J first approached Centrelink in 2013 at the age of 55, after being retrenched from his full-time job and then being injured while in another temporary role. Previously, J had struggled to find employment due to his age. Following his injury, he was unsure what options were left available to him.
J was advised to contact Centrelink and apply for the Disability Support Pension as his injury prohibited him from being able to work. Unfortunately, J’s application for the Disability Support Pension was not successful, and Centrelink suggested he instead apply for the JobSeeker payment (at the time, this was called Newstart). J had never previously needed to seek support from Centrelink before and had no understanding what assistance was available.
Centrelink suggested that John could volunteer for a minimum of 15 hours a week to meet his mutual obligations and remain eligible for his JobSeeker payment. As his wife was already a volunteer with the St Vincent de Paul Society, J began volunteering at a Vinnies story in 2014 for two days a week.
J was originally hesitant to volunteer with Vinnies, saying:
“I didn’t think I’d last long”
While his initial motivation to volunteer was to meet his obligations with Centrelink, after a few months J found himself looking forward to his days volunteering at the Vinnies shop.
J said he felt welcomed and supported at the Vinnies shop from his first day. He was offered training as he had never used a cash register before, and he had the opportunity to learn new skills. When he was unsure about something, there were always other volunteers, staff or people that could be contacted by phone to assist.
After over 8 years volunteering with Vinnies, J sees himself as a completely different person. He jokes “instead of sitting at home, turning into a mushroom, or driving myself crazy, we are all working together, developing relationships, and connecting with one another.” He says he has kept volunteering due to the people he works with and a sense of feeling as though he is helping people both directly and indirectly. J said:
“I enjoy immensely what I do now, the people I meet are not customers now, they’re friends, and I love talking with them”