Sun, surf and unemployment

A closed Bunbury business. Image: Amber Lilley.

The Bunbury region in the state’s south-west has experienced the largest unemployment increase in Western Australia during COVID-19, but the city’s Mayor Garry Brennan is adamant residents will stay strong. 

“In our community, we’re a very caring and resilient community here in Bunbury. We do look after each other. It’s been challenging but I think we’re all looking forward to coming out of this really unusual event. We’ll come out of it stronger than before,” he says.

The ABS interactive map detailing the region’s unemployment statistics. Image sourced from ABS website.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a 8.5 per cent difference from mid-March to mid-April in comparison to the state’s average of 5.8 per cent, which Mr Brennan says is largely due to the tourism and hospitality shutdowns.  

“With further easing of those restrictions, I think we’ll see, I hope we see, a return to more employment in that sector,” Mr Brennan says. 

Mojo’s restaurant head sommelier, Jake Atkinson, says they originally had 20 staff members but due to the restrictions and an 80 per cent downturn, they now only employ seven of these under the JobKeepers scheme. 

Mojo’s Restaurant head sommelier Jake Atkinson. Image: Amber Lilley.

“The unemployment trend has not only hit tourism and hospitality-based businesses but other sectors which feel they’ve been left out in the cold.

Bunbury educator Megan Whittaker is one of those who’s ineligible for government help.

Michelle Almond also found herself unemployed after just eight weeks of starting a new job in financial services and says the hardest part has been keeping a positive attitude in isolation. 

“Now it’s just me at home and doing my best to stay motivated and pottering along because I’m not used to being at home and sitting around,” she says. 

Mr Brennan says there is no question this is a difficult time for the south-west region but says community support for local business and appropriately eased restrictions are the keys to improving these unemployment statistics. 

According to Mr Brennan, the City of Bunbury approved a $100,000 support package this week to assist small businesses in their move to digital technologies, improved marketing and changes to physical store appearances. 

Image: Sourced Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan.