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2006 HREOC media release: Report of National Inquiry into Disability and Employment tabled

Commission Commission – General

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Report of National Inquiry into Disability and Employment tabled

A national report has called on the Commonwealth Government to lead the development of a National Disability Employment Strategy for Australia to help get more people with disability into work.

Workability II: Solutions, the Report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Inquiry into Employment and Disability, was tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday.

“Commonwealth, State and Territory governments must work together to create a level playing field for people with disability in employment” said Human Rights Commissioner and acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes.

The National Inquiry was launched on 4 March 2005 to address the low employment rate and earning potential for people with a disability. The Inquiry’s interim report WORKability I: Barriers found there were three sets of obstacles to higher employment rates – the lack of easily accessible and comprehensive information and advice; concern about the possible costs for employers and employees with disability and the “risk” factor or concern about the financial and personal impact on employers and employees if the job does not work out.

People with disability represent a significant proportion of Australia's working age population (16.6%), yet they participate in the workforce at lower rates, they are less likely to be employed when they do attempt to participate, and they will earn less if they do get a job. This has been the case for a long time and indications are that it is getting worse.

The Inquiry found that governments needed to do more to provide support, services and incentives to employers and to people with disability to ensure true equality of opportunity.

The Commonwealth Government has already agreed to establish a one-stop shop to provide a central information point for people with disability and employers, the first of 30 recommendations in the report.

Governments also needed to provide leadership to the private sector, and the community at large, by improving public sector employment practices and developing clear information strategies to address employer concerns about the costs and risks associated with people with disability as employees.

Business peak organisations and individual corporations also needed to play their parts in lowering the barriers to employing people with disability.

The report recommends the National Strategy address at least the following, as a matter of priority

  • developing a whole-of-government approach to ensuring appropriate financial and practical support to people with disability, including a streamlined system to provide adequate:

    • income support;
    • transport, equipment and health care subsidies and concessions;
    • workplace supports and modifications; and
    • personal care in the home and workplace;
  • improving the effectiveness of government-funded employment service delivery to people with disability and employers (including recruitment assistance and access to supports on an as-needed basis);
  • improving transition-to-work schemes for people with disability in secondary, tertiary and vocational education and training institutions;
  • ensuring better relationships between private sector employers and government-funded information, recruitment and employment support services;
  • increasing recruitment and retention of people with disability in the public sector (at the Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government levels); and
  • developing a benchmarking, monitoring and reporting system to ensure accountability and ongoing improvement to the incentives, supports and services available to people with disability and employers.

Commissioner Innes said he was encouraged by the positive response which the Commonwealth Government had already shown to many of the ideas raised during the inquiry, and looked forward to further constructive work with government, employers and disability community representatives in advancing equal opportunity and more effective participation in the labour market for Australians with disabilities.

He expressed his appreciation for the work of his predecessor as Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski, in initiating and leading the Inquiry.

The Report and other material from the inquiry is available at


Media contact: Janine MacDonald 02 9284 9677 or 0407 660 235

updated 16 February 2006.