WHAT’S stopping you, as a small business owner, from employing someone with a disability?
A recent event, called ‘Employment For All Abilities’, held at the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine, aimed to debunk myths around employing someone with a disability.
There were around 80 attendees who listened to a variety of speakers, including local community leaders and employers, and people with a disability.
Deputy Mayor Cr Bruce Kent was among the first to speak.
And he kicked off the night with a passionate and inspiring speech which set the tone for a fantastic evening.
“I can tell you that people with disabilities attack their challenges,” he said.
“They go for it. They go above what I would expect from an everyday person.
“It’s such a great feeling when you look at these people and they go out and turn up for employment, they don’t go home sick, they work their days, and they don’t want to go home; they want to work.
“They put in 100 per cent and I’m so proud of that. Our community is made up of everybody.”
He said everybody has the right to have a job.
“It gives you such a great feeling when you get your first job.”
Cr Kent recollected an experience one of his sons had, when he was applying for a job.
He went for his first job interview and the employer said they could only give him work for two days a week.
The boy said, “Nah, I’m not happy with that.”
The employer responded: “What do you mean you’re not happy? We’re interviewing you.”
The boy replied: “I’ve walked around your buildings, you’ve got graffiti everywhere. I’m gonna paint the building for you.
“You’ve got two cars out there. They need washing every day so that you can present your company to the public; I’m gonna wash them every day. I want three or four days of work a week.”
The employer then asked: “When can you start?”
The event was brought to life thanks to organisations such as the Gippsland Disability Advocacy Inc.
The advocacy group’s mission is to recognise, promote and protect the welfare, rights and interests of people with disabilities.
“We connect daily with people, many people, with a disability,” said the group’s executive officer Adrian Terranova.
“For all intents and purposes, these individuals should be gainfully employed.”
But they’re not.
“Make no mistake, they absolutely want to be gainfully employed.
“It’s confusing to me, and all our staff, as to why they aren’t.”
He said it’s a worrying trend across Australia.
“Forty-five per cent of people in Australia with a disability live in poverty. You can’t tell me that has nothing to do with employment.”
He said Australia ranks “atrociously” compared to other countries for the number of people with a disability who are employed.
“We’ve all got an obligation in this space to do better.
“We need to ensure that collectively we’re finding a job for people who have a disability that also matches the capacity they have.
“Let’s face it, no-one likes to be set up to fail. We need to focus on the ability, not the disability.”
Beau Vernon also spoke on the night about how he was left a quadriplegic, following a spinal cord injury whilst playing football in 2012.
His experiences helped further break down the barriers and change perceptions about the employability of people with disabilities.
The event was supported by: Gippsland Disability Advocacy Inc., Bass Coast Shire, Maxima Specialised Employment Services, and DARU (Disability Advocacy Resource Unit).