Pouwaka Ruwhiu
Pouwaka Ruwhiu Sophie Lester

Downs jobseekers are struggling to find jobs, despite effort

ONE long-term Southern Downs jobseeker has spoken up about the struggle he's faced to try to find employment.

Despite a low unemployment rate, Warwick has residents like Pouwaka Ruwhiu who are unable to find a permanent job, even after months of searching.

At 60, Mr Ruwhiu said both his age and Polynesian heritage, as well as a lack of opportunity, were barriers to finding stable employment.

"I've been unemployed since October last year and since then I've been sending out up to 45 resumes a week to jobs around Australia and overseas," Mr Ruwhiu said.

"I'm involved in earthworks and had held full-time work for a number of years but I had been working casually since 2014 when my long-term employer went belly up.

"I definitely think discrimination is a big factor ... but I also don't think there's much happening in Warwick.

"People often need to go outside the district to work but not everyone can afford to do that and they feel trapped.

"I'm eating into my superannuation now."

In September 2015, jobseekers aged 55 to 64 experienced the longest average duration of unemployment at 65 weeks.

Mr Ruwhiu said he did not believe the recent $100million given to the State Government Back to Work program would help people like him find work.

The jobseeker, who has spent 16 years in the Rose City, said more industry was needed in the region.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said, while it was not the responsibility of the council to find employment, it was crucial to grow and invite business in the region.

"It's a reality that some people will need to make a change of life decision to learn, re-skill or use their current skills outside the region, whether it's Toowoomba, Brisbane or elsewhere," Cr Dobie said.

"We have a very low unemployment rate but at the same time we need to encourage and entice businesses to move here and we are doing more marketing of our region everyday.

"We are looking at establishing our economic development advisory committee to provide ongoing advice to the council on how we achieve business growth.

Member for Southern Downs Lawrence Springborg said regions across the state were struggling to cope with an aging workforce.

"I don't think the rhetoric about people needing to work longer now that the age of retirement has increased has been matched by how it's going to happen," Mr Springborg said.

"The role of state and local government is not to be an employment agency, but rather it's about reducing red tape and creating a pro-business environment.

"The private sector ultimately needs to provide the jobs but government has role in promoting the benefit of employing mature-aged workers, and nurturing confidence so businesses can invest in new jobs."

Despite the tough slog, Mr Ruwhiu is not giving up.

"I've been through discrimination before and though it's frustrating I know there's something out there for me. I have to stay positive," Mr Ruwhiu said.

"Most people I see in a similar position do want to find work but there's not much here for them.

"I can see talent in these people who are having a lot of trouble finding work and they're scared of speaking out, so hopefully I can be a voice for them."

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