The Australian Federation of Disability Organizations Submission to the discussion paper

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Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Phone: 03 9662 3324

TTY: 03 9662 3724

Fax: 03 9662 3325



The Australian Federation of Disability Organizations
Submission to the discussion paper

Improving the employment participation of people with disability in Australia”

February 2013

Stephen Gianni

National Policy Officer


247 Flinders Lane

Melbourne VIC 3000

03 9662 3324

About the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) has been established as a primary national voice to Government that fully represents the interests of all people with disability across Australia.

The mission of AFDO is to champion the rights of people with disability in Australia and help them participate fully in Australian life.

The discussion paper was released on the International Day of Disability 3rd of December 2012. Submissions to the discussion paper close on the 15th of February 2013. AFDO is pleased to see people with disability’s workplace participation given a priority in the public policy reform agenda. The National Disability Strategy (NDS) is an important part of the reform agenda and helps understand why employment participation is fundamental to the success of other initiatives proposed in the disability sector.

The AFDO response takes the view that broad reform is needed in disability employment policy and should encompass a comprehensive overall realignment.

It is important to acknowledge that the disability employment space is complex and requires thoughtful responses. The goal of open employment opportunity for reasonable wages should be available to all people with disability regardless of what type of disability they have. The means to achieve this vary for different types of disability as well as from person to person.

As in the nondisabled workforce, there are a variety of job opportunities for people with a variety of job aspirations. Not all people with disability aspire to or are have the skills for senior executive roles nor do we all want to work in entry level jobs.

There are many large (Wespac, IBM) and small (Harris Farm Markets) employers who understand what is required to employ people with disability. They have a creative and strong relationship to the employment of people with disabilities in their workforces.

One size does not fit all in the employment and disability space. Workplaces and employment opportunities that are flexible and able to be customized to people’s particular situations may be more suitable for some people with disabilities.

As the discussion paper indicates, “We know where we stand”. Our place in the international context when compared to other “like” countries is poor. Workplace participation rates for people with disability are extremely low compared to the broader community. Diversity in the workplace contributes to business sustainability and so on……… It is also crucial that the leadership called for be at all levels of Government, Business, Community and Public Service.

The leadership we are calling for needs to be based on what we know works in the Australian context and supports those employers and support organizations already delivering a positive result.

Given all that we know, it’s time for action.

AFDO members differ in the need to establish a benchmark for workplace participation of people with disability in Australia. Some members feel that a target for individual employers may assist in improving work opportunities whilst others believe these opportunities are created through other means.

AFDO recommends that Government, Business and People with Disability form an “employment council”. The model of Indigenous business employment council should be adopted for disability. See the following initiatives; The latest survey report is at: related to indigenous initiatives and Information on the joint ACOSS/ACTU/BCA joint statement and roundtable at:

AFDO recommends that the Australian Public Service be commissioned to trial the best practice approaches and development of different models for inclusion of people with disability at all levels of an organization. From “intake to leadership”. See work undertaken by the Australian Public Service Commission. They should work with agents for change in the disability sector in particular Disabled Persons Organizations (DPO’s).

Having people with disability visible and making a contribution in workplaces across Australia is fundamental to our desire as a nation to include and offer opportunity to all who are a part of our Australian Society.

Both attitudes to work by people with disability and attitudes to people with disability as employees need support and attention.

This focus could be enhanced by ensuring that students with disabilities are given a high priority in their internships, work experience and voluntary work.

AFDO recommends training packages be tailored and delivered by people with disability to business/employers and the Australian Public Service on the benefits of targeting “Disability” as a key diversity focus in workforce participation. Many such packages already exist, two examples of which are, a partnership between AFDO and Australian’s for Disability Diversity and Employment and the other from the “Onegroup”.

AFDO recommends that research be undertaken to investigate how reforms/initiatives undertaken in the diversity strands of Gender, Indigenous and Multiculturalism can be applied to people with disability. The question of disability’s place in diversity needs to be explored and better understood. This could be done through the establishment of a research fund.

