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Leadership needed to ensure jobs for people with disability

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When Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese failed to recall the national unemployment figure recently, he was lambasted.

We were told he should have known it had a 4 in front of it, and that it was trending towards a 3 given the recent success of the Australian economy.

Yet no current or aspiring Member of Parliament can be seen reciting the national unemployment figure for people with disability.

That number has a 10 in front of it, and is more than twice the unemployment rate for people without disability.

Only 53.4% of working-age people with disability are in the labour force, compared with 84.1% of those without disability.

We have not made progress in 20 years in getting people with disability into work.

Yet, we have improved the labour force participation of people without disability during that time.

A job creates financial and social independence for a person, and contributes to a greater economic outcome for the nation.

If we look locally to Western Australia’s largest employer, the WA Government, the story is the same.

Responsible for more than 140,000 employees, the WA Government workforce only contains a 1.5% representation of people with disability, as set out in the Public Sector Commission’s Public Sector Quarterly Workforce Report of March 2022. 

On 3 December 2019, the WA Government announced they would seek to achieve a public sector workforce composition of 5% of people with disability.

They released an ‘Action Plan to Improve WA Public Sector Employment Outcomes (2020-25)’, with key actions for all agencies to achieve the target.

Three years on, there has been no change in the representation of people with disability in their workforce.

So what now?

We need strong leadership from Ministers, and their Directors General and Chief Executives, to implement the policies and achieve the targets that Cabinet has signed off on.

We need them to:

1. Create a workforce that resembles their customers and communities. 

2. Maximise the talent and opportunities that people with disability bring.

I’d also like to see a light shone on the proportion of people with disability working in some public sector agencies. Many agencies do not publicly report those diversity numbers, nor does the public sector currently release them by agency.

Transparent performance reporting by large agencies of progress towards a whole-of-Government target is required.

Things will not change until our public and private sector Boards, management teams and frontline staff have a representation of disability that reflects the community in which we live.

Then, and only then, may we expect our political leaders to know the unemployment figure for people with disability.

This article was written by Good Sammy CEO, Kane Blackman. It was first published in The West Australian newspaper on 22 April 2022.
Article Author
Kane Blackman
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