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State and territory winners of 1991 Prime Minister's employer of the year awards

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State and Territory Winners of 1991 Prime Minister's Employer of the Year Awards

Fifteen employers who have led the way in the employment of people with disabilities have had their efforts recognised with their selection as State and Territory winners of the 1991 Prime Minister's Employer of the Year Award.

They are all now eligible for selection as the National Employer of the Year, which will be announced at a reception at Parliament House on 12 September.

Under the Awards, employers are divided into two categories - those that employ more than 100 staff, and those that employ less.

The State and Territory winners under the large business category are:

NSW - BHP Steel Slab and Plate Products Division VIC - Royal Automobile Club of Victoria QLD - Palm Lodge Nursing Home SA - Walker Australia Pty Ltd WA - Department of Land Administration

TAS - Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd NT - Atrium Hotel ACT - Dickson Motor Vehicle Registry

The award winners under the small business category are:

NSW - Cooper Tools Pty Ltd VIC - Bendigo Pottery QLD - Rayburn Pty Ltd SA - Regina Lighting Pty Ltd

WA - Dardanup Butchering organisation NT - G & R Wills Pty Ltd

ACT - Instant Office Furniture Pty Ltd



The Prime Minister's Employer of the Year Awards are designed to encourage employers help disabled Australians. They recognise employers who provide significant work opportunities and support for people with disabilities, many of whom have never worked, or

have worked only in sheltered workshops.

Employment on the open labour market gives these people the opportunity to prove themselves as valuable, productive members of the community, and enables them to build confidence and independence.

Invaluable assistance to employers of people with disabilities is provided by Commonwealth Government sponsored employment agencies and regional units of The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. Services include on-the-job training and support, and advice on

job redesign.

Initiated last year by the Federal Department of Health, Housing and Community Services, the Awards are being sponsored by Australian Airlines, Business Review Weekly and the Australian Chamber of Commerce.



The Prime Minister's Employer of the Year Awards were established in 1990 to give recognition to the important role played by employers in helping people with disabilities to gain independence and self esteem.

Their contribution has made it possible for a growing number of people with disabilities to become fully productive members of the workforce - earning a real wage and doing a worthwhile job. Working together, with co-operation and commitment, employers and

employment agencies are helping people with disabilities to become fully integrated into the community.

The fifteen State and Territory award winners have been selected from 111 nominations made by employment agencies, regional units of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and individuals around the country. The nominations were reviewed by a panel comprising representatives of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, Business Review Weekly, Confederation of Australian Industry, the ACTU and the Department of Health, Housing and Community Services.


Cooper Tools New South Wales

When New South Wales based Cooper Tools produced a promotional video last year, the aim was to show the company's ability to produce quality work. And the stars of the video? Three intellectually disabled men who have proven valuable employees of

the firm.

Cooper Tools manufactures hardware goods and tools. During the past three years it has employed four people with disabilities, all of whom have fitted in successfully with the 70 strong workforce.

The three who remain currently work as metal polishers but benefit from the firm's commitment to multiskilling of its workforce. They actually started out in the area of grinding pliers and, since they joined the firm, have worked in a range of areas. Cooper Tools has made a number of modifications to help them do

so. For instance, lights have been fitted to grinders to improve visibility.

At Cooper Tools there are no distinctions between staff. Whether disabled or not, they all enjoy award wages and normal conditions of employment. And the social club is patronised by all. It's a healthy sign.

Instant Office Furniture Australian Capital Territory

Despite going into receivership, Canberra based Instant Office Furniture has survived and continues to manufacture and sell furniture. When the company was re-established recently all 23 employees were reinstated, including one intellectually disabled

assembler who had been with the firm two years prior to being retrenched.

Factory Manager James Gonshall says the company is committed to providing stable employment for all its workers. "They all receive award wages and conditions with training provided on a needs basis," he said.

