Skip to main content





Department of Community Services and Health

Labour and Disability Workforce Consultancy


CHRIS RONALDS with assistance from the Labour Research Centre

Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra


Minister for Community Services and Health

I am pleased to release this important discussion paper on national employment initiatives for people with disabilities.

The discussion paper was commissioned by my predecessor, Dr Blewett, as part of the Federal Government's disability reform agenda. Prepared by Ms Chris Ronalds, with assistance from the Labour Research Centre, the paper addresses the following issues:

  • the determination of appropriate wages for workers with more severe disabilities;
  • unionisation of workers with disabilities;
  • equal employment opportunity and affirmative action; and
  • the adequacy of legal protection for employment and working conditions.

The issues canvassed in the discussion paper will interest governments, unions, employers, community organisations, people with disabilities and their families. I therefore invite interested organisations and individuals to send me written submissions on the paper by 30 November 1990. Submissions should be forwarded to the Minister for Community Services and Health, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600.


I have asked Ms Ronalds and the Disability Advisory Council of Australia (DACA), in conjunction with the various State and Territory Disability Services Advisory Committees, to undertake widespread community consultation on the paper, particularly with people with disabilities. I will also be asking the Steering Committee which assisted Ms Ronalds in preparing the report to provide feedback on the report from their constituent groups.

I am confident that the discussion paper will contribute to the further development of the Government's social justice agenda for people with disabilities.

Brian Howe MP

Minister for Community Services and Health

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Social Justice

August 1990



  • Background
  • Disability Services Act
  • Barriers to employment 


  • Current situation
  • Developing a skills based wage system
  • Wage policy proposals
  • Potential target group
  • Costs and benefits 
  • Net program costs 


  • Anti-discrimination legislation
  • EEO Policies and legislation
  • Future strategies for EEO


  • Future directions for unionisation


  • Definition of employee
  • Other statutory obligations


  • Co-ordinated approach 
  • Consultation processes 
  • Resources 
  • Responsibilities 
  • Conclusion



The Commonwealth Government provides a significant amount of support to many people with disabilities, both through income support and employment support.

The barriers to participation in the general labour market by people with disabilities have been recognised in three Commonwealth Government reviews. The recommendations from those reports form the basic foundation for this discussion paper.

In September 1983, the then Minister for Social Security, Senator Don Grimes, initiated the Handicapped Programs Review, to examine all Commonwealth Government programs delivering special services for people with disabilities. A particular focus was on the programs delivered by the Department of Social Security. In late 1984, a substantial proportion of these programs were transferred to the newly- created Department of Community Services.

The Report of the Handicapped Programs Review, New directions, was released in May 1985 and contained recommendations covering 52 areas. A major recommendation was the enactment of new legislation, and this was implemented with the passage of the Disability Services Act 1986.

The Commonwealth Government has proceeded with a number of other initiatives in relation to policies and programs involving people with disabilities. These include the Social Security Reviews Issues Paper No.5, Towards enabling policies: income support for people with disabilities and the work of the Disability Taskforce.

In November 1989, Dr Neal Blewett, the then Minister for Community Services and Health commissioned a consultancy to address four major issues in relation to the employment of people with disabilities. These issues were:

  • payment of productivity-based wages;
  • unionisation of workers with disabilities;
  • EEO and affirmative action legislation; and
  • adequacy of legal protection for employment and working conditions.

A discussion paper was released as the final product of the consultancy. This is a summary of that discussion paper. Copies of the discussion paper and this summary can be obtained from the Commonwealth Department of Community Services and Health in each capital city.

Disability Services Act

The Disability Services Act 1986 (DSA) is based on six objects which form the basis for the construction and the administration of the Act. Two relevant objects which underpin this paper are:

(c)to ensure that services provided to persons with disabilities

(ii) enable persons with disabilities to achieve positive outcomes, such as increased independence, employment opportunities and integration in the community;

(f) to achieve positive outcomes, such as increased independence, employment opportunities and integration in the community for people with disabilities who are of working age by the provision of comprehensive rehabilitation services.

These objects are developed further in the principles and objectives of the Act, which were released in June 1987. The Act provides the basis for funding services to people with disabilities which further the objects and the principles or objectives. There are nine types of services which have been approved as meeting the needs of people with disabilities, and these include supported employment and competitive employment training and placement.

There are 269 sheltered workshops funded currently under DSA, and there are approximately 11,000 people with disabilities employed in these workshops.

There are 253 activity therapy centres (ATCs) funded currently under the DSA and approximately 11,000 people with disabilities work in or attend ATCs.


Sheltered workshops and AICs are engaged in a transition process to meet the requirements of the DSA by improving range and quality of services available to people with disabilities.


Supported employment services provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities who would not able to perform paid work in the general labour market without ongoing support. Some typical models include enclaves, specialised businesses, mobile work crews and individual supported jobs.

Competitive employment training and placement services (CETPs) have been established to assist people with disabilities to obtain and maintain award wage jobs in the general lot market.


Barriers to employment

There are a number of barriers which prevent or inhibit people with disabilities from entering the general labour market. These include:

  • employer behaviour;
  • family concerns;
  • access to premises;
  • transport;
  • type of job;
  • job design;
  • training and ongoing support; and
  • income support.


Central to the issue of achieving increased integrated employment opportunities for some people with more sev disabilities is the need to address the issue of the determining of appropriate wage payments.

To ensure that the benefits of integration into the general labour market are realised, a fair and equitable system of measuring skills and productivity and paying a reasonable wage needs to be developed. This development will assist people with more severe disabilities who are unable to work at competitive norms. No system currently exists which enables the effective measurement of productivity and the payment of a productivity based wage. As such a system is central to ensuring opportunities for workforce participation by people with more severe disabilities, existing systems need to be analysed and directions for future policy developments proposed.

A number of major, and inter-connected, issues need to be addressed. There is little to be gained from a wages policy which limits the access of workers with more severe disabilities to integrated employment opportunities. This limitation occur if wages are set at a level which makes it difficult for organisations to employ people with more severe disabilities as the financial cost to the organisation in wages does not correlate with the financial returns generated by the work processes undertaken by the person with disabilities. Also, wages policy must ensure that the level of possible wage dc not act as a disincentive to entrance into integrated employment, through the impact of the income support system.

There is a clear need to develop a new system to ensure all workers with disabilities are paid an equitable wage which recognises their work and their contribution to society. The development of such a system must be informed by an examination of the systems which currently operate both for general wage fixation and for skills based wages.

Previous work in the area of wages for people with disabilities has used the term "productivity based wages". An example of the pertinent issues in the discussion paper led to the conclusion that the term is no longer appropriate, as it is too narrow to encompass all types of variations envisaged. Consequently, the term "skills based wages" is used to describe the possible future direction for wages policy for people with severe disabilities. This is in line with the terminology being used in the industrial relations arena during the award restructuring processes. 'Productivity based wages' is used in an historical context.

Target group

Obviously, the target group for any new wage policy is not all people with disabilities in the general labour market. There are already many people working on or above full award wages and they will not be affected by such a policy.

The target group to potentially benefit from such a policy are only those workers who, because of the nature or extent of their disability, are unable to operate competitively in the labour market as their level of skills is not the same as their coworkers. Their level of skills may be limited or restricted by a variety of factors, including the effects of their disability, job design, job duties, access and training. The level of skills may increase over a variety of times, depending on the same range of factors. There will be some people with more severe disabilities who need a skills based wage for a limited period only, while they are trained to perform the full range of job duties. Others may need such a wage for the entire time they work in that job, as the limiting or restricting factors may result in their level of skills not being able to be increased to the level of their co-workers.

Current situation

The concept of productivity based wages currently has limited application in Australian industry. Although the recent national wage case decisions of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission have been broadly concerned with level of productivity, these have been negotiated at the industry or enterprise level and subject to ceilings imposed by the commission. In a few industries, there is an element of individual productivity based wages. These industries, such as the textile, clothing and footwear industry, operate predominately on a piecework basis, but the piece rates do not determine the minimum wage of workers in these industries.

There are a number of general factors which will affect the likely employment opportunities for some people with disabilities under any new wage system. These include:

  • areas of job growth;
  • gender segmentation and segregation;
  • part-time work;
  • flexible working arrangements;
  • award restructuring;
  • work redesign; and
  • technology.

People with disabilities who currently are employed are p under one of four wage systems. The first system, which applies to the majority of workers with disabilities, is full award wages. The second, which applies to an extremely small number, is working with a slow worker permit for some proportion of an award wage. The third, which applies to most holders of slow workers permits, is a proportion of award wage supplemented by government income support, usually the invalid pension. The fourth is receipt of an income support supplemented with a wage payment. This last option applies to workers in sheltered workshops and some workers in supported employment programs.


With the exception of those who receive full award wages there are serious problems with each of these options. For the majority of people working with slow worker permits, wage levels are considerably lower than award rates. None of the permit holders examined exceeded the wage level at which eligibility for a pension ceases, but it is conceivable that some of the 3 per cent who earned more than 80 per cent of the appropriate wage rate may have voluntarily removed themselves from the pension as the pension payments would be extremely low. Removing pension eligibility for the other 97 per cent is clearly not an option. The wage income of most worker permit holders is insufficient to cover living costs.

For this group of permit holders, receipt of income support may make them vulnerable to unscrupulous employers who are prepared to pay minimal wages regardless of the worker's level of skills. The absence of effective monitoring arrangements in the permit system contributes to this vulnerability.


The major issue is that of ensuring that people with disabilities have access to integrated employment opportunities in the general labour market. There are greater difficulties presented to all involved parties where the person has severe disabilities. Insistence on full award wages for all workers will mean that many will not have this access, as employers will not be able to provide jobs for workers who are not as skilled as their co workers.

There may be a need for a system of wage supplementation or income support available in such circumstances, so the person with disabilities with lower levels has access to an equitable disposable income.

As none of the systems which currently operate is wholly satisfactory, the way is open to design an improved and effective system.

Developing a skills based wage system


There is an obvious need for standard methods of assessment, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, review and renewal processes and settlement of disputes to operate throughout Australia . The current systems run by state governments are not able to meet the needs of workers with disabilities who are able to work productively but at a reduced skills level. A new system needs to be developed to facilitate access for such workers into the general labour market.

Therefore, it is recommended that:


R4.1 The Commonwealth Government establish a national and comprehensive system of skills based wage assessment processes which enable the same principles and structures to apply to all relevant parties around Australia,

R4.2 AND that the Government negotiate with state governments to enable the current systems to be repealed so that the new system can operate in a clear manner and there be access to only one avenue of assessment.

A new system of job evaluation and skills assessment needs to be developed, which is value-free and which represents an accurate method of assessing the workers capacity in relation to other workers performing the same tasks.

In order to facilitate the development of such a scheme, it is recommended that:

R4.3 A working party be convened to undertake development of a system of measurement of skills for workers with disabilities in the target group. It should comprise representatives of relevant government departments, including the Departments of Community Services and Health, Social Security, Employment, Education and Training and Industrial Relations, as well as representatives of disability consumer groups, supported employment services, sheltered employment providers and of the union movement and private sector employers. As the Victorian Department of Labour conducts assessments as part of its slow worker permit system and currently is reviewing the system, a representative from that department should be invited to participate also.

One of the initial objectives of this working party would be to determine the most appropriate approach for determining the method of establishing the guidelines for skills based wage assessment processes.

One approach could be to establish a sub-committee of experts in the area of job evaluation and work design. They could cooperatively work out benchmarks for skills assessment, critically analyse the operation of current systems to ensure they do not disadvantage or discriminate against people with disabilities and develop appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing the level of skill increases.

There are several different legislative or administrative options which could be used to establish a national assessment system. These are:

  • Commonwealth legislation;
  • a standard clause in all federal and state awards; and
  • standard guidelines on assessment developed by the Commonwealth Government and legislative amendments negotiated with individual states.

While the second option is a feasible and workable system it requires a longer implementation period. Therefore, it appears that the first option would provide the most effective and workable scheme for the benefit of workers with disabilities who need such a scheme, employers, unions and government as well as the community in general.


Therefore, it is recommended that:

R4.4 Any new assessment system include the following components: the assessment of the level of skills of the individual worker, the processes and the parties to be involved and the methods of review and reassessment to be utilised and possibly the creation of a permit and the methods of issuing individual permits.

R4.5 AND the Commonwealth Government establish or adapt an agency to issue, monitor and review the new assessment and possible permit system and establish methods of assessment of the level of skills of the worker with disabilities.

If a national assessment scheme is implemented, there will need to be a responsible agency to administer the scheme. Therefore, it is recommended that:

R4.6 The assessment procedures should be placed in the industrial relations arena and be part of the duties of the registrar of the Industrial Relations Commission.

To ensure the proposed national assessment scheme is administered effectively and efficiently, there will need to be sufficient staffing resources.

Therefore, it is recommended that:

R4.7 The agency responsible for administering the new assessment system be provided with sufficient additional resources to create positions for skills assessment liaison officers to act as independent assessors of level of skills, and resources be made available for them or another appropriate agency to conduct publicity and educative programs to promote the employment of workers with disabilities and the concept and availability of skills based wages and provide relevant training for other staff.

Any skills based wage system introduced to enable the employment of non-competitive workers with disabilities in competitive work settings will require special provisions to ensure it cannot become part of the wage determinations process of competitive workers, whether disabled or not.


These provisions may include criteria of recent eligibility or qualification for invalid pension, sheltered employment allowance or incentive allowance.

It seems most appropriate that the applicant for assessment is the worker. The assessment form would contain the name of the worker and the employer, the job to be performed and the proportion of the award wage to be paid. It would apply to that job and that employer only.


A review and renewal system would need to be built into the assessment procedures. It appears that an initial review every three months within the first six months of the operation of the assessment would be essential. Review periods and renewal periods after that could be made at different times depending on considerations relating to individual workers, but an annual review would be essential. Also, there would need to be an opportunity for a review to be requested by one of the parties, when it is perceived that the skill level has increased.

