Rights of Passage - 2005 competition


Human Rights & Equal Opportunity - Age Discrimination

By Lauren Pinataro, 17, SA

Age Discrimination charts the dispiriting experience of looking for work as an early school-leaver. Lauren's essay retains a unique sense of optimism despite the barriers she has faced.

I never really thought about human rights and what they meant to me until I started looking for a job. I realised that although Australians seem to pride themselves on 'Equal Opportunity', there is still a lot of discrimination occurring. Examples of this took place at several job interviews that I attended, as well as written examples I found on job ads. I was constantly turned down for various positions merely because of my age and in a lot of cases because I also did not yet have my driver licence. To me this was definitely a form of discrimination and unfairness, as I do not think that age should make a difference to an employer, as long as the person in question has the appropriate skills required to be competent in the job.

After leaving high school at 15 years old because of financial and family reasons, I immediately began searching for a job. I applied for everything and anything from supermarket positions, to administration work and cleaning jobs. I searched high and low for over two years and still nobody had given me a chance because according to them all I was "too young" or someone with "not enough experience". I often applied online for positions using job search websites such as Career One and Seek. On average I sent through my resume and details to at least twenty different businesses per day.

My written and verbal skills have always been exceptional, and even though potential employers always noticed that, it still did not alter their perception or decision. I adapted my experience and skills to suit each different job but that wasn't enough either. It frustrated me that employers expected someone at my age to have more experience when in reality I had been a full time high school student before involuntarily becoming a job seeker. I tried to do everything within my means to gain some work experience, including doing volunteer work. However the matter of my age always came up no matter what. After attending countless interviews with nothing to show for it, I decided I needed some help.

I joined up with Maxima Joblink and they began sending off my resume to businesses for me. Again, multiple interviews came of this but with no luck. Even when applying for traineeship and apprenticeship positions I would still be told that I was too young or did not have the required experience. I honestly thought I would never find a job. The problem with most employers today is that they are not willing or ready to give people a chance to prove themselves. Many business will not alter their rules or regulations regarding age or experience for anyone. The problem with this is that numerous people, such as myself, will miss out on great opportunities and work prospects because of age and lack of experience.

The question I pose to employers who fit into the above category is this: how can one gain the required and necessary experience to become employed when nobody will give them a chance to work or learn? To me, human rights include the right to equal opportunity when applying for a job. It doesn't mean being sent away or not even being considered because of age or lack of experience. Everybody deserves a chance to show what they can bring to a business whether they are fifteen years old or fifty years old. Age should not be seen as a disability. In fact, I believe that young job seekers should be seen as prime candidates for employers as they can be moulded to fit in with the business and can be taught almost anything.

Finally after years of job hunting, I found an employer that was willing to give me a chance. I started an administration traineeship with them just over three months ago and I feel so content with myself. If more employers opened their eyes to the vast and wonderful possibilities that employing a young person could bring, Australia would be a better place for everyone. I hope that anyone who reads this begins to understand the benefits and positives of hiring someone younger than they would usually consider. Our generation, Generation Y, are a bunch of creative, talented, motivated and dedicated individuals who can bring so much to the businesses of Australia - so give us a chance to prove our worth!