Im unemployed and ashamed. The idea that people dont want to work is a ridiculous myth | Vicki Nash

The stigma attached to unemployment can be dangerous. We should all think before we judge people who are struggling with trying to find work

Last year I made a decision Id been struggling with for a few years: I walked away from the business I was running, the business Id sacrificed most of my 20s and numerous friendships and relationships to, the business I had dreamed of running since my primary school years.

To say this was a difficult choice would be a massive understatement but it was what was right for me, or so I believed. I wanted a social life, a regular job and a regular paycheque, and most of all I wanted to feel like a regular person.

For too long I had felt like someone who was tied to her business, who was constantly overworked, overstressed and over budget, but Id lost track of who I was outside the business. I ran a small thoroughbred farm breeding and breaking in horses for racing, and it was my life for a long time. But its clearly not an industry that leaves me with an obvious place to transition.

Another factor was my age. If I was leaving my business behind then I also wanted to leave the industry behind, start afresh entirely and, at 28, I was aware that not only was I getting ancient in terms of entry-level positions, but that if I was going to make a success of myself in my new field then I was better off getting started in it yesterday.

Unfortunately it has now been over six months since I started in earnest to apply for jobs in different fields, seeking to be reborn on a new career path. With the exception of one online video interview, I havent made it past the first checkpoint.

There are a lot of factors at play in this, and in some way I even have sympathy with the countless employers who have rejected me without even meeting me; unemployment is high at that moment, particularly in the Geelong region where I now live. I have no experience that counts, and that I was self-employed for so long does negatively affect the quality of my references. It has also become clear to me that most prospective employers see a history of self-employment in a negative light.

But sympathising with all the reasons that people dont want to hire me doesnt actually make the task of job hunting any easier, if anything it makes it worse. I can see why people dont want to hire a now 29-year-old with no relevant experience and a history of self-employment and, as time passes, I increasingly fail to see why they would.

I imagine this loss of faith in oneself and the growing belief that the ongoing rejections are never going to turn around is common among the unemployed. I just never thought Id be one of them.

Going into this, my biggest concern was that I would have to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up. It never occurred to me that I would be unable to get a leg on the first rung. I would now give almost anything for the opportunity to prove my worth in almost any position and at any level.

This time last year I was still in the process of closing down my business. It was heartbreaking and depressing but it was something I got through by reminding myself how much easier it would be when it was through.

I knew, not with cockiness but simply because of the faith I had in myself, that I would find another arena in which to excel. The thought that I may be unemployed and on the precipice of giving up entirely never occurred to me.

Among the things I knew about myself then was that I was intelligent and hardworking, with many transferrable skills that would make me an asset in any number of industries but I no longer know these things.

When I think about my unemployed status today these are the things I know: that I may never find anyone willing to hire me; that with every passing day I get a little older and a little less employable and the majority of my intelligent, articulate and sometimes witty cover letters are not even being read. Or perhaps theyre not that witty after all.

I do not feel this every day but there are days where a previously unfamiliar feeling of uselessness and hopelessness do creep over me, and they are demons that I find myself increasingly unable to keep at bay. I never thought unemployment would happen to me. I imagined having to take a job I didnt necessarily want but no job at all wasnt anywhere on my radar. I think its probably this way for a lot of unemployed individuals. And this is probably the greatest lesson that has come out of this experience: that the idea that people dont want to work, that the unemployed are somehow lazy or unmotivated, is a ridiculous myth. And yet I still havent learned it completely.

I still lie to acquaintances and even friends about my employment; make out that Im doing some casual work to tide me over or make jokes about it because Im ashamed. I judge myself every day and Im determined not to let others judge me too.

There is a stigma attached to unemployment that can be dangerous because I dont think it would take much for it to create a potentially irreversible self-hatred. I fill my days with routines that involve exercise, cleaning, job applications and writing and certainly no television or leisure time during work hours; Im strict on that. I dont claim welfare of any kind, because apart from anything else I am far too proud, another one of my failings.

I am not what the unemployed stereotype looks like but I am unquestionably unemployed and Im struggling mentally, emotionally and financially every day. I often barely recognise myself.

This is not a story of self-pity, although it has elements of that Im sure. Im sacrificing my pride in writing about this. But its a lesson to think before you judge because unemployment is hard. If we could just come out and speak about our own struggles with unemployment freely and without shame and stigma, it may just get a little bit easier.

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How talking to air conditioners could help prevent blackouts

An integrated energy grid could monitor power shortfalls, predict demand and respond accordingly, according to experts, although data will need to be shared

For South Australia, it was a cruelly ironic one-two punch a burst of the extreme heat conditions that are so much more likely because of climate change, and a power cut linked to a simultaneous drop in wind that hobbled the renewable energy systems introduced to minimise global warming in the first place.

On 8 February, South Australians had their air conditioners on full blast while sweltering through temperatures in excess of 46C in some parts of the state, and wind turbines had stopped turning just when energy demand was at its highest. The Australian Energy Market Operator chose not to bring online a standby gas generator and, thanks to an additional computer glitch at SA Power Networks, three times as many houses had their power cut than necessary a familiar plunge into darkness for the sweat-laced locals of a state that has had more than its fair share of energy problems in recent times.

The persistent power-cuts and price surges have seen the Turnbull government blame the states heavy reliance on intermittent wind farms and advocate for the building of new coal-fired plants, while renewable energy advocates are looking to battery storage systems, which are coming down in price but remain expensive, as the long-term solution.

