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Speech to the 2007 Prime Ministers Employer of the Year Awards, Canberra.

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Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP

Minister for Workforce Participation 16 August, 2007


2007 Prime Ministers Employer of the Year Awards

Thursday 9 August 2007, Parliament House


z The MC - Ellen Fanning

z Agnes Shea and the Ngunnawal people

z Members and Senators

z Ladies and Gentlemen

One in 5 people in Australia have a disability. Over 700,000 Australians are dependent on a disability support

pension and many, many want to find work.

In our society your work defines who you are, it provides life meaning and life chances, and it provides your

children with a far greater chance to become employed in their time.

We also know that for many who have a disability, or mental health issue, the best way to be fully rehabilitated

is to stay in work, or gain appropriate employment.

Tonight we are celebrating Australia’s business champions who have pushed aside the stereotypes and myths,

who have looked past the mental health label or the wheelchair, or the hearing aid, or the limb damage. You

champions have instead seen and appreciated the ABILITIES of our fellow Australians, and have given them a


Perhaps it was goodness of heart, empathy or compassion that prompted the first phone call from some HR

managers, or the boss, to the local Disability Employment Network member. Or perhaps it was the realisation

that the queues of potential recruits, for any job vacancy, are getting shorter as today’s working population

ages and retires.

But I hear it again and again across the country, in so many great businesses, that diversifying their workforce,

employing someone with disability, is no act of charity. It is a decision made because the new recruit was

quite simply the best for the job, and you are prepared to be more flexible if necessary to be supportive.

Certainly some special accommodations might be needed -initially or in the longer term. And the Australian

Government is determined to help, with workplace modifications, wage assistance, mentoring, Auslan

interpreting, work experience, and pre-employment training. And our partners in this is our great DEN

(Disability Employment Network).

But it is one thing to help a job seeker get ready, and to give them hope of a career. It needs a good employer

to step forward to offer a real job. Tonight we are acknowledging these great employers. We want others to

hear about your success and learn from your example.

Tonight we are also celebrating the excellence in service delivered by the Australian Government Disability

Employment Services, our DENs, who have worked with our clients and businesses to deliver record numbers

of jobs for people with disability.

Around 7,500 DEN, about 30%, of Capped clients achieved employment outcomes of 26 weeks of at least eight

hours a week. This is around a 12 per cent increase on the same period last year. It’s also very encouraging

that the number of clients achieving employment in the DEN Uncapped stream is rising rapidly.

People are now employed in every conceivable industry, and trade, and they are exploding the myths.

People with disability can have 39 per cent lower absenteeism than other employees.

The Workers Compensation costs for people with disability can be as low as 4 per cent of the cost of other


Hiring people with disability can cost significantly less than hiring other employees - the average

recruitment cost of an employee with disability was 13 per cent of the average recruitment cost of an employee

with disability.

The judging panel have commended the high standard of nominations for this year’s awards. This year

they selected 15 finalists from a total of 252 nominations. And the nominations were received from retail,

manufacturing, hospitality and agriculture.

To be selected as a finalist from such a large, competitive field is an achievement in itself.

I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank the judging panel who had the difficult task of selecting

the 2007 winners.

Judging Panel

Could you welcome:

John Mendoza - John has been a member of my Disability Advisory Group since 2005 and was previously

the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia.

Samantha Jenkinson is the interim CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO),

which champions the rights of people with disability in Australia.

Peter Bartels - Amongst other things Peter is the Chair of the Australian Sports Commission and the

Australian Institute of Sport and he is a Director of the Melbourne Business School at Melbourne University.

Mary Hicks - Mary is the Director of Employment and Training for the Australian Chamber of Commerce

and Industry.

We can all be proud of the achievements and progress we have made in opening up employment opportunities

for people with disability. But we still have a long way to go to dispel the myths and tackle stereotypes that

surround employing people with disability.

But tonight we can be particularly proud of the outstanding efforts of all the finalists and winners here tonight.

Congratulations to all of you, and I look forward to an exciting evening ahead.

For further information contact:

Liz Rodway 0421 587 207