Modifications have been made to assist the firm's disabled worker. Changes were made to a spindle molder and edging machine, for instance, with settings adjusted to suit the employee.

"It's simply part of our responsibility to all our employees. We value their productivity and look after them accordingly," Mr Gonshall said.

G & R Wills

Northern Territory

One might be forgiven for thinking that the job of Head Storeperson for a general wholesaler would be fairly demanding, particularly for an intellectually disabled person. But it's posing no problems at all for G & R Wills. Indeed the firm's

storeman was promoted to the job after four years valuable service to the firm.

He is one of three of the firm's 23 staff which have intellectual disabilities. The other two are currently employed as storepeople, in different areas of the business. Their tasks range from packing and organising stock to operating a tape binding machine and driving a forklift.

G & R Wills has employed these people through the Northern Territory's Competitive Employment Training Program. While these employees may not reach optimum working speeds, the firm appreciates their other qualities: good work skills and reliability.

The Head Storeman won the position against other employees and, with extra secretarial support to help him with limited literacy, has justified the management's decision to give him the job.

Rayburn Pty Ltd Queensland

Rayburn is a small private company in Queensland manufacturing a range of plastic products, bottles and containers for use in the distribution of foods and chemicals. It's just like many other small firms throughout the country except that three of its 15 workers have disabilities.

The office administrator/secretary has cerebral palsy, one general hand is visually impaired while another has a mild intellectual disability.

Rayburn has assisted them settle in to their new jobs with special furniture for one, extra lighting for another and time off for physiotherapy for another. The result? Employees happy in their work and an employer who knows he can depend on skilled reliable workers to get the job done.

Regina Lighting Pty Ltd South Australia

For the four intellectually disabled employees at Regina Lighting in South Australia, no concessions are made. Like the other 22 staff they are expected to become multiskilled and undertake the training necessary to do so.

It's a policy which is paying off for everyone. Regina, a local manufacturer of lighting goods, believes in fostering an integrated workforce. All employees, regardless of their backgrounds and skills, are given every opportunity to develop

their potential, expand their skills and work in different areas of the plant.

Bendigo Pottery Victoria

As one of Victoria's most popular tourists spots, with factory, restaurant, museum and gallery, the Bendigo Pottery is well known. What is not so well known is that some of the goods on display have been produced by disabled people.

Among its staff of 70, Bendigo Pottery has employed five with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. One, for instance, is a wood turner. He is a paraplegic so the company modified the lathe equipment, altered work benches and set him up in a studio

in the main entrance.

Another employee with intellectual disabilities works on a hydraulic clay machine making airline trays and various crockery. Bendigo Pottery helped him with training, for work in its own plant and outside.

With a high profile in the tourism industry, Bendigo Pottery is setting a fine example to others in the employment of people with disabilities.

Dardanup Butchering Western Australia

Dardanup Butchering in Western Australia is one company that understands and appreciates that disabled people can make a positive contribution to production.

For the staff at this wholesaler of retail meat supplies teamwork counts, from linking sausages and pressing hams to packing small goods and driving a forklift, and the company's four intellectually disabled people work alongside the remaining 60

staff across all aspects of production.

Dardanup Butchering has provided extensive support to its disabled staff, making adaptations whenever needed and training to help them expand their horizons.


Department of Land Administration Western Australia

Blindness, deafness, paraplegia, cerebral palsy. These are no barriers to employment at the Department of Land Administration in Western Australia.

Nine of the Department's 914 staff suffer from disabilities. All of them have demonstrated capability and willingness to make a positive and productive contribution to the Department's management of Crown Land, mapping services and title registration

for the State.

Apart from conguering their physical disabilities, five of these staff have also overcome the difficulty of coming from a non-English speaking background.

The Department's dedication to providing long-term employment for these people has paid off for everyone. Their disabled staff have secure employment and self confidence, the Department benefits from quality workers and the state has nine less dependents to worry about.

Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd Tasmania

At MBF in Tasmania a number of employees can 'talk' with you, whether you can hear them or not. That's because the company has actively encouraged and paid for staff to learn sign language to improve communication with its deaf employees.

The firm's sympathy for disabled people extends well beyond its role as medical, hospital and health insurers. It took considerable effort and cost to ensure its two deaf employees were given trouble-free entry into the workplace. The result is two people happy in their work and new skills for other staff.

Walker Australia Pty Ltd South Australia

One would think that first class welding would require two hands but not so. At Walker Australia in South Australia one of their best welders is a young man with only one arm.

He's one of three disabled staff with the company. The other two, who are intellectually disabled, work in the assembly of mufflers, operating overhead cranes, automatic welding machines and fibreglassing equipment.

Walker Australia, a manufacturer of mufflers, is a company that takes the initiative. A few years ago it approached the Vocational Resource Agency to run a welding course for intellectually disabled people. Together they developed a course

and the local TAPE college has provided facilities for hands-on work experience.

Students successfully completing the course gain the skills needed to compete for jobs at Walker and other companies.

Palm Lodge Nursing Home Queensland

Helping people overcome difficulties is all in a day's work for most nursing homes. But at the Palm Lodge in Queensland they take it one step further. It's a nursing home for the aged but it's also a place of employment for young people with disabilities.

Palm Lodge has given work to five young women with intellectual or neurological disabilities, modifying tasks and routines to accommodate their particular needs. They are among a number of young disabled people for whom the Lodge has provided training and work experience.

For the past ten years the management has maintained a policy of assisting disabled people. The commitment is shared by staff who regularly come up with new ideas and initiatives to support fellow workers impaired by a learning or physical disability.

Atrium Hotel Northern Territory

When the Atrium Hotel in Darwin took on three workers with disabilities it provided training for all its staff to help them understand intellectual disability and learn how to communicate

with deaf people.

For the young Torres Strait Islander working in the kitchen and the two housemaids, one of whom is profoundly deaf, it has meant the difference between isolation and integration.

Similarly, flexibility of tasks and hours during the early stages of their employment meant a successful start and happy productive staff.

Dickson Motor Vehicle Registry Australian Capital Territory

At the Dickson Motor Vehicle Registry in Canberra a concerted effort has been made by all staff to help their six intellectually or visually disabled colleagues join in, both at work and social events.

Management provided internal literacy and numeracy courses when needed and supplied one employee with a low vision aid to magnify reading material.

These efforts paid off. The six staff, whose tasks range from courier and clerical duties to operating the switchboard, are fully integrated into the day to day running of the registry.

BHP Slab and Plate Division

Two years ago BHP put in place a tripartite employment agreement with the Federated Iron Workers Association and Essential Personnel to provide employment opportunities for 20 intellectually disabled people.

Under the agreement so far BHP has employed nine people. Outside the agreement, the company has some 250 disabled workers within its 9400 strong workforce.

At its Slab and Plate Division three labourers, an assistant production scheduler, two office assistants and an oven door attendant are intellectually disabled. None of them have allowed their disabilities to hinder productivity. With the help of

management, they've all been successfully integrated into the operations of the Division, receiving award wages and conditions accordingly.

Royal Automobile Club of Victoria Victoria

Staff at the RACY in Victoria who have disabilities are encouraged to further their careers in the organisation. It's a policy which has served five of its workers well.

With 62 years service between them, these five staff - one blind, another suffering from peripheral neuropathy and three paraplegia - have enjoyed rewarded careers with the RACV. One is an auditor with the organisation, another a programme analyst. A third works

as a plotter and the remaining two in telephone sales and accident allocation and towing services.

The RACV offers a particularly supportive environment for its disabled employees, redesigning work stations and providing ramps and lifts for easy access and offering extended training whenever necessary.

For information: Michele Hendrie 06. 289 7219 Patsy Meyer 06. 289 7531