Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Employment: People with Disability
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. This is something that's close to my heart and close to the hearts of those on the government benches. How is the Morrison government assisting Australians with disabilities to enter and remain in the Australian workforce?
I thank Senator Small for his question and acknowledge his commitment, along with the commitment of this government, to breaking down barriers for Australians with disability who find themselves unemployed.
As we emerge from the impacts of the COVID pandemic, it is really important that we focus on jobs for everybody, but particularly to make sure that people with disability get the same opportunities as everybody else to make sure that they can make their contribution to the economic security and wellbeing of our country. We know that a job is a real game changer for anybody, and that shouldn't be any different for somebody who lives with disability. That's why we are in the process of developing the National Disability Employment Strategy. I'm really delighted to say—and it's probably very topical this week—that I have appointed the 2016 Australian Paralympian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, in conjunction with the Monash University Chancellor, Simon McKeon, as joint chairs of the new Disability Employment Advisory Committee. I say 'timely' because, last week, a very inspirational Australian, in Dylan Alcott, won his seventh consecutive Australian Open wheelchair title, which is just fantastic and a great inspiration for young Australians who live with disability to show them the amazing things that you can do. I congratulate Dylan on his amazing achievement.
Together, with Professor McKeon, they are providing absolutely essential advice about ways to positively drive change to assist Australians to gain and maintain employment to the level of their ability. These two gentlemen are supported by a number of other people who live with disability to make sure that our Disability Employment Strategy is informed by people with disability. We want to invest heavily in breaking down the barriers, because we know that people with disability can make some of the most outstanding employees, and that's the message we want to get out to employers so that they employ them.
First and foremost, the most important thing that we need to do in the development of the National Disability Strategy is to make sure that we get the states, territories, local governments, the community, businesses and everybody in our society to come on the journey with us. It will only be through consultation with everybody, but very much through consultation with people with disability, that we will be able to bring this new strategy into effect later this year. Most particularly, the National Disability Strategy will have a very, very strong focus on employment, and particularly on financial security, education, health and making sure that we change community attitudes so that people with disability will be able to take on opportunities for employment and incorporate the key elements of the broader Disability Employment Strategy. We want employers to understand the advantages of employing people with disability, and that means that we must make sure our recruitment processes are appropriately targeted.
I thank Senator Small, because this is a very, very important issue. One of the things that were recently announced in the budget was an additional $45 million to more than double the number of headspace sites around Australia that have got the Individual Placement and Support Program. This program, which now will be rolled out over 50 sites across Australia, is a very targeted program to make sure that we provide clinical mental health support to young Australians but, at the same time, use that support to be able to help them on a pathway or a trajectory to secure employment. We know that the onset of mental illness often occurs in young people; however, we know that we can significantly assist these people and help them with their issues by assisting them in the transition to work. Under the IPS Program, we want to make sure that people can have access to things like job coaching, targeted education and employment opportunities. (Time expired)