Amid the coronavirus turmoil, some have used it as a catalyst for a career change – ABC News

As the NT’s jobless rate rose to 6 per cent due to coronavirus upheaval, Territorians who have been laid off in the turmoil are attempting to make a fresh start in a new industry.

Brendan Moore was working as a trainee building surveyor and was watching the Sunday night news when the Prime Minister announced new coronavirus restrictions.

“The next day I got a call around 4 o’clock from the boss and he said, ‘Sorry mate, we have to make you redundant’,” he said.

Across Australia, lives have been upended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest figures show 600,000 people lost their jobs due to coronavirus last month, including 9,000 in the NT.

In all, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said 2.7 million Australians either left the labour force, lost their job or had their hours reduced.

They are numbers the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said were “devastating”.

And yet, some have found a silver lining amid the economic carnage.

Mr Moore said he was using his redundancy as a catalyst to change his career and become a medic.

“It isn’t always easy. I think sometimes the uncertainty pops into your head especially after I have invested so much of my life into the building industry,” he said.

“But with the times as they are, it makes sense to make the change now.”

A woman wearing orange hi-vis clothing stands in a garden.
Aoife O’Connor, 24, says she’s seeing the upside in the pandemic by learning new skills in a new job.(ABC News: Matt Garrick)

Aoife O’Connor, originally from Ireland, had been working as a traffic controller when the pandemic hit.

“It was getting really quiet on the streets, they were only doing emergency work, so they had to stop giving me hours. So I was without work for three weeks,” she said.

Ms O’Connor has since found work with the City of Darwin Council as a landscaper.

In the wake of lockdown, the council hired more than 100 people like her to beautify the city and get people back in work.

“I signed up for the job with council and two days later I was on the job. I was at home tapping my feet looking for anything and I was starting to panic so it just came at the right time,” she said.

“Since I started this I was like doing the outdoor stuff learning about irrigation and general landscaping is fantastic.”

Karina Akarana profile shot
Karina Akarana was unable to stay at Yulara as she lost her job at a resort.(ABC News: Dylan Anderson)

Alice Springs resident Karina Akarana was one of hundreds of employees affected by job losses at Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, where more than 500 staff either resigned, were stood down or made redundant.

Ms Akarana, who was working as a coordinator for community engagement and employment pathways with the company, said she had to move back to Alice Springs and live with her sister’s family after she lost her job.

“For me, I knew that this was going to happen, so I sort of was preparing myself for it, I think I still broke down when I told I was being made redundant,” Ms Akarana said.

“I had to start thinking about where I am going to go because Yulara is a place where you can’t just stay there, you’re only allowed to stay there if you’re employed with Voyages.

“Once my redundancy and my unemployment status kicked over, they gave me two weeks to get things together and I had to try and work out where I was going to go from there.”

Ms Akarana was also able to easily navigate Centrelink to lodge and intent to claim but said many people living in Yulara were not able to do so, due to limited internet access.

“Then obviously without a Centrelink office out there, it made it extremely hard for those other people,” she said.

She is now temporarily living in a three-bedroom house with her sister’s family of seven but said she would soon move to Darwin after difficulty finding an affordable rental in Alice Springs that allowed pets.

Ms Akarana said she planned to begin a nursing degree.

With further restrictions on eating in cafes and restaurants, the NT Government said it hoped many people could go back to work this weekend.

But for some, it has forced a total re-assessment of what that future will look like.