The head of BuddeComm, Paul Budde, however has another idea: talking to air conditioners.

The telecommunications expert envisions an Internet of Things (IoT) integrated energy grid that provides live weather updates, monitors power shortfalls, predicts demand, and reacts accordingly even utilising smart meters to adjust an entire states air conditioners to reduce power consumption.

What you need in these emergencies is a manageable system, not just a matter of switching power on and off to entire areas, but having all this in place you could manage air cons in peoples homes in such a way that it doesnt overload the network, he says.

Steven Travers, the executive manager of IoT Cluster for Mining and Energy Resources, says there are pros and cons to smart grid capabilities such as this.

Thats the other part of this equation how much data are we happy to give, he says. This essentially gives the power company access to your house, but the trade-off is youre not getting the power switched off.

Travers, whose organisation receives funding from the South Australian government, notes that IoT technologies could have also have circumvented the human error involved in the Adelaide power cut by integrating with machine learning software that would react to weather data updated at 15-minute intervals.

These are all off-the-shelf things that are ready to go, he says.

Budde agrees there are dozens of examples about how upgrading to a smart grid could change power distribution for the better.

He says rather than power companies waiting for a number of customers to call them to notify of a problem in an area and sending a car out to investigate, they could simply have sensor technology installed that would automatically flag any issues even for problems that havent happened yet.

The interesting thing with transformers is they are so solid it could take three to four years for a fault to actually cause a problem, but a sensor could alert you of it immediately, he says.

Budde says this is all possible with long-established technology that he was promoting over a decade ago as the head of the now-shuttered SmartGrid Australia advocacy group, which he closed down in part due to changing political winds.

His group successfully lobbied the former Labor federal government to undertake the $100m Smart Grid, Smart City study, which concluded in 2013 that there could be a net economic benefit from smart grid technologies of up to $28bn over 20 years, but the specific recommendations of which have not, to date, been formally committed to by the Coalition federal government.

What Budde says is required is regulation to ensure that everything in the system is interoperable from power lines to the home air conditioners and to ensure there is incentive for South Australias privatised energy network providers to actually try to become more energy efficient.

If you save 30-40% of energy, they get 30-40% less income in commercial industry, thats the last thing theyd want, he says.

IoT technologies can also play a crucial role in the rollout of distributed power systems, identifying when households need to import energy from external sources and when it is appropriate to export from home battery storage systems to the grid.

SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts says the company had decided against IoT-based control of demand at this stage, partly due a lack of sensory capability through the network, but has just begun a three-year trial of 100 homes connecting their solar power and battery storage systems to the grid that will utilise IoT technologies.

Everyone involved had to be connected to the internet to use the connection to manage and monitor the batteries, he says. [The grid] can dip into stored energy during peak demand, and we offered customers the opportunity, for instance, when a storm is coming to charge up their batteries in advance.

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Australian election result risks credit rating downgrade, say economists

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver warns another three years of minority government is not a good outcome

Australias big business groups are lamenting the outcome of the federal election and economists say it has increased the risk of a sovereign credit rating downgrade, no matter who forms government.

The AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver warned his clients that the clear air the Turnbull government had been hoping to capture by winning a strong majority would not eventuate. The prospects were not good for Australias economy, he warned.

The prospect of another three years of de facto minority government coming on the back of the minority Gillard/Rudd government over 2010-13, and the 2013-16 Coalition governments inability to pass much of its economic and budget reform agenda through the Senate, is not a good outcome for the Australian economy, he said.

Officials from the Australian Electoral Commission were busy on Sunday sorting thousands of absent, interstate, postal and other declaration votes ready for despatch to their home divisions for counting.

Malcolm Turnbull warned in his post-election speech on Saturday night that only the Coalition could provide stable government. But the result of the House of Representatives vote will not be known until at least Tuesday, while the Senate could take weeks.

It is possible Australia will get minority government, and even if the Coalition ends up forming government it will not have control of the Senate.

Jennifer Westacott, the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, said the Coalition and Labor needed to show as quickly as possible how a functioning government could be formed when the dust settles.

While counting of votes is likely to continue for several days, Australians and Australian business can ill-afford gridlock, recriminations or infighting, Westacott said.

We need all parties who are likely to be represented in parliament to focus on the importance of improving Australians standard of living through a strong and growing economy.

When the next government is formed, it must continue to tackle the important tasks of reform.

James Pearson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the new Senate crossbenchers must be treated respectfully because the Senate will be key to getting legislation through parliament.

Whichever major party forms government, they will need to build a constructive relationship with the crossbench to get things done, Pearson said.

This takes goodwill on all sides. The business community is ready to play its part in contributing to the development of sound policies. We cannot afford three more years of policy gridlock.

He also called on the next government and Senate to pass the Coalitions company tax cuts.

The company tax cut initially for the smallest businesses to encourage investment and create jobs, should be legislated as soon as the next government returns to parliament, as both the Coalition, and to an extent Labor, supported this critical measure, he said.

John Roskam, executive director of free market thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs, said the election result was diabolical for Australia.

Its a diabolical result for the Liberal party, too. Whichever party is somehow in power at the end of this is going to consign Australia to another three years of uncertainty unless we have, heaven forbid, another election to fix it.

Oliver warned his clients that even if the Coalition won government it would not have control of the Senate, with the balance of power remaining with the Greens and minority parties acting as a huge constraint on the government.

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