, a year 12 student and one of my fellow UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors, also worked at her local supermarket throughout the shutdown.
“Since the start of the pandemic, my workplace has had to plaster signs around the store, stating that abusing staff will not be tolerated and the police will be called if this was to occur.”
“There have been incidents where young staff members working their usual few hours on registers have been verbally abused and brought to tears by customers complaining.”
Emily says that despite this, personally her experiences were mostly positive, and she enjoyed the camaraderie of her small regional town in Victoria.
“As the supermarket started to struggle like all small businesses, we were becoming short-staffed with many customers having to wait the appropriate 1.5 metres away before being served.”
“Having worked there for two years, I was sure this wait time would cause friction and aggravate the already charged atmosphere after our town had its first diagnosed case of COVID-19, but I was pleasantly surprised with almost all customers being extremely patient and calm.”
Many young people, like Emily, also faced risks working throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am considered more vulnerable to COVID-19 as I am an asthmatic,” she explains. “It worries me going to work on the ‘frontlines’ when our supermarket has limited access to personal protective equipment (PPE).”
“At the moment we have gloves supplied to wear during shifts but no protective screens.”
Many of the young people we listened to as part of the ‘Living in Limbo’ research, were also concerned about placing a family member or friend at risk of contracting the virus.
“My nan has Alzheimer’s,” explained one student from Sydney. “Sometimes we have to take care of her… I’m hesitant to go and help [because] I work at a supermarket. With the increase in customers, I’m not sure whether or not I’m going to get it. And I’m fine if I get it - I know that I’ll probably most likely be able to get through it and be fine - but I’m more worried about what if I don’t know I have it and I give it to somebody and they get sick and they die?”
"There have been incidents where young
staff members working their usual few hours
on registers have been verbally abused and
brought to tears by customers complaining."
Across Australia, all aspects of young people’s lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and national response to it. While some young people are equipped with the tools to cope, many others are struggling – particularly those already disadvantaged.
Learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting young people in Australia through our Living in Limbo report.