The latest on disability employment in Australia

Employment is not only about having an income and financial security, but it also links closely to many aspects of an individual’s wellbeing.

Steady employment can add a sense of belonging and purpose, stability in a regular routine as well as the opportunity to develop new and existing relationships. 

According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (2019), the unemployment rate for working-age people with disability has increased in recent years. While it remained steady for working-age people without disability (around 5% between 2003 and 2018), it increased slightly for people with disability (8% to 10%). 

“We know based on current research that Australia is behind other western countries when it comes to disability employment. People with disability are significantly underemployed,” says Operations Executive at Achieve Australia, Daniel Kyriacou. “The real challenge for us as a nation is about changing community attitudes and expectations to provide more opportunities for people with disability to be employed.” 

So, how can we as a nation achieve this?  

Lifting employer engagement, capability and demand 
Early intervention – transition from school to work and return to work
Driving better performance and quality from employment service providers 
Making the system simpler for jobseekers with disability and employers 
Changing community attitudes

Alongside the development of the Employment Strategy is a new Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC), which will inform the strategy and address the barriers faced by many people. The committee is made up of people with disability, employers, service providers and peak bodies. 

Operations Manager at AchievAble Enterprises, Leanne Larche, knows firsthand the challenges people with disability face in finding and keeping work. Leanne says that many of the 65 employees, who currently work at the local Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE) in NDIS supported employment, could do more.  

“One of the biggest challenges people with disability face when looking for work is around a lack of support and understanding in the workplace,” explains Leanne.A person may go to find work in a local coffee shop where it might be fast paced, but then they are left alone with no support. Sometimes people are also given less opportunity to learn new tasks and take on more responsibility because they have a disability.” 

At a local level, further education and supports for the business community, and their staff, about how to create more inclusive workplaces would be a step in the right direction. “Everyone should have a right to work where they want to with the right supports in place,” says Leanne.  

Recently at Achieve Australia’s social enterprise The Sewing Basket, the business has grown to allow for an additional 25 NDIS supported employment positions at its newest location on the Central Coast. The ongoing training, supportive team environment and welcoming community is something which sets ADEs like The Sewing Basket and AchievAble Enterprises apart right now 

However, as the new national Employment Strategy gets underway this year, there is new hope. As more businesses across the country are better supported to create diverse and inclusive workplaces, greater employment opportunities will be available for people with disability into the future

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