Jobsbank news

A Chat With Damien Hodgkinson

Jun 18, 2021

Damien Hodgkinson Full Featured Image

In 2021, Jobsbank partnered with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as it returned to live events.

After a “less than hilarious” 2020, this year’s festival saw 3,822 performances of 390 separate shows, with a dedicated and extremely hardworking team making sure it all ran smoothly.

MICF’s Executive Director is Damien Hodgkinson. Here, he discusses the festival’s motivations and experience working with Jobsbank.

“We have long and established programs with First Nations peoples, but we identified a gap around creating opportunities to join our team. Working with Jobsbank was a targeted way to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and others who might be experiencing difficulty.

In 2020, our festival was cancelled 13 days before it was due to open. For 2021 we developed a range of scenarios to make sure we could deliver something to our audience regardless of COVID-19 restrictions.

Most years, we have a large casual workforce that moves around the country working on Adelaide Fringe, Sydney and Perth comedy festivals as well as Melbourne’s. People can line up a lot of work, and we often see international employees come over for that period who may have experience, say, working front of house at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Obviously that workforce didn’t exist this year, and the domestic workforce were reluctant to apply for interstate roles due to quarantine concerns. This meant we had a very local workforce.

As a major cultural event we have a very diverse audience demographic, and we want our workforce to reflect that diversity. We present programs in other languages, we have programs for young people and First Nations people that are delivered nationally. We work hard to represent the Victorian community, and we want our workforce to reflect that.

For our first year working with Jobsbank we wanted to start small and make sure we had the right supports in place for all employees. We had the desire to employ people, but that desire is not enough – we don’t know what backgrounds people come from. Knowing there’s an agency between us and the candidate who can support and work with them is very important.

From our very earliest conversations it was clear the Jobsbank team knew the candidates, and would support them throughout their placements. We saw that for the Jobsbank team, these candidates weren’t just another resume going through – they understood which candidates might need help with zoom interviews and so on, which gave us confidence they would be supported throughout their placements.

As we went through the partnership I’ve had my eyes opened in terms of understanding what a candidate experiencing disadvantage might look like. They may be young and lacking a full resume and the experience that creates opportunities, or they may be parents returning to the workforce with a lot of experience but still finding challenges.

One of the other things we’re very particular about is that our industry is small, and while we’re a medium sized organisation by headcount, we want to give opportunities to people who want a career in our sector. Working with Jobsbank to identify people who haven’t had the opportunities of employment or education but might want a career, is something we really value and encourage.”

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Jobsbank acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to their culture, their connections to Country and community, and to Elders past, present and emerging.