In the unlikely event that there is any dispute on the assessment result, the usual processes established under the industrial relations system could be activate.

Wage policy proposals

There are three essential elements to an effective skills based wage system:

  • access to jobs;
  • equity for individual workers;
  • acceptance by employers, unions and the general community.

There are five policy options for developing an appropriate skills based wage.

Option A: Skills based wage

This option entails payment of a skills based wage only. It has the advantage of delivering a wage outcome commensurate with the skill level of the worker and could provide an incentive for the worker to increase skill levels. It has the disadvantage of potentially delivering wages below the level for a reasonable standard of living.

Option B: Skills based wage plus income support payment

This option recognises that a skills based wage may be below the tapered cut-off point which should enable continued receipt of some income security payment. As many people with disabilities work part-time, this option would ensure there is an income safety net through access to income support for such workers. This should apply also to people with disabilities who work full-time but are assessed as having a low level of skill and so receive low wages.

An advantage for employers is that they would be involved with the payment of the wages part of the policy only, and so the workers with disabilities would not require special administrative measures and the employer would not be required to submit any information to a government bureaucracy.

This option would provide incentives to individual workers, because as they increased their skill level and hence their wages they would be provided with an opportunity to cease to receive income support. Also, it increases the workers range of choices and hence flexibility.

Option C: Skills based wage plus employment subsidy

In this option, the total income received is equivalent to the appropriate award wage rate. The skills based wage component is paid according to the revised scheme. The employment subsidy component is assessed as the difference between the skills based wage and the appropriate award wage rate. The employer would pay the worker full award wage, and receive an employment subsidy paid by the govern merit.

One advantage of this option for workers on a skills based wage is that it ensures that they receive the same level of income as their co-workers.

There are some disadvantages. Employers may also be loathe to participate in a system which required them to do more paperwork and be subjected to closer bureaucratic scrutiny. Employees who were in receipt of an award wage equivalent might not be encouraged to increase their skills, as there would be no incentive to do so in the form of increased income. However, for workers who are not able to increase their skill level after appropriate training, this may not present any disincentive to increase skill level but provide a recognition of that situation.

Option D: Skills based wage plus income support payment plus employment subsidy

This option would also provide a total income equivalent to the appropriate award wage with the advantages canvassed under Option C. It has the same disadvantages as Option C, except the automatic exclusion to DSS payments would not be included. This would provide significant advantages to part- time workers, who could be disadvantaged under Option C.

Option E: Skills based wage plus employment subsidy with total wage outcome equivalent to a minimum wage

A modified Option C could be considered. In this option, a skills based wage component would be paid as an employment subsidy, but instead of the total wage being equivalent to the award rate it would be equivalent to some minimum wage rate.

This option erases most of the advantages of Option C and further entrenches discrimination against people with disabilities. It has, however, the additional advantage of being possible to implement in a period of expenditure restraint. Also, it would benefit most workers who currently hold slow worker permits by delivering a proper skills assessment and better wage levels. Payment of a minimum wage would also provide an incentive for the worker to increase skills and have the capacity to leave the program.

Potential target group

A skills based wage system will not apply to all workers with disabilities. Its potential is for a small sub-group only.

To determine the potential target group for the new policy proposals, it is necessary to set the parameters of the analysis. The major determinants include the level of disability and age. Other relevant factors include the state of the labour market, the timing of the implementation, gender differentials, access to premises, transport and aids and appliances.

There are no reliable data on the probable skill level of people with disabilities or the anticipated skill level after training or with support. Consequently, it is not possible to make any firm predictions on the range of skill levels for people who are able to obtain employment on a skills based wage.


Through its funding mechanisms, the Department of Community Services and Health could develop information systems to enable it to analyse program data and use that data for further research.

Therefore, it is recommended that:

R4.8 The Department of Community Services and Health develop information systems, particularly in relation to people with disabilities utilising the new employment service types, on the demography of the group, covering such areas as age, level and type of disability, gender, skill level, previous employment history, previous pension or benefit history, occupation, industry and wage level.

There is no accurate measurement of the probable size of the potential target group for a skills based wage.

Using the 1988 ABS Survey on Ageing and Disability it is assumed that no more than 50 per cent of severely and moderately handicapped people eligible or qualified to receive invalid pension or sheltered employment allowance would come within the target group. Also, age would also be a significant factor affecting opportunities to enter the general labour market. For the older age groups, it is likely that less than 50 per cent would come within the target group. Hence, it is assumed that the maximum potential client group would be 50 per cent of those aged 15-29 with severe and moderate handicaps, 40 per cent of those aged 30-44 and 30 per cent of those aged 45-59.

This produces a total of 119,800 who would have any chance of entering the labour force on a skills based wage, if such an opportunity was available to them.

However, such a scheme would be voluntary. For a wide range of factors, many people would choose not to participate. Hence, it is further assumed that at any point the likely take- up would be no more than 50 per cent. That would mean that there was a maximum potential target group of approximately 60,000.

Costs and benefits

There are a range of costs and benefits to individuals on a skills based wage, depending on which option is adopted and on their personal circumstances.

The data in the discussion paper indicate that almost all single people are financially advantaged under a skills based wage and an employment subsidy (Option C). A small proportion on the highest level of skill (80 per cent) and an award wage of less than $290 would be marginally disadvantaged under the subsidy option.

Married people with a low level of productivity and a high award wage would be financially advantaged under the subsidy option. In all other cases, they would be financially advantaged under a skills based wage and a part pension (Option D) because of the higher rate of pension.

In all cases, a married person with two dependent children would be financially advantaged under the pension option (Option B) rather than the subsidy option (Option C), again because of the higher rate of pension.

There could be significant costs and benefits to the Commonwealth Government. The costs relate to a comparison between current levels of expenditure through the income support system and those further incurred by an employment subsidy scheme. The costs to the government vary depending on the status of the person, that is whether they are single, married or married with dependent children.

Net program costs


The costings in the discussion paper include the variables for the three main options. Option B includes the savings on pension through the impact of the tapered income test, the net effect on taxation receipts and outlays associated with displaced people moving onto unemployment benefit.

Option C includes the outlays in employment subsidy, the total savings on pension, the net effect on taxation receipts and outlays associated with displaced people moving onto unemployment benefit.


Option D includes the outlays in employment subsidy, savings in pension through the impact of the tapered income test, the net effect on taxation receipts and outlays associated with displaced people moving onto unemployment benefit.


Option B would entail increased Commonwealth Government expenditure in the lower ranges of award wages. This is primarily because the reduction in pension outlays are less than the loss of taxation revenue and outlays on unemployment benefit. As the level of award wage increases, savings on pension increase at a greater rate than the loss of taxation revenue. Unemployment benefit remains constant. Above an award wage of around $3 10-360, the Option results in an increasing level of savings to the Government except where the 80 per cent skill level is excluded. In that situation there is Government expenditure involved at all award wages, although the expenditure decreases as the award wage increases.

