There are many awards paying tribute to achievements across the Victorian public sector and the #TechDiversity Awards are gaining traction for their positive focus.
Founded in 2015 by Soozey Johnstone, Deirdre Diamante, Claire Marriott and Tracey Habron, the #TechDiversity Awards recognise, reward and inspire organisations promoting diversity through the use of technology or within the tech sector.
The diversity groups include people with disability, people of colour, older people, women, the LGBTQI community, Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, and those facing discrimination on religious grounds.
“One of the most important things about technology is seeing the world through the eyes of the end user, but in order to do that, we need to create technology that applies and relates to all of us,” says Soozey.
“It’s why we started #TechDiversity, because you can’t be what you can’t see. We then created the awards program to amplify voices and stories of people making a difference to diversity in tech.”
“It’s literally changed the life trajectories of the people involved and had positive benefits in the workplace.”
Dr Steve Hodgkinson, the CIO of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), believes there has always been a need for workplace diversity.
“The more diversity we can bring to the tech industry, the more we’ll be able to create and implement solutions that better reflect the people using them. It used to be that technology was dominated by university-educated white males, whereas that’s no longer appropriate, and this is now being recognised.”
His department’s commitment to this is demonstrated by the Rise program, the winner of the #TechDiversity Champion Award 2018.
The Rise program successfully broke new ground by employing people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) into a government department, while building skills and confidence and influencing others.
For Hodgkinson, the program and its recognition through the Champion Award, produced several opportunities branching out through the public sector.
“Many people with autism find it difficult to get jobs in organisations through conventional recruitment programs,” said Hodgkinson. “They struggle with face-to-face interviews and may take a little longer than others to settle into a new role. They may also need a bit more design around their workplace environment to be comfortable to perform.”
Managed by Chris Hofmann, Manager Records Management at DHHS, the Rise program enlisted the help of Specialisterne, a not-for-profit organisation seeking to improve employment opportunities for people with autism.
Together with La Trobe University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, a two-year program was designed. Eight people were recruited and positioned into the workforce as a landing platform, so they could perform and move at ease.
In winning the #TechDiversity Award, Rise at DHHS has found a spotlight of its own, becoming an influential case study in the government sector.
“It’s been widely acclaimed and has created very positive outcomes,” said Hodgkinson. “It’s also literally changed the life trajectories of the people involved and had positive benefits in the workplace more generally. Virtually everyone who hears about Rise at DHHS smiles, because it feels like such a great thing to do.”
“Winning the Champion Award has put a stamp of approval on what we’ve done. Other departments such as Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have now established Rise programs of their own by replicating our model.”