This week the Australian Public Service Commission launched As One: Making it Happen, the APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19.
The Australian public sector is well placed to lead the way in disability employment. Our workforce is large and geographically dispersed, and provides services to all Australians. We can make a real difference as an employer and a role model.
‘As a parent I’ve travelled the whole journey’
A number of people have been willing to talk about their own personal experiences and I thank them for that and admire them for doing it.
I’d also like to share my own personal experience which will help to explain why myself and the Australian Public Service Commission is very committed to the Strategy.
Twenty-two years ago in 1994 one of our children passed away at Calvary Hospital. Ruth was 16-years-old and had cerebral palsy. She never spoke and never walked, so as a parent I’ve travelled the whole journey. From the despair and the worry of finding out the prognosis after about one year, the elation at small wins, the despair at many reversals, 40 admissions to hospital, and five near death experiences then finally watching her pass away.
This taught you a lot about life, I found that you acquired a deep understanding of the mysteries, the meaning and the sanctity of life and also of course you had an enormous amount of support from friends and helpers, who were very kind and made a great contribution to help Ruth and us through difficult periods.
And then like a lot of public servants, some years after after all that, I decided to offer some work back to the community, so I’ve been on the board of a number of organisations, the Cerebral Palsy Association in Western Australia, it’s now the Brand Institute, Hartley Life Care here in Canberra and also Scope in Victoria. All of those bodies are private non-government outfits dedicated to help people with intellectual disability.
And of course when you do those sorts of jobs it’s a privilege because you meet so many outstanding Australians. People who are the clients themselves and their carers dealing with enormous challenges everyday often with fantastic spirit, the staff who dedicate their careers to helping people with intellectual or other impairments and of course the volunteers, these organisations can’t work without extraordinary Australians who step up and volunteer to help in so many ways.
So that’s my story, it’s personal, but it does, I think, underline why I will be very committed to the Strategy and will ensure that the APSC gives it its full support, Ruth would expect nothing less of us. Thank you.
Actions for APS agencies
The Strategy, developed in consultation with APS agencies and peak disability bodies sets out actions to increase the recruitment of people with disability. It sets out actions to ensure that employees with disability have opportunities for career progression and to ensure workplaces are accessible and inclusive.
The APSC has developed a range of resources to assist agencies implement the strategy including an Implementation Guide for HR managers, a manager’s toolkit and resources for employees. These can all be found at the Disability page on the APSC website.
All agencies are responsible for improving the representation of people with disability in their workforce. All employees have an obligation to engage with, and contribute to, initiatives that support employment of people with disability in the APS. The initiatives also require the support of employees with disability; their ideas and participation are essential in making the APS as inclusive as possible.
APS agencies need to implement a feasible plan that delivers results. As One: Making it Happen focuses on four key action areas which all include a focus on Indigenous people with disability. These are:
- Expand the range of employment opportunities for people with disability
- Invest in developing the capability of employees with disability
- Increase the representation of employees with disability in senior roles
- Foster inclusive cultures in the workplace.
Principles to guide agencies’ actions
Sustainable improvement in representation of people with disability will be driven by the following principles:
- Accountability—the head of each APS agency is accountable for improving the representation of people with disability in their workforce.
- Leadership—all APS leaders must participate and take real action to drive improvements in the employment of people with disability.
- Capability—the public service must have inclusive and accessible workplaces where employees with disability are supported and valued for their contribution and where managers encourage flexible working arrangements.
- Partnership—between APS agencies, non-government organisations and the private sector, to improve employment outcomes for people with disability and share best practice.
Measuring and reporting against action areas
The success of our actions will be measured by:
- an increase in the number of people with disability who come to work for the APS
- an improvement in reported job satisfaction for employees with disability
- an increase in the number of people with disability in senior leadership roles
- an increase in the number of employees who identify as having disability in agency human resource systems
This information is collected by the Australian Public Service Commission annually.
For more information on the strategy and support for APS agencies, visit to the Disability page on the APSC website.