Option C would result in savings to the Government in the lower range of award wages, in some cases significant savings. This is because the savings on pension and increased taxation revenue far outweigh outlays on subsidy and unemployment benefit. As the level of award wage increases, outlays on subsidy increase at a greater rate than taxation revenue. As award wages rise, the Option eventually results in Government expenditure. When the lowest skill level of 20 per cent is excluded, then savings occur up to an award wage of $390. When the highest skill level of 80 per cent is excluded, then expenditure rises once the award wage is over $290.


Option D would result in Government expenditure for all levels of award wage. Outlays on unemployment benefit and subsidy exceed the reduction in pension outlays and increases in taxation revenue. As the award wage increases above $250, the savings associated with pensions and increased taxation revenue rise at a greater rate than the outlay on subsidy until an award wage of around $320 (unemployment benefit remains constant). At this point, the pension cuts out for those in full-time employment, slowing the rate of increase in savings associated with the pension. This point is when the Option involves the least Government expenditure. Beyond $320, the cost of the option increases. When the lowest skill level is excluded, then the costs are between $1,300-$1,800. If the highest skill level is excluded, then the costs increase significantly and are between $2,800-$3,800.

The other initial outlay for the Commonwealth Government would be the costs of administration.


There are other issues, apart from wages, which need to be examined when considering the opportunities for people with disabilities to enter and remain in the general labour market. These issues include access to jobs, promotion, training and the other terms, conditions and benefits of employment.

One method of addressing any disadvantage or discrimination which a person with disabilities may face in employment is through anti-discrimination legislation and affirmative action and equal employment opportunity (EEO) legislation and policies.

Anti-discrimination legislation deals with a situation after the event has occurred and provides rights and remedies through redress. The legislation establishes a series of acts of unlawful discrimination on specified grounds and covers a number of areas, including employment. A person who considers that they have been unlawfully discriminated against can make a complaint to an independent statutory agency. That agency will investigate the complaint and endeavour to settle it. Settlement can include the payment of compensation or damages, reinstatement or promotion or an order that the other party cease any further acts of discrimination.

EEO and affirmative action policies and legislation are a proactive approach to the elimination of discrimination and the development of a workforce based on the principles of equality and equity of access and participation.

In the policy discussion paper, Affirmative action for women (AGPS, 1984), the Commonwealth Government defined affirmative action as:

A systematic means, determined by the employer in consultation with senior management, employees and unions, of achieving equal employment opportunity. Affirmative action is compatible with appointment and promotion on the basis of merit, skills and qualifications. It does not mean women will be given preference over better qualified men. It does mean men may expect to face stiffer competition for jobs. This is not discrimination.

This definition is used in the discussion paper.

Affirmative action programs are part of a broader EEO strategy. These programs and strategies are aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against the identified target group and in promoting the concepts and practices of EEO. This involves an examination of the intentional and unintentional impact of employment policies and practices on the target group and the implementation of a program to eliminate the impact and to redress the disadvantages that have arisen. This ensures that the employment policies and practices are fair and equal for all employees and applicants for employment.

Anti-discrimination legislation


At a Commonwealth level and in four states, there is legislation addressing the issue of unlawful discrimination in employment against people with intellectual and physical disabilities. This legislation was passed in recognition of the particular issues confronting people with disabilities in relation to the labour market and the effects of the behaviour and attitudes of employers and co-employees about the capacity of individuals to undertake employment or certain types of employment.

Regulations under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 provide the Commission with the power to investigate discrimination in employment on seven grounds, covering disability, which includes physical, mental, intellectual and psychiatric disability, impairment and medical reports. The regulations became operative on 1 January 1990.

The effect of the regulations is that the Commission may investigate and attempt conciliation of any complaint. If conciliation is unsuccessful, then the Commission may report to the Attorney-General. A complaint may be made in writing by an individual alleging an act or practice that constitutes discrimination. Also, the Commission may be requested by the Attorney-General to exercise these powers.

There is anti-discrimination legislation on the ground of physical impairment and intellectual impairment in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia . There is similar legislation in South Australia on the ground of physical impairment.

The Acts make it unlawful to discriminate on the ground of impairment and define direct and indirect discrimination. The employment provisions cover applicants for employment and employees. They also cover commission agents, contract agents, partnerships and membership of trade unions.


There are a series of exceptions which are based on a concept of "reasonable adjustment" or "reasonable accommodation". This means that it is not unlawful to discriminate where the changes or modifications required by the person with a disability can not reasonably be made in the circumstances, or where the person is not capable of doing the job because of the nature of their disability.

A person who considers that they have been unlawfully discriminated against on the ground of disability in employment may lodge a complaint with the appropriate agency. The complaint will be investigated and conciliated. If conciliation is not successful, or for several other reasons, the complaint may be referred to a quasi-judicial tribunal for a hearing. Usually, this hearing is conducted in public and all parties are legally represented.

There have been a number of major tribunal and court decisions which have interpreted the various state anti- discrimination laws, and some of these have involved the impairment provisions in the area of employment.

These cases demonstrate that most focus has been on people with mild disabilities and on people who have acquired their disabilities after birth, frequently in work related accidents. Members of the target group of the discussion paper have not been involved in litigation and have made limited use of the confidential complaint mechanism either.

EEO Policies and legislation


There is no specific EEO or affirmative action legislation which covers people with disabilities in private sector employment.

In relation to the Australian Public Service, government departments are responsible for eliminating unjustified discrimination against people with disabilities under the EEO provisions of the Public Seivice Act 1922. They must report annually to the Public Service Commission.

A department is required to make "reasonable adjustment" to the job environment to minimise any adverse effect of a person's disability at work. It is only justifiable not to do so where "undue hardship" can be demonstrated. The EEO guidelines set out some general principles for making adjustments whenever it is necessary, possible and reasonable.


There are two specific programs run for people with disabilities. The Intellectual Disability Access Program (IDAP), by regulation under the Public Service Act, allows discrimination in the appointment process in favour of a person who has an intellectual disability and who is recruited through IDAP. This means that the person is considered on individual merit, rather than through competition in the open, standard selection process.

The second program is run under the Australian Traineeship Scheme, which has a requirement that 5 per cent of traineeships are reserved for members of groups classified as disadvantaged on a CES assessment. The CES definition includes people with disabilities.

The EEO (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987 covers most Commonwealth statutory authorities and includes the same definition of "designated group" and some of the general provisions as the Public Service Act. Authorities are required to lodge an annual report covering the development and implementation of their EEO program with either the relevant Minister or with the Public Service Commission.

In New South Wales and Western Australia , there is specific legislation requiring government departments and statutory authorities to prepare and implement EEO management plans and lodge them annually with the Director of equal opportunity in public employment. In Victoria, there is a general provision relating to government departments, with no monitoring or enforcement mechanisms.

Future strategies for EEO

The protection and promotion of the rights of people with disabilities is an important principle which needs widespread acceptance and recognition within the community. Employment provides access to many other benefits of life, and can improve a person's quality of life substantially.

