Sydney, NSW – February 2021 – the Canterbury Bankstown Chamber of Commerce (CBCC) opens conversation on the real barriers facing Disability Employment in SMEs with Key Speakers Gareth Ward MP, Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services who lives with legal blindness and Albinism; Jo Johnston, Economist and Partner of Management Consulting Firm Collappor8; Sandra Duarte, CEO of Centrum Printing; Kerry Edgecombe, General Manager of Service Delivery at SSI; and Haydn Payne, owner of Spectrumite, and an individual with Autism and Tourettes, and what can be done to solve the issue.
On the International Day of People with Disabilities 2020, the CBCC, via Facebook Live on CBCC LIVE TM confronted the ongoing barriers preventing disability employment. Key speakers on the night identified critical factors preventing the progress of the issue.
Haydn Payne, speaking in representative for the neurodiverse, states that a major factor is the lack of representation from people with disability being given a chance to take an active stance in shaping the future of their employment landscape. There is a large stigma in allowing people with disability to advocate for themselves and represent their skills.
“I realised the current paradigm we’re working with in terms of hiring… and maintaining the employment of candidates with a disability was failing because one, we weren’t asking the right questions and two, we weren’t putting the right interventions into place,” said Payne. People with disability have no true voice to craft their own environment and share what they know they need to be productive.
With his neurodiversity, Payne struggled to find and retain work before becoming a self-advocate. But he says it didn’t have to be so hard. In a separate interview, Payne states, “All I need to work are small adjustments like ensuring steady lighting with no flashing or flickering lights, allowing me to wear my sensory gear like headphones and sunglasses, and avoiding crowds and sudden loud noises. These are all things a modern workplace can easily provide.”
However, Sandra Duarte, CEO at Centrum Printing, says that opening this conversation is difficult. As a diverse and inclusive employer who has failed to hire from the disability sector despite interest, she cites her concerns to hire from the disability sector are fuelled by the lack of transparency in legislation, policy and law. When do questions stop being professional and head into discriminatory? How can an employer match any special needs to their culture and workplace without asking potentially offensive questions?
“It’s an area that we don’t know much about. It’s an area that raises concern and sometimes fear from an employer’s point of view in terms of legalities, and what the difficulty is (in hiring) and… I want to learn more about it, learn how to go about it, and what we need to be able to do to give that opportunity.”
Gareth Ward MP assured businesses that the government is committed to doing more in this space. Recently, he set new state-wide standards with the release of the new Disability Inclusion Action Plan Guideline (DIAP), which was part of the Disability Inclusion Act Review. The DIAP was shared to every NSW Government website, department, and the state’s 128 local councils should have the information clearly indicating their priorities on disability inclusion, with plans published their websites and reflected in tracked annual report targets on matters such as disability employment and service inclusion.
“What that (DIAP) seeks to do is ensure that every government agency, including the 128 councils across the state, have disability plans that are inclusive, listen to people with lived experience… I wanted the make sure the DIAP had real teeth. So there are accountability mechanisms so people can actually access these plans and formats that everyone, regardless of their disability, can see and comprehend it.”
Ward also stated many advocacy sites share great information and resources on hiring people with disability. Kelly Edgecombe, representing SSI, a Diversity Training centre and advocate for the capacity building and potential for all individuals to realise their full potential, states that, the issue lies at “not just about placing people in jobs”, but “about sustaining the role permanently.” SSI also provides a full list of reputable resources on their website for any businesses wishing to hire from the disability sector.
The CBCC is encouraged to see local businesses already responding. Corporate Sponsor of the CBCC, Collappor8, sponsored autism peer-mentoring business Spectrumite into the CBCC,and provided digital and operational support in a gesture worth more than $10,000. NDIS Providers have been heartened by the overwhelming call to arms seen by the live audience.
“Corporate social responsibility is something that we should all strive to achieve,” said Jo Johnston. “Doing good is good business, and to see a topic that has been neglected for so long finally be addressed by the CBCC is inspiring. Creating change comes from within – being aware of all the good we can do for our communities that can also improve our businesses. Those with disability have been undervalued for too long.”
Continuing the conversation, Wally Mehanna, CEO of the CBCC agrees. “If we all seek to change one life, the world can be a better place. Our talks today were part of an ongoing reform focusing on enabling people with disability to gain the rights to attain their full potential as equal citizens. Bankstown is uniquely positioned to understand stigma, isolation, prejudice and discrimination. We are young, and we are progressive. Others say the neurodiverse need to fit into our neurotypical world. We say taking small steps to compromise costs the neurotypical nothing while meaning everything to the neurodiverse. This is what this discussion is for – dedicating ourselves to actual, tangible change.”
The CBCC is a young and dynamic Chamber, having grown more than 390 members since its founding in 2016. Pledged to address ongoing issues in the business community, the CBCC continues to urge businesses to rethink their employment strategies and include social impact considerations that open new markets, increase productivity, and build a steady diverse and loyal employee base.
About the CBCC
The Canterbury-Bankstown Chamber of Commerce is the fastest growing chamber in NSW, with their prime concern dedicated to empowering the local business community by representing their voice as a collective. As a Chamber, the CBCC supports sustainable business practices that nurture brands so that each and every member is empowered to be change agents in their own right. To watch the whole CBCC Live Talk on Disability Employment, check out CBCC Live TVTM at https://www.facebook.com/www.cbchamber.org.au/videos/376576153603732/
See Haydn Payne take centre stage, at the CBCC education workshop event 29 March 2021 at Kingsgrove RSL 6pm where Haydn & Moe Salem, Director the Mind & Behaviour Clinic will provide a workshop about communication and the art of Public Speaking. The true step to building a better future for people living with disability and how the neurotypical world can be influenced with great leadership from the neurodiverse. Tickets are on sale via Eventbrite.
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