Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett
2022 Jobs and Skills Summit
Canberra, Friday 2 September, 2022
“I wish to acknowledge and pay my deep respects to the Traditional Owners of the land – the Ngunnawal people.
Ladies and gentleman, distinguished guests.
The participation rate for people with disability is and has remained at 53% for 28 years. The participation rate for people without disability is 83%. The participation rate for people with disability includes people legally employed at or around $3 per hour.
The likelihood of a person with disability having graduated year 12 is half a person without disability. Furthermore, there is no formal education about disability in Australian Schools. Is it reasonable to expect young people to discuss disability at work or, alternatively, work in the care economy after school when they learn about disability from television. Silence is a gateway to exclusion.
Good disability policy benefits all Australians, but it is built upon a foundation of different levels of government working together and leaders within the community, whether it be in politics, business or philanthropy, appreciating the power of awareness raising, language and intent.
Five Key Points
I wish to make 5 brief points today concerning policy leavers to increase workforce participation:
First, we need a Workplace Disability Equality Agency to research, assess and promote how we recruit, retain and advance people with disability into long-term careers and economic participation.
Second, we need whole of community engagement on disability inclusion. Under 20% of the top 50 ASX listed companies have a disability action plan under the Disability Discrimination Act. This needs to change.
Third, we need law reform. 50% of all complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission concern disability discrimination, many of which are in employment. A better regulatory framework is needed, one which leads to systemic change and prevents exploitation.
Fourth, the close analysis of the interrelationship of employment and training and other policy frameworks is needed – with an emphasis on data and local solutions. The entitlement to government support to live, for healthcare and housing is often compromised by an effort to pursue employment. We need to review and test whether the disability pension and associated policies are fit-for-purpose.
Fifth, we need to embed people with disability in new industries and new projects through training and work opportunities. Disability is diverse and people with disability are diverse too, however much like housing it is best to build in universal design considerations up front.
4.4 million Australians presently live with disability and 2.65 million Australians have caring responsibilities. However, good disability policy benefits all Australians.