One barrier is the discrimination by some employers and coworkers against an applicant for a position or an employee with disabilities. The protection of the rights of such workers or potential workers must be protected.

A national and comprehensive scheme would be the most appropriate approach, so that the rights and remedies available to a person are not determined by place of residence. Such a scheme would need to address the disadvantages and deficiencies of the current systems and adopt an innovative approach to overcome these shortcomings. The provision of an adequate legal framework is an essential step in securing the appropriate rights and remedies for people with disabilities. It is not the only avenue for change, but it provides an important catalyst in creating full and equal access and participation in the labour market.

Therefore, it is recommended:

R6.1 That the Commonwealth Government pass national, comprehensive legislation which provides that people with disabilities have the right to employment without discrimination and that an employer must establish that any discrimination was reasonable in the circumstances.

R6.2 AND that extension to other appropriate areas be considered.

R6.3 Such legislation address the issues of definitions of disability and incorporate effective complaint-making and complaint- handling mechanisms to ensure they meet the special needs of people with disabilities, including provisions for group actions and for others to institute complaint proceedings on behalf of an individual or group of people with disabilities.



R6.4 In any development of national, comprehensive legislation to provide rights in employment and other areas for people with disabilities, consideration be given to providing direct access to the Federal Court for a hearing when conciliation can not or should not proceed and that a determination by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission not be established as an integral part of the process.



R6.5 In any development of national, comprehensive legislation to provide rights to employment for people with disabilities, a clause similar in terms to section 33 of the Sex Discrimination Act be included to enable the development and implementation of EEO and affirmative action strategies for people with disabilities.


It is recognised that the Commonwealth Parliament can only puss legislation which is authorised under the Constitution. There are a range of powers which could be used. In relation to employment, the "corporations" power provides the most comprehensive coverage as to enable laws to be made with respect to "foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth". The "banking" and "insurance" powers and the "trade and commerce" power could provide a further series of planks. Also, the "external affairs" power could provide some Constitutional basis.

The second major part of the strategies for future developments is in the area of EEO and affirmative action policies and programs.

The barriers which prevent or inhibit people with disabilities from full and equal participation in the workforce need to be addressed in a national comprehensive manner. While anti- discrimination legislation provides some remedies for unlawful discriminatory practices and actions, there is a demonstrated need for targeted, specific programs to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Therefore, it is recommended that:

R6.6 The Commonwealth Government explore all potential strategies in relation to the development and implementation of EEO and affirmative action programs in both private and public sector employment, including local government, to provide opportunities for full and equal integration into the general labour market for people with disabilities.

In order to implement this recommendation, a range of strategies need to be explored. These are canvassed below.

Strategy 1: Amend Affirmative Action Act


Some disability consumer groups have recommended that the Affirmative Action (EEO for Women) Act be amended to cover people with disabilities.

The Act is designed to address the structural barriers confronting women in the labour market.

The major barriers for people with disabilities at present is access to jobs and promotions. These barriers arise partly because of employer and community perceptions about the capacities of people with disabilities to work and stereotyped notions and behaviour which form the basis of these perceptions.

Therefore, it appears that it is not appropriate at this stage to amend the Affirmative Action Act because it is designed to address different labour market issues, although there is some marginal overlap.

Strategy 2: Contract compliance


"Contract compliance" is the term used to describe a program which is conducted in the USA. The basic requirement is that companies which do business with the Government over a certain value must have an affirmative action program for specified groups. There is a similar program in Canada.

These programs are based on the concept that the Government has the right to determine the terms and conditions of any contract between itself and another party. The Government further demonstrates its commitment to the overall principles of EEO or employment equity by declining to do business with private sector companies or sections of companies which do not comply also with these principles.

This area needs to be further explored within the Australian context. A program could be introduced whereby contractors for tenders over a certain value and with a certain number of employers could be required to demonstrate that they were conducting an affirmative action or EEO program of recruitment, selection, promotion, training, etc. for people with disabilities. The organisation which currently supervises the tender processes or a body specialising in EEO principles could administer the program. The program could cover not only government departments, but also statutory authorities.

One disadvantage of the proposal is that the purchasing role of the government in its various guises is limited in terms of the industries with which it contracts. The major part of the purchases are from different parts of the manufacturing sector. There also is some involvement with the construction industry, the transport and storage industry and the finance and banking industry.

Strategy 3: Targeted government grants and subsidies


The Commonwealth Government provides a range of funding to private sector companies, such as special assistance programs, export development grants, research and development grants, etc. These could be "tied" so that a company over a certain size, either by the number of employees or some other determinant such as payroll tax, or one that receives a certain size grant or subsidy has to participate in a special recruitment program to provide a designated number or proportion of jobs for people with disabilities. If the company did not agree, then they would be ineligible for the grant.

A second method of tying Commonwealth Government grants is placing conditions on grants received by the state governments. Grants provided for particular purposes, such as road construction, could be used to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

One disadvantage is that this isolates particular industries and does not have the advantages of a program which focuses on all industries.

Strategy 4: Tax subsidy or rebate


Employers could volunteer to participate in a targeted employment program, and could be entitled to some form of subsidy or rebate to cover the costs.

However, this would run counter to recent changes to the tax system to standardise rebates and subsidies. Also, it may be unnecessary. The Australian Commissioner of Taxation has issued a taxation ruling which covers expenses incurred by an employer when implementing an affirmative action program.

Strategy 5: Expansion of IDAP


The existing Intellectual Disability Access Program (IDAP) covers Commonwealth Government departments only. This program could be expanded by expanding the target group of employers to be covered.

One important component of this program is that it addresses the fundamental issue of access to jobs. However, the focus of the program at present is on people with intellectual disabilities, and as such it appears to have too narrow a base to be expanded in any comprehensive sense.

Strategy 6: Targeted access program


A broadly based targeted access program designed to address the needs of people with intellectual, physical or multiple disabilities to enable them to gain access to the general labour market could be developed and implemented.

This program could be targeted in several different ways, particularly in relation to employer groups, industry groups and participants. One focus could be on the type of employers to be involved in the program. The program could initially be implemented in Commonwealth Government departments, statutory authorities and wholly-government owned corporations.

Another focus could be on private-sector employers. This could be determined on the basis of size or by industry, or by an amalgamation of both factors.

However, an initial focus determined by the size of the workforce could limit the impact in cities and towns without any or many large employers. This could arise particularly in smaller country towns, where employment opportunities generally and particularly for people with disabilities is limited already.

An alternate focus could be on key industries or key jobs. Some industries are engaged in a higher overall growth rate in terms of new jobs than others. Therefore, an initial focus could be on such industries as construction, transport and storage and finance, property and business services.

Similarly, some occupations are undergoing more vigorous employment growth than others. Therefore, an initial focus could be on the occupations of salespersons and personal service workers and labourers and related workers.

