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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10056

Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (21:10): I seek leave to table this petition on behalf of the diligent workers at Marriott Support Services in my electorate. It does not conform perfectly with the requirements of the parliament, but I ask that those who have signed this petition be heard appropriately.

Leave granted.

Ms O'NEIL: Marriott is a supported employment organisation which runs a range of businesses in my electorate. Like all businesses, Marriott is powered by the diligence, the hard work and the commitment of its team.

Many of Marriott's valued employees are people with disability. Of course, that is not their defining feature. These people are members of families. They are friends who provide loved ones with support. They are people with great senses of humour. They are followers of AFL football and members of clubs and community groups, and those who signed this petition are workers too. They are proud that they earn a wage and help support themselves through real and meaningful employment.

The petition urges government, in reviewing the way that wages are set for the workers in organisations like Marriott, to ensure that Marriott can continue to provide employment for the people in the team. The petition outlines reasons why this is important to the 76 signatories. It starts by explaining why many Marriott workers do not want to be in open employment:

Jobs would be very difficult to find and if we didn't manage to get a job we would just sit at home and become depressed.

If we did get a job we wouldn't get the training and support we do at Marriott.

Our supervisors are patient and have experience with people with disabilities.

There would be no emotional support and employees would become anxious

They then outline their experience of working in supported employment at Marriott:

We feel valued and take pride in our work.

The training is fantastic and repeated until you know the job.

We share information about work and about our community. We have made friends that we meet with at the weekend and social functions.

The work's good, meaningful and predictable.

I was so fortunate to be welcomed to Marriott a few months ago to talk with their employees. I have to say that I have rarely seen such a great team. I saw about 40 employees supporting one another and being productive. Their work is important and it is valuable, and that is how it makes them feel. These workers believe in hard work, they believe in commitment and they believe in creating something of value. For them, those values are embodied in having a job. I was lucky to run into my old school friend Olivia Curtain, who is now a Marriott assistant team leader and managing a group of people in a thorough, efficient and kind way.

All of us in this chamber want people with disability to have choices. For that to happen, we have to allow people with disability to speak for themselves. It is a great privilege today to be able to provide a voice, in a very direct manner, to a group of Australians who are often not directly heard by our society and our decision makers.

You would be aware that there is significant policy debate underway in this parliament about how we support people with disability to work and specifically about how their wages should be set. This is a very complex area, but there are some simple but important principles that we have to uphold. One of those is that employment matters. Having a job really matters. Another is that people receive fair pay for the work that they do. People with disability should be supported to find and keep work and to have a real choice over the kind of work that they do.

One other important truth in this matter is that some Australians with disability want to work in supported employment, and that decision should be respected

I know this not from a newspaper article or from the view of advocates or lawyers or academics; I know this because of the 76 people who have signed the petition that I table today and because of the conversations that I had with the workers at Marriott. That is what they have asked me to convey to the chamber tonight. It has been my honour to do so.

I trust that members present tonight and their colleagues will take the chance to review the words of these constituents—I will be forwarding their letter to you—and to give these Australians the influence and recognition that their voice deserves.

The SPEAKER: The document will be forwarded to the Standing Committee on Petitions for its consideration. It will be accepted subject to confirmation by the committee that it conforms to the standing orders.