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Commission Commission – General

Friday 4th March 2005


The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) today launched a
national Inquiry into employment for people with disabilities in Australia.

Human Rights Commissioner and Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner,
Dr Sev Ozdowski, said equal opportunity for Australians with disabilities was
a fundamental human rights concern as well as being a significant economic

“A range of studies indicate that Australians with disabilities are
missing out on opportunities to develop and use their skills and capabilities,
and to earn a decent living for themselves and their families,” said
Dr Ozdowski.

“This national independent Inquiry will look at a broad range of barriers
that face people with disabilities in seeking work, and issues for employers
in recruiting, retaining or fully utilising employees with disabilities.”

The Commissioner welcomed the current debate on how reform of the Disability
Support Pension and related programs could contribute to improved employment
outcomes, but stressed that this Inquiry was not a substitute for other review
processes being conducted by government.

“Evidence suggests that like most other Australians, people with disabilities
want to work and earn a good living. But they face barriers - in getting employment
or keeping their jobs; physical difficulties; inflexible work practices and
attitudes; and economic hurdles,” said Commissioner Ozdowski.

“Employers also report that they face barriers - in getting access to
information and advice on how to accommodate disability in the workplace; and
in getting access to government support to make adjustments.”

Around 20% of Australians have some sort of disability.

Only 53% of people with disabilities of working age are in the workforce,
compared to 80% for other Australians. They have a higher unemployment rate
than other Australian workers (8.6% compared to 5%) and lower incomes.

These numbers have not improved considerably over the last decade - and in
some areas have actually got worse.

The Inquiry will seek to consult and cooperate with government agencies, employers,
people with disabilities, community groups, unions and employment service providers
to put strategies in place to improve work opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Inquiry is now calling for public submissions. Further information is
available via the Inquiry homepage at:

The Inquiry aims to publish its findings and recommendations in November 2005.

Terms of Reference


  • identify existing systemic barriers to equal employment opportunity
    for people with disabilities;
  • examine data on employment outcomes
    for people with disabilities including workforce participation, unemployment
    and income levels; and
  • examine policies, practices, services
    and special measures implemented to advance equal employment opportunities
    for people with disabilities.

Media Contact: Paul Oliver 02 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

updated 4 March 2005.