The other major focus could be on the participants in such a program. There is a strong argument that the initial focus should be on younger people, as they have most to benefit in the long-term through access to the labour market. This would reduce their dependence on long-term income support and enable them to participate more fully in an integrated community. One initial focus could be on people aged 6-25, with a higher age range of up to aged 30 being developed at a later stage. This would not mean that people outside the proposed age range would be excluded, but that the primary focus would be on the nominated range.

A further focus could be on women participants, to ensure that there was no gender bias in the targetting, either in an assessment of an individual's capacity to perform a job or in the particular job which women should be targeted towards. A target of a 50 per cent participation rate by women could be established to ensure women with disabilities are provided with the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

A targeted program enables employers to examine the structure of their workforce and determine where there are suitable openings for people with disabilities and then take positive steps to recruit or promote people to those positions. The numerical or proportionate target would be set with the assistance of external indicators which provide information on the available pooi of potential employees and the type of employment they were seeking or were capable of performing.

Strategy 7: Targeted DSA funded programs

The Department of Community Services and Health funds a number of competitive employment training and placement programs and supported employment programs under the DSA. These are required to meet the principles and objectives of that Act.

One area of development could be to require these services to target particular industries or particular jobs, which are identified in that geographical location as being in a growth phase. The proportion of placements and training could be set to meet local requirements. Currently, the department enters into a contract with each individual service under section 10 of the Act. That contract could be adapted to include clauses which require the service to focus on identified industries or jobs. Such a requirement would be a condition of their ongoing funding, and be linked to the targeted access program. This would not mean that there activities were exclusively in the targeted areas, but a proportion of their activities would be required to meet the targets.

A further focus of targets could be to ensure that the participation rate of women was equal with that of men. A target of 50 per cent participation rate by women could be included in the terms and conditions of funding and would enable an emphasis on the particular needs of women with disabilities.

Strategy 8: Expanded training and work experience programs

There are a range of programs funded by the Commonwealth and state governments which provide training, both on and off the job, and work experience. These programs could be adapted so that a proportion of places were reserved for people with disabilities.

Strategy 9: Pre-employmen t training programs

One issue for many people with disabilities is their limited access to the general community. The Department of Employment, Education and Training could conduct a special vocational preparation program which focuses on young people with disabilities. The program could be aimed at providing skills, including writing job applications and interviewing skills.

Strategy 10: Employer education campaign


There appears to be some employer resistance to the employment of people with disabilities. In order to address the issues which arise from misconceptions and stereotyped notions about the potential for the opportunities for people with disabilities, there could be a targeted information campaign.

Strategy 11: Campaign for job redesign

A major issue for people with disabilities is the lack of information and knowledge by employers about the potential for job redesign. Some employers in Australia have undertaken such redesign activities and have opened opportunities for workers with disabilities. It appears that there is a need for information on such programs to become more widely available so that employers can benefit from the activities of others.

An information campaign which encouraged employers to examine employment opportunities in a creative manner through the use of examples could provide an important lead. A network of employers could be established to ensure that there were benefits available on a broader scale when an individual employer made some adjustments.

Strategy 12: Work attendant carer scheme

For some people with physical disabilities, working is not a possibility because they need a level of personal care throughout the day which is not available in the general labour market. One mechanism for providing some further employment opportunities for that group of people with physical disabilities could be the establishment of a work attendant carer scheme.

This would mean that a person would be employed specifically to assist an individual or several individuals with their personal care needs while they are at work. For example, this may require visiting the person several times per day to assist with toiletting or providing daily transport to and from work. If there were several people who require such services with one employer or within a convenient distance, the attendant may be able to provide assistance to that group.

Strategy 13: Affirmative action agency education campaign

One particular target group for EEO and affirmative action programs is women with disabilities. Under the Affirmative Action Act, the Director of Affirmative Action conducts various different education campaigns. She could develop a program aimed at encouraging women with disabilities, especially young women, to broaden their choice of occupation when making decisions about potential jobs. Also, she could develop a program aimed at private sector employers to highlight the issues relating to the special needs of women with disabilities in the general labour market.

Strategy 14: Community education campaign

There have been a number of general campaigns aimed at educating the community about the abilities and potential of people with disabilities. A new campaign could be specifically employment related and aimed at ensuring that employees, families and others understood their responsibilities in the elimination of discrimination on the ground of disability. It could demonstrate the advantages of working in an integrated environment for all parties involved and focus on the abilities of certain categories of workers.

Strategy 15: Family support network

It is clear that family support is essential for addressing the personal issues confronting a person with disabilities entering the general labour market, whether they are leaving sheltered employment or not. One method of reducing those potential problems is through a network of family support.

Key local parents could be used as the basis for such a network. They could be used as positive role models for other parents and supporters sand could be involved through on active program of contact with other families.


Strategy 16: Transport review


There are many issues in relation to transport for people with disabilities, and many variables such as geographical location, type of disability and level and type of public transport. The absence of accessible public transport can present the most difficult barrier to a person with disabilities who wants to obtain and retain a job.

The Minister for Community Services and Health could write to the Minister for Transport and request that the issue of transport for people with disabilities be put on the agenda of the Transport Ministers Conference and dealt with as a priority.

Strategy 17: Disability rights officer

People with disabilities have rarely used the complaint mechanisms under anti-discrimination legislation, for a variety of reasons.

An agency administering existing state anti-discrimination legislation could apply for funding under the DSA for a short term grant, for example for two years, to focus on the disability provisions of the legislation. The objective of such a project would be to ensure that the rights provided under the legislation and the manner in which complaints are dealt with and the type of action or results which can be achieved become better known amongst the target group.


For many people, workforce participation includes union membership and the opportunity to participate in union affairs. The vast majority of workers in supported or sheltered employment are not union members.

The principles and objectives of the Disability Services Act provide that people with disabilities have the same rights as other members of Australian society. These rights include the opportunity to have access to paid employment and its associated conditions, rights and responsibilities. Access to membership of trade unions is an important aspect of working life for many people.

The fundamental issue to be addressed is to ensure that workers with disabilities are able to exercise the same rights as other workers and are able to join trade unions and participate fully in all activities and undertake all the responsibilities of membership of that union when they chose to do so. This issue means that the related issues of access to membership and barriers to both membership and participation need to be examined.

Workers in sheltered employment have the same rights to organise collectively and join trade unions as other workers. Also, they have the right to seek to be covered by an industrial award or part of an award through the appropriate registered trade union. Although union activity in sheltered employment has been limited, there are indications that this is changing.

There is one union specifically for workers with disabilities in sheltered employment. However, in line with the principles and objectives of the DSA, it does not seem appropriate for the development of any more generic unions. Workers with disabilities should be encouraged to join the appropriate mainstream union.

Even where people with disabilities are working in the general labour market, they can confront barriers to joining and participating in union affairs.

These barriers or perceived barriers include:

  • lack of information available to people with disabilities on the role of trade unions;
  • lack of information available to trade unionists on disability;
  • perceptions of trade unionists that there will be communication difficulties with people with disabilities;
  • perceived difficulties that people with severe disabilities will not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract with a union;
  • the level of dues payable when a worker is on a low wage level;
  • potential for demarcation disputes where sheltered workshops are involved in a range of work usually covered by different unions;
  • effect of union rules and hence coverage in relation to sheltered employment;
  • opposition in the general community to the role of trade unions; and
  • effect of sheltered workshops being excluded from industrial relations legislation.

