied workers compensation on a technicality, thereby denying me access to required medical treatment that I certainly cannot afford. That makes my attempts to re-enter the workplace even harder again.

The key to putting all of this behind me is to simply get back into work. More money and I can move to better surroundings. I can afford more of the required medical treatment. I can make myself an even more desirable job seeker. Yet after considerable efforts, this is proving a staggering waste of time. A multi-qualified individual with a strong set of experiences and skills, I could not even get so much as a poxy casual job with the Christmas casuals. I now cannot even afford to travel down to spend Christmas with my aging parents this year. I have no idea how I am going to break that news to them.

For some reason, nobody gives a damn about those who fall through the cracks and seemingly nothing but insurmountable obstacles are placed in the way of them if they try to rise above it all.

The moral of the story is, if anyone over 40 is ever in danger of being forced out of the workplace on health grounds, do anything and everything to fight it. Cling on by your fingernails. Use every single possible means of fighting it. Find and use any and all avenues of appeal. Because once you have been thrown onto that scrap heap, you’re going to stay there.

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