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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 349


Senator WORTLEY (7:16 PM) —The Gillard government cares about those in our community with disabilities. This is evidenced by many of the government’s actions, and I wish to elaborate on some of these this evening. In doing so, I first of all congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator the Hon. Jan McLucas, on her appointment.

The Australian government provides a range of specialist disability employment assistance to help people with disability prepare for, obtain and retain employment. Approaches to disability employment assistance include, firstly, open employment through disability employment services and, secondly, supported employment through Australian Disability Enterprises. The government is committed to improving access for people with a disability who need supported employment, improving the experience of people with disability in supported employment and strengthening Australian Disability Enterprises as progressive and sustainable commercial enterprises providing inclusive supported employment. It wants to ensure that supported employment is valued as a pathway to full participation and inclusion in community life for people with disability.

To achieve this goal, the Gillard government proposes to develop a new vision for people needing supported employment. It wants to partner with people with disability and their families and carers, supported employment organisations and the wider community to deliver on a new vision. The new 10-year vision will be positioned within a human rights framework where everyone has the right to work where possible, where everyone has the right to work in an environment that is inclusive, supportive and accessible and where everyone has the right to fully participate and be included in Australian society. To this end, the government has released a discussion paper on improved support to Australians with severe or profound disability requiring supported employment through Australian Disability Enterprises.

The discussion paper, Inclusion for people with disability through sustainable supported employment, offers a starting point for the 10-year vision which will see people with disability achieving greater participation and inclusion in the community through quality supported employment. On the release of the discussion paper, the minister for community services, Jenny Macklin, said:

The Government is committed to an Australia where people with disability have the same opportunities as other Australians to have a job where possible, participate in the community and have a meaningful life ...

The government funds Australian Disability Enterprises to provide supported employment in a real workplace offering real work. The enterprises operate over 600 commercial businesses across Australia and employ around 19,000 people with disability. These enterprises pay a wage to people with disability for the work that they do and provide them with the support they need to do their work.

The Gillard government values the significant contribution of Australian Disability Enterprises to the wellbeing and independence of people with disability as well as to the Australian economy. It is working in partnership with Australian Disability Enterprises to ensure people in supported employment meet their career goals and aspirations whilst also ensuring the commercial viability and sustainability of the sector.

This discussion paper also progresses key commitments of the government following Australia’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its release of the National Mental Health Disability Employment Strategy. As stated by the former parliamentary secretary for disabilities, work is the cornerstone of social inclusion for people with disability, and Australian Disability Enterprises provide dignity and purpose to many people with a disability.

We all know that work provides financial independence, builds self-esteem, provides friendships and gives a person respect. These benefits should not be denied to people just because they have a physical or mental impairment. There has been real progress in recent years to strengthen and improve the supported employment system, but there are still many barriers preventing people with disability from being part of the workforce.

The government aims to improve the quality and inclusiveness of the supported employment system. That is why we are keen to hear people’s ideas about the future direction of supported employment to help the Australian government develop a new vision for supported employment. The Gillard government recently increased funding for Australian Disability Enterprises by $4.5 million in the 2010-11 financial year, bringing the total funding to $204 million. It has also appointed an advisory committee on Australian Disability Enterprises to guide the consultation process and give expert advice to government.

With the horizon to 2020 for this vision, six areas for improvement have been identified in this discussion paper reflecting our understanding that (1) people with disability in supported employment want to be employed in a work environment that has inclusive workforces and safe workplaces. (2) People with disability in supported employment want to earn a fair wage through improved wage determination processes and other employee benefits. (3) People with disability in supported employment want choice and flexibility in where they work and the work they do through a person centred approach. (4) People with disability in supported employment want appropriate supports over their lifetime through timely and seamless access to assistance. (5) People with disability in supported employment, the supported employment sector and government want to be confident that businesses are delivering supported employment through better practice models. (6) People with disability in supported employment, the supported employment sector and the government want to be confident that partnerships are formed through genuine respect and innovation to improve the supported employment system into the future.

In closing, I wanted to bring to the attention of the chamber and those listening to the broadcast this evening that there is still time for individuals and organisations to make submissions on this very important topic as the closing date has now been extended to Friday, 26 November. For more information, including a copy of the discussion paper and details about making a written submission or joining a community consultation, interested parties can visit www.fahcsia.gov.au.