Future directions for unionisation


There are a range of strategies which could be implemented to address these barriers and perceived barriers.

Option 1: Information for workers with disabilities

There is an apparent need for information on the advantages of union membership to be presented to workers with disabilities. The information could explain the way unions operate and the benefits and responsibilities of membership.

This project could be jointly organised through the Department of Community Services and Health, the ACTU and state trades and labour councils. It could be funded under the Disability Services Act (DSA).

Option 2: Information for unionists

Union officials and union members require information to address stereotyped views about people with disabilities. Methods of communicating effectively with workers with disabilities need to be further developed. Also, information on particular issues which arise in relation to workers with disabilities and particular workplaces need to be developed.

One method of addressing these issues is to develop some training material. The cost of developing a training manual and of printing and distribution could be funded under the DSA, as it would conform with the principles and oblectives.

Option 3: Trade union training

TUTA performs a major role in the training of union officials and elected workplace representatives. There are two approaches which could be developed by TUTA.

A special section on members with disabilities could he incorporated into all general training courses conducted by TUTA. A second approach could be the development of a specific course designed to address the special issues of members with disabilities, such as appropriate communication and consultation mechanisms and the abilities of such members.


The cost of developing the special section of the general course and the special course could be funded under the DSA, as it would conform with the principles and objectives.

Option 4: Union resources


An important issue is the availability of resources within unions and trades and labour councils to explain to workers with disabilities the advantages of joining a trade union and to service any specific needs once they become members.


A union or council could apply for funding under the DSA for a short-term grant to employ a Disability Access Officer for a particular period, for example two years, to develop strategies to inform potential members of their right to join a union and the advantages of membership.

Option 5: Increased ACTU involvement

The ACTU could undertake a specific project to encourage affiliates to give priority to the issue of recruiting workers with disabilities into the union movement by providing appropriate information and advice to individual unions and working with TUTA to develop suitable training material.

The ACTU could apply for funding under the DSA to be able to engage the necessary resources and people to undertake such a project.


There are a number of legal issues which affect workers with disabilities.

Definition of "employee"

Under common law principles, it appears that a 'master and servant" relationship exists between management and workers with disabilities in sheltered employment, and that a contract of service exists.

Other statutory obligations

For workers with disabilities in sheltered employment, it appears that as an employment relationship exists they are covered by the relevant state or federal legislation in the following areas:

  • workers compensation;
  • occupational health and safety;
  • annual leave;
  • long service leave;
  • maternity and adoption leave;
  • compassionate leave;
  • dismissal and suspension;
  • exemption from awards; and
  • direct deductions from wages.

The issue of a contract of employment between the management of sheltered workshops and workers with disabilities needs to be addressed. While some workshops have written contracts, many appear not to have such a document. The advantage of a written contract is that it provide clear and concise information to both parties to the contract, and to the supporters and advocates of people with disabilities.

Therefore, it is recommended that:

R9.1 Contracts entered into between the Department of Community Services and Health and the management of sheltered workshops and supported employment have as a term that it is a condition of funding that all new entrants to the workshop or clients of the service be provided with a written contract of employment and that all existing workers with disabilities be provided with a written contract of employment by December 1992 and that the written contracts be in a form which is easily understood and which covers all the terms and conditions of employment.

This would ensure that both parties are in an equitable situation and that there was a clearly defined set of terms and conditions of employment which were binding on both parties and were in a form which could be easily understood.


There is not one single factor but a range of factors, some of which interlink, which need to be addressed. If the principle that people with disabilities should have the right to full and equal access to and participation in the labour market is accepted, then it must be accepted also that strategies need to he designed to remove or reduce these barriers to their participation. Without such action, the present limitations and restrictions will continue. If these issues are not addressed while the workforce undergoes restructuring and transformation, then the interests of people with disabilities will be ignored and the necessary changes will not be incorporated. Specific measures to address these issues will further the implementation of the objects, principles and objectives of the Disability Services Act (DSA).

The recommendations in the discussion paper are designed as a comprehensive approach to the major issues and priorities in further developing opportunities for people with disabilities to be integrated into the general labour market without discrimination, disadvantage or disincentives.

Co-ordinated approach

While most recommendations are separate and could be divided up for the purposes of implementation, this would lose the overall focus of the discussion paper. Therefore, they should be considered within the framework in which they were developed - that is, as separate parts of an overall strategy.


To achieve the primary focus, it is proposed that a plan of action be developed and that it be called the "National Employment Initiatives for People with Disabilities".

The plan would have four major objectives:

1. To further develop employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the general labour market.

2. To establish effective mechanisms to eliminate any discrimination, disadvantage or disincentive which confront people with disabilities when endeavouring to enter, re-enter or remain in the general labour market.

3. To implement consultative mechanisms to identify an agreed course of action resulting from the recommendations in this discussion paper.

4. After that process, to implement the identified policies.

The plan should be divided into two parts to canvass separately the wages issue and the other three issues EEO, unionisation and legal issues.

The rationale for this proposal is that the issues surrounding the recommendations on future developments in the area of wages involve a range of government and non-government parties which have a specific and identified role to play in consultations.

Part I Wages


The first part of the plan should address the issues of skills based wages. The nature of these issues appears to indicate that the initial forum to consider the recommendations and further courses of action is the Disability Taskforce.

The taskforce could develop a co-ordinated Commonwealth Government response to the recommendations, as all relevant Cominonwealth Government departments are represented on the taskforce. The major role played by the Department of Community Services and Health in identifying the need for these policy issues to be addressed should be continued in the process of identifying future policy options and strategies. The other departments with a clear and identified involvement in the area are the Department of Social Security, the Department of Employment, Education and Training and the Department of Industrial Relations.

During the course of developing a co-ordinated Government response, it will be necessary to consult with parties outside government, particularly the ACTU, employers' representatives and disability consumer and provider groups. The taskforce could nominate the most appropriate departments and individuals to undertake that process, possibly through the establishment of a special committee. Also, it will be necessary to consult with state governments in relation to establishing any new assessment system and the inter-relationship between the existing slow worker permit systems and any such new system.

The initial priority during this process should be to progress the methods of assessment for any skills based wage system (sec recommendation 4.3). Unless and until there is a system which is acceptable to all parties and which does not further entrench discrimination against people with disabilities, then there can be no positive progress to implement any national, comprehensive changes to existing structures.

Under the auspices of the Disability Taskforce, the relevant departments, particularly the Department of Community Services and Health, should establish a working party to examine the issues and establish a consultancy to develop guidelines for the assessment process. The consultancy could utilise the experience of placement services and others involved in the existing slow worker permit system and in the assessment systems used in the general labour market. Workers with disabilities on slow worker permits could be approached to ascertain whether they would be willing to participate in a pilot study. While there are only approximately 150 such workers around

Australia , they represent an identified pool of people involved in the process.

