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Employment the antidote to poverty

Employment the antidote to poverty for many people with disability

To mark Anti-Poverty Week 2015, the Australian Network on Disability (AND) and People with Disability Australia (PWDA) are calling on employers to recognise the skills, talents and contributions that people with disability can and do bring to the Australian workforce.

Evidence shows that while many people with disability are willing and able to work, they are often not given a fair go. Workforce participation of Australians with disability is currently 54%, compared to 84% of people without disability, and just under half (45%) of all people with disability are living near or below the poverty line.

AND and PWDA encourage Australian employers to do more to make their employment opportunities accessible to, and inclusive of, people with disability. Employment is the best way out of poverty for many people with disability, and improved employment rates will also benefit the Australian economy.

Mark Boerebach has been looking for a job since finishing high school almost 30 years ago, and is regularly left with nothing in his bank account after paying all of his bills. Mark has a vision impairment and Aspergers’ syndrome, and says he routinely faces discrimination when trying to secure employment.

“If I was able to secure paid work I would be able to provide for myself without having to rely on the government, live with more certainty and start saving up for my own place. I would also have more social contact and build more relationships, both personally and professionally,” Mr Boerebach said.

Jeanette Purkis was receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP) for 12 years before finding fulltime employment within the Australian Public Service.

“When I joined the public service my life changed completely. It was not just about having money, but about having choices and feeling much happier with who I was. I also loved being a taxpayer and feeling that I was contributing,” Ms Purkis said.

AND Chief Executive Suzanne Colbert said that many Australian employers are already reaping the business benefits of employing people with disability.

“Many of our members, including large employers like Westpac, ANZ, Manpower, Telstra and Woolworths, as well as many government departments, are already making a proactive effort to recruit more people with disability, and make their systems and processes more

accessible. We encourage all Australian employers to make inclusion of people with disability a priority area within their operational strategy,” Ms Colbert said.

PWDA Advocacy Project Manager Samantha French said it’s not just people with disability who benefit from employment, businesses that employ people with disability also benefit in many ways.

“Employees with disability have fewer workplace accidents, make fewer Workers’ Compensation claims, take fewer days off and have longer tenure than employees without disability,” Ms French said.


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