In his final speech as Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes today urged the Federal Government to develop a jobs plan to lift employment for people with disability.
“Forty five per cent of us live in poverty, we rank last among OECD countries on this score,” Commissioner Innes told the National Press Club in Canberra.
“And while the recent budget makes welfare harder to get for us, there is no plan to get us off welfare and into work.”
Commissioner Innes said we need to learn from Westpac, ANZ, Telstra and other businesses who are significant employers of people with disability.
“We need to listen to employers, and meet their needs. We need to make it safer to venture off the Disability Support Pension and into work. We need to offer every politician an extra staff member if they employ a person with a disability, as is done in the US.”
Commissioner Innes used his Press Club speech to reflect on his experiences and those of others with disability. He said barriers that prevent full participation in work, study, sport, and other everyday activities still remain for many people with disability.
“At 14, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, because I understood that the law could reduce disadvantage. I achieved that goal at 22, and immediately experienced the reality of disadvantage.
"In a 12-month, period I failed at 30 job interviews, mostly because employers could not understand how a blind person could work as a lawyer. Sadly, not much has changed.”
Commissioner Innes rejected the demonisation of people with disabilities as ‘slackers and rorters’ and said the National Disability Insurance Scheme “represents a seismic shift in choice and control for 500,000 Australians with disabilities.”
“The position of people with disabilities has improved significantly in Australia in the last few decades.
“On the up-side there has been significant progress in making transport and buildings more accessible.
“On the down-side, we are failing at finding jobs and delivering equal justice for people with disabilities.
“As I leave this role, I urge government, the community and the disability sector to commit to more jobs, more equal justice, and a community attitude which celebrates and enhances the contribution of people with disabilities.”