At the conclusion of the work of the consultancy and the working party, a set of guidelines could be issued which present a comprehensive and workable solution to the assessment process. These guidelines would address the pertinent range of issues and present practical methods of assessing a worker's skill level without bias or discrimination.

After that process has been undertaken, a new system for establishing a skills based wage system could be established.

Part 2 EEO, unionisation, legal issues


The framework and timelines for the recommendations and strategies on EEO, unionisation and legal issues can be seen as being part of a unified package. Therefore, consultations and future developments can he structured as an integrated approach.


The initial priorities should be in relation to the targeted access program (strategy 6) and the campaign for job redesign (strategy 11). Taken together, these two strategies provide a complementary underpinning to meet the overall objectives of the plan. They enable a focus on initiatives to demonstrate the capacities and capabilities of people with disabilities and their abilities to enter the general labour market. When linked with anti-discrimination legislation on the ground of disability (recommendations 6.1, 6.2, 6.3), they will provide a comprehensive framework for future developments. Consequently, the development and passage of such legislation should be a priority also.


Other developments could be undertaken initially by the Department of Community Services and Health as an immediate priority, as these strategies are within their area of operations. For example, further consultations with the relevant parties around the issue of targetting DSA funded programs (strategy 7) could be commenced, as could work in the work attendant carer scheme (strategy 12), the employer education campaign (strategy 10), the community education campaign (strategy 14) and the family support network (strategy 15). Also, recommendation 9.1 in relation to introducing written contracts of employment between workers and management in sheltered employment and supported employment could be initiated through discussions with relevant bodies.

Contact could be established with the Affirmative Action Agency (strategy 13) and the Minister for Transport (strategy 16) to establish their responses to the proposed strategies. As the Department of Community Services and Health initiated this discussion paper, the preliminary contact should be undertaken by officers of that department.

Similarly, contact could be continued with the ACTU, trades and labour councils and some relevant national unions to explore the methods of implementing the recommendations in chapter 8 and the response of those bodies to the recommendations. As the Department of Community Services and Health initiated this discussion paper, the preliminary contact should be undertaken by officers of that department.

Consultation processes

Specific action for a number of different options or strategies should be undertaken simultaneously with wider consultative processes. This report has been framed as a discussion paper, and while it makes some recommendations they are based on an assumption that there will be further discussion amongst and between interested parties and the community prior to implementation.


Effective national consultation processes around such a discussion paper can be difficult to organise to achieve the maximum results for the resources and time expended. While the role of different parties in some of the recommendations, options and strategies is recognised, the consultation processes must cover all areas raised in this discussion paper.

Some consultation methods can disadvantage some groups. For example, response by way of written submissions can advantage larger, well-organised groups with resources to prepare submissions and disadvantage smaller groups or individuals without the organisational capacity to undertake such work. This is especially so given the target group of this report. Also, larger groups have expended considerable resources in the preparation of submissions and oral evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs.

A consultation process is proposed to meet the needs of all parties and in recognition of the particular needs of the target group.

The department could establish a steering committee, chaired by an independent expert, to oversee the consultation processes and provide a focus for the results of the processes.

Representatives of all major parties could be included on this committee. It is recognised that all other parties have access to established avenues to consult their membership and providing responses. However, people with disabilities, their supporters and advocates are not necessarily part of any organisations.

To ensure that people with disabilities are provided with a mechanism to participate in the consultations, forums could be held in each state or major region. These could be held three months after the distribution of the discussion paper, to allow time for the recommendations to be debated generally.

While there are various mechanisms to arrange such forums, it appears that there are two feasible options. One would be for the department's state offices to arrange the forums. An alternate approach would be for the department to fund a disability consumer group or a combination of groups in each state or region to organise the forum on its behalf. The latter option may allow more flexibility in response and broaden the potential audience for the forum.

The results of the discussions at the forum could be fed back to the steering committee, and it would be anticipated that at least one steering committee member would be able to attend each forum. This would ensure that the committee's final analysis reflects those discussions.

While that process was occurring, the other parties could be involved in the preparation of their own responses through consultation with their membership.

After those processes had been undertaken, a targeted national conference could be held. The steering committee would be responsible for the overall organisation of the conference and such matters as development of the agenda, speakers and invitees. The department would be required to provide administrative support or to fund an organisation to do so on their behalf.

The rationale behind this proposal is that a smaller, targeted conference after a period of general discussion means that the responses are related to the recommendations and enable a coherent analysis to be presented to government. This would reflect the views and responses of all interested parties and individuals to the content of the discussion paper.


A brief report on the outcome of the consultation processes could be prepared, through the auspices of the steering committee. This report could identify priorities and could raise other issues which had arisen during the course of the consultations but which were not canvassed in this discussion paper. It must be stressed that these processes will relate only to the issue of employment initiatives for people with disabilities, and not to other issues which are relevant for this group.


The immediate resource implications are for the Department of Community Services and Health in relation to the development and implementation of a range of consultative mechanisms, including working with and through the Disability Taskforce. There are resources implications for a number of the options and strategies, including staffing resources at a bureaucratic level and funding of agencies outside the Commonwealth Government to undertake some of the duties and functions.


To ensure that any implementation is effective and able to achieve its objectives, there must be a commitment of adequate resources from all parties involved in the various processes.


The range of factors, options and strategies which are analysed in this report means that there is no single identifiable party which carries the sole responsibility for any implementation of the options and strategies in this discussion paper. Rather, there are a number of different parties which have varying roles to play.

The Commonwealth Government has a clear role in terms of the delivery of services and the implementation of new and existing policies, programs and legislative provisions. State governments have a similar, and sometimes overlapping, role in some areas and an independent role in others.

People with disabilities and their parents, supporters and advocates have responsibilities to ensure that they are aware of changes which could improve the economic well-being and other areas of life for people with disabilities by any increase in their opportunities to enter the general labour market.

Disability consumer and service provider groups have responsibilities in the same area, although their primary focus and methods used to transmit information and advice may differ.

The major parties in the general labour market also have responsibilities to ensure that that market operates without discrimination and disadvantage towards people with disabilities. The two main parties are the trade union movement and its constituent members and employers' representatives and their constituent members.

The Australian community also has a major role to play in eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, in assisting in creating opportunities in integrated workplaces and in actively participating in, and supporting, programs and policies designed to achieve that objective.

If this inter-meshing of responsibilities is accepted and acted upon by all the identified parties, then the future development and implementation of pro-active policies and programs for workers and potential workers with disabilities will be able to be realised.



The strategies and priorities discussed in this chapter have been developed to provide a focus to the on-going work in the area of increasing integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities and are put forward as a possible framework for that to continue.

The principles which underpin the discussion paper and which the recommendations, options and strategies seek to implement provide a comprehensive framework for further developing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They need to be adopted by all relevant parties and while the responsibilities for different approaches may vary, there needs to be a co-ordinated path to be pursued so that these principles will be achieved.