opinion

"We feel our safety isn't important." An Australian hairdresser on why salons need to close.

In Australia today, Friday March 27, you can’t go to the pub, a restaurant for dinner, the gym, a cinema, a library, a beauty therapist (including tanning and nail salons), or a place of worship.

But you can go and get your haircut.

It’s one of the last things you are actually still allowed to do right now, as slowly but surely we shut down society as we know it in a bid to slow the spread of the deadly COVID-19 and “flatten the curve.”

WATCH: Episode one of the ‘Lockdown diaries’ with Edwards and Co. Post continues after video.

Video via Edwards and Co

You can only have 10 people at a funeral right now, and five at a wedding.

And yet you can go to the hairdresser – provided there is one person per four square metres and you adhere to strict hygiene and hand washing. The government did try to bring in a “30 minute appointment” rule, but that was scrapped within eight hours after it was realised that was…impossible.

More than 20,000 people have signed a Change.org petition led by the Australian Hairdressing Council begging for the industry to be shutdown.

“Stop putting the health of hairdressers and barbers at risk,” it says.

Laura Spinney, a styling and cutting educator for Edwards and Co, is one of those 20,000 and is sick and tired of the judgement her industry is getting right now as many continue to trade.

“We are scared, we are infuriated and we WANT to be shut down,” the 30-year-old told Mamamia. “We feel our safety isn’t important and it’s not mandated which makes it hard to access help.”

 

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Edwards and Co made the decision to shut its doors after the government brought in the 30-minute rule, and remained closed even after that impossible restriction was lifted.

But as Laura explains, that’s not a luxury many of her industry colleagues can afford to do.

“My workplace has shutdown, but my good friend is still working – she’s a one man band. She might lose everything if she doesn’t continue working. Her partner has lost his job – he is in the gym industry. So she is trying to keep afloat the rent of her salon and home,” she said.

“Yesterday someone walked past the salon and yelled in the door: ‘you shouldn’t even be open’ as if she wants to be,” she added.

As whole workplaces shifted to working-from-home setups in the past few weeks, Laura says she had to come up with other tactics to remain safe while continuing to work in her client facing role.

“1.5m apart is impossible, maybe your body can be? But your hands are touching them at all times. I find I am holding my breath a lot. I had a client try and shake my hand the other day and I am a hand shaker, but I just froze and panicked. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“When we wash people’s hair we try and keep our heads turned. We don’t want to breathe over them or have them breathe on us, when they are faced up towards us,” she added.

But as the situation worsened, Laura’s workplace got more and more nervous.

“We sat around on a group chat on Tuesday night with about 120 staff all waiting and begging for a shut down,” she said. “We don’t want to be on the frontline.”

Shutting down before they are mandated too, means Edwards and Co probably won’t get any help from the government, and that’s where Laura’s frustration in the government comes in.

“I know they are trying to save Centrelink and the economy from being overwhelmed. But it seems a little odd that we are being considered essential. It would be lovely to know their reasoning,” she told Mamamia.

 

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She might try to take some annual leave as the crisis unfolds in coming weeks, but she – like so many tens of thousands of others who are facing un unknown amount of time without work – is worried about cash flow.

“I am not too worried about being sick, I am quite young and I am quite healthy. But I fear being homeless. That’s a very real feeling,” she said.

So while hairdressers around the country wait for the government to shut them down – some working out of necessity, others already tapping out, Laura has a message for those talking about them in Facebook groups, in the media and from the already shutdown beauty industries who keep telling them that they’re “lucky.”

“Do what’s right for you and stop trying to tell others what to do.

“There are still a few salons open, don’t judge them. They aren’t just trying to ‘line their pockets’, they are not making s*** right now. They are just trying to keep their head and their rent above water,” she said.

“Love to every industry and every person going through hell,” she added.

Feature image: Supplied.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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