What do you do when your dream job turns into a nightmare? Do you back out before you get hurt, or do you hang in there and try to make a change?

HSA Ambassador Rachael was one of the many young apprentices told they would enter a glamorous, lucrative career in the hair and beauty industry. Now she’s on a mission to make that dream she was sold as a teenager a reality for future generations of hair stylists.

After completing her Certificate 3 at a fast-track college, Rachael received two years of hands-on training at a salon. “What I went through as an apprentice was awful,” she remembers. “One particular owner and senior made every apprentice’s life a living hell.”

“It made me realise, hey, why is it like this? We need someone to stop it.”

Once she was fully qualified, Rachael found a job as in a chain salon. Straight away, she knew something wasn’t right. “We were fighting for lunch breaks,” she says, “and there was disgruntlement within the business.”

“Then, the boss changed public holidays to time in lieu without consultation. She had ten salons, and no one received letter or notice. It didn’t sit well with me. I was like, hey, I need someone to tell me what my rights are.”

The salon was forced to keep to strict schedule, putting all the staff members under stress. “We were pushed for time limits – 45 minutes for a full head of foils, seven minutes for a men’s cut.” Rachael remembers. “It led to bullying and fights when it came to needing help from apprentices. There was a lot of toxic workplace bickering.”

After taking a break from hair styling to have her son, Rachael came across HSA. “I was like, oh my god, what is this? And I put my name in for a callout. Hearing it was a union, I was definitely going to jump on board. I didn’t know what it involved, but here I am three years later. I can see what we’re fighting for is worth fighting for.”

“Having a child made me realise that if Vinnie wanted to be a hairdresser, I don’t want him going through what I went through.”

Her ten years of experience has opened her eyes to the reality of hair styling. “Our industry is just so unregulated,” she says. “There is so much going on behind closed doors, and when you first get in, you don’t see it happening.”

“When I was training, I was told hairdressing is amazing, glamorous, you’ll get paid super well. I got into it, and I was like, what the hell?”

“I was doing a retail job last year, and I was on $26.80 an hour compared to $28.40 now. How long did I train for to only be worth another $2 an hour?”

As an ambassador, Rachael has represented HSA at heaps of events, including May Day 2019, our media campaign to protect penalty rates, and International Women’s Day 2020. She’s keen to raise the profile of HSA, and is helping us grow our involvement in women’s health.

HSA membership isn’t just about making sure your rights are protected at work – it’s making the hair and beauty industry a better place for everyone. We’ve already seen changes thanks to the determination of women and men like Rachael. Things like saving penalty rates and retaining qualification requirements in NSW would not be possible with our ambassadors’ support.

Rachael is working as a casual stylist while raising her son, and is much more comfortable with the change of pace in a new salon. Having the support of HSA means that she can now say no if her rights at work are threatened, instead of feeling too afraid to speak out.

She wants to see hair stylists respected as a trade, and put on equal footing with electricians, bricklayers and plumbers. “Look at all the other tradies and their award entitlements compared to ours. We train for just as long.”

But most importantly – “I want to stop the façade that I had. That glamorous lifestyle everyone said I was gonna have, I want it to be true. “

At HSA, we rely on the support of our members, not big employment groups. If you want to help Rachael and the rest of our ambassadors shake up the industry, sign up online today, and one of our team will be in touch.