AFDO recommends that The Minister in partnership with the Business Council of Australia, ACCI and DPO’s trial a series of small events to solicit buy in at the Chief Executive level. These events could be modelled on the “Dinners with a Difference” concept developed in the UK. These events need to be evaluated in terms of how many jobs result for people with disability.

The incentives that are currently used are too broad brush. Generally they are blunt instruments that don’t support the successes or redevelop those initiatives not contributing to the goals.

There are two main groups of people with disability looking for work;

  1. Those who can be matched to job vacancies that exist. These jobs may need no reshaping but just have the traditional forms of job matching occur where a third party links the person with the job or in fact just have incentives for firstly people with disability to be in the mindset of the employer and secondly for candidates with disability to have the confidence and motivation to apply. These work places may only need one off work place modifications such as adaptive technologies or Auslan interpreters/captioning services for deaf people.

  2. Those who can’t be matched to a job without the job either being modified or more ongoing supports provided to the employer and employee. Employers in this case need support and assistance from job design specialists to modify job descriptions and core competencies required. Some employers may also need to be shown how/when job tasks are redesigned a person with disability may be a perfect fit for a task that is otherwise not done or done poorly by an employee who has a multi-skilled focus to their job. The supports to employers in these cases may only be needed intermittently. The supports to employees may need to be more long term in nature.

There is a service in Sydney and Melbourne that achieves over 75% of all outcomes for people with intellectual disability in open employment. They are clearly doing what works and should be showcased and replicated. Their focus is on finding jobs for people with an intellectual disability based on a relationship having been established with the employer. The service then stays with the employer and worker for as long as it takes.

The thought of losing the Disability Support Pension when being successful in a job search can act as an anxiety evoking outcome. We must find a way of encouraging people with disability who are receiving a benefit to consider and apply for jobs without losing the pension. We must remove the question about the choice of work from the equation of pension eligibility. It cannot be an “either or” equation.

The following recommendations are targeted at both employers and people with disabilities. As stated previously there is debate as to the effectiveness of targets and a fear that this type of approach could entrench prejudicial attitudes towards people with disability.

AFDO recommends that work place subsidies be tailored and more targeted to employers less than 100 employees or “Small to Medium Enterprises”. Large employers indicate that the work place subsidies are not an incentive to employ someone, and SMEs would employ people on a more long term basis if the subsidy went for a year as opposed to 26 weeks. This should be acted on in consultation with employers who are already achieving best practice outcomes from both the large corporates (banking and IT sectors) and SME’s.

AFDO recommends that insurance (work cover) premiums be struck at a lower level for employees with disability. This would assist employers with any additional costs incurred when “reporting” on disability in a business’s workforce.

AFDO recommends that Government procurement policy be adjusted to favour Businesses that demonstrate their positive outcomes in employing people with disability.

AFDO recommends that all Government funding contracts only be entered into with organizations who have achieved positive results in employing people with disability.

AFDO recommends that people with disability on the pension, who choose work, should not have their pension cancelled/suspended until their paid income reduces their pension to zero dollars when applying the income/assets test. This will remove limitations on hours of work and anxiety over how many hours can I work before I lose my pension entitlement It also may address the fact that less than 10% of DSP recipients currently report earned income.


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, has provided a human rights context for the relationship of Australia’s disabled community to policy reform, as opposed to a relationship based on “looking after” or charitable support. The National Disability Strategy drives the whole of Government response to balancing mainstream and specialised policy and program development. AFDO believes that the recommendations in this submission will be in the magnitude of the NDIS. People with disability will be encouraged and enabled to make contributions to our economy through work place participation. Employers will be encouraged to engage with how to include people with disability in their workforces. We will become as accustomed to seeing people with disabilities in banks, schools, retail outlets and in the public service as we are now in seeing women and people from non-English speaking countries in those workplaces.

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