My first job was hammering bolts into washers for my dad’s factory. I was 12, and it paid, from memory, a cent per bolt. I hated it at the time, and an entire Sunday’s work might have brought in about $10 which was enough to buy a magazine and perhaps a chupa chup or two. I was usually joined by two of my brothers who were also keen for a few extra dollars. But looking back, I have strangely fond memories of our Sunday sweatshop.
Tracey Moffatt’s 2008 series First Jobs explores themes of exploitation and how, although we almost always hate our first jobs at the time, we tend to look back with somewhat rose-coloured glasses. Moffatt says, “I am resentful and appalled at the work I had to do to survive. I hold a grudge towards rich kids who never had to slave like I did. Secretly though I’m proud of myself. When I think of those early years I realize that I was learning to be tough and work whether I liked it or not.”