Kylee Bates, Mission Australia's employment solutions general manager, told the conference about her research into employer-led initiatives overseas, and highlighted five key reasons why employers embrace disability inclusion at work.
Employers should not seek to hire people with disability out of kindness, but for commercial reasons, according to employment and social policy consultant Toni Wren.
"It's not you being nice [and] giving someone a go out of the kindness of your heart... It's a mutually beneficial partnership," she told delegates at the Australian Network on Disability's Bar national conference last week.
TONY EASTLEY: While the politics is being played out in Canberra, across the country hundreds of thousands of Australians with a disability would be at work today - if an employer gave them a chance.
On a global scale Australia is dragging the chain when it comes to participation rates. Out of 29 OECD countries Australia is in the bottom third, ranking 21. Martin Cuddihy reports.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Australia's unemployment rate is the envy of the developed world, but the participation rate for people with a disability is comparatively low.
SUZANNE COLBERT: Most people with a disability just want to get on, earn a living and have a life just like everyone else.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Suzanne Colbert is the chief executive of Australian Network on Disability, or AND. It's a group representing employers who try to get people with a disability into the workforce.
SUZANNE COLBERT: There are currently over 300,000 people with disability registered with employment support services who are looking for work.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Statistics from Price Waterhouse Coopers and Deloitte show that if 2 per cent of people who have a disability went back into the workforce and off the support pension, there would be a $1 billion contribution to the GDP. The executive officer of the Physical Disability Council of New South Wales is Ruth Robinson. She says getting people into work is a win-win.
RUTH ROBINSON: We are losing opportunities for people to contribute the knowledge and the education and the skills they've got as employees and also the participation of people sometimes as consumers.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Suzanne Colbert from AND says there are not enough pathways to help people get an opportunity to pay for themselves.
SUZANNE COLBERT: At the moment we just have one program that's primarily designed to assist people with disability to get into work and to get the support they need in the workplace and that program is used by about only 3 per cent of employers.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: So why is that percentage of businesses so small?
SUZANNE COLBERT: I think in Australia we still struggle with the idea of inclusion of people with disability.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Why is that do you think? Is there some sort of cultural barrier in place that prevents, perhaps dissuades people from wanting to employ someone with a disability?
SUZANNE COLBERT: I think they, that people see a disability, they don't see the capabilities that somebody has.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is taking steps to ensure people with a disability get into work. Chief executive Peter Anderson:
PETER ANDERSON: Well we're hearing about businesses who have for the same time taken on workers who have a disability. And we're hearing that those businesses are overwhelmingly satisfied with the way in which those arrangements have been put in place.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: And does it make economic sense?
PETER ANDERSON: Well it does because people with disability generally are regarded as workers who want to make a serious effort within their capabilities.
JOHN EASTLEY: Peter Anderson, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ending that report by AM's Martin Cuddihy.
Australians with severe mental illness, their families and carers will have greater access to support services and other practical assistance locally in their communities thanks to a $121 million boost from the Gillard Government.
Minister for Disability Reform Jenny Macklin and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said the new and expanded services are part of the Government’s record $2.2 billion national mental health reform package.
The House of Representatives has passed legislation to set up the Government's National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The bill, which will allow the scheme to be launched from July, passed with the support of all MPs.
Disability Reform Minister Jenny Macklin broke down as she wound up her speech on the bill.
In accepting invitations to participate in an industry roundtable and make a written submission, AHRI participated last month in responding to the government’s recent discussion paper on disability employment.