Perrottet failing at “priority”

on disability employment

A NSW Government report has revealed that the Perrottet Government is failing at its own goal to employ more people with a disability across the NSW Public sector and exposes a toxic workplace environment for existing employees.

15 March 2022


THE NSW State of the Public Sector Report, which details the percentage of disability employment across the NSW public service, revealed that only 2.5 per cent of employees identify as a person with a disability – an increase of only 0.1 per cent since 2020.


In 2019, the NSW Liberal Government made disability employment a “Premier’s Priority”  pledging to double the number of employees with a disability by 2025. Three years on and there has not been a single percentage point increase.


This trend has been static since 2012 when disability amongst public sector employees was recorded at 3.8 per cent.


The same report also found that bullying experienced by employees with disabilities is on the rise and that two thirds of this bullying came from colleagues or immediate managers.

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch believes Mr. Perrottet should take his own commitments seriously.


“Clearly, Premier Perrottet isn’t serious about his own “Priority” to employ more people with disabilities and he’s happy to let discrimination and bullying grow in public sector workplaces.


“If Mr Perrottet won’t keep his own “Priority” commitments how can anyone trust any of his other commitments”.


Ms. Tesch says acquiring a job as a person with a disability is the first step in breaking down barriers of discrimination and marginalisation.


“Work is so important to our identity – it says to us all that our time is worth something and our contributions are valued by society,” she said.


“For people with disabilities, work provides a symbol of inclusion in a world determined to side-line you. But for so many gaining employment in both the public and private sectors is met with barriers and rejections.”


Bettina Slocombe was working for most of her life in the medical industry before she experienced her own medical concerns.


Ms. Slocombe has been applying for jobs for most of last year and all of this year and hopes that her most recent application will be successful.


“Over the last year I have made quite a few applications. I’ve applied for so many jobs, from customer service roles, to assistant work, to dog walking jobs, retail roles, just so many,” said Ms. Slocombe.


“I was met with rejections from all of them, simply told constantly that basically I was not suited for the roles.”


Sarah-Jayne Lukey has also been trying to gain employment for two years but like Ms Slocombe, she has been met with no success.


“The last job I had was a casual traffic control job in 2020. Since then, for the last two years, I’ve been looking for one and I’d say I have submitted around 100-200 applications already,” she said.


“Despite this I have been met with rejections consistently, even when I have qualifications for the job.


“I feel like it is really hard and everyone is just really really picky. I feel like because I am in my early 30s and have a learning disability it has made my job search that much harder.”


With 15 per cent of Australians identifying as a person with a disability, Ms. Tesch says there’s a clear misconception that this community is unwilling to work.


“Bettina and Sarah-Jayne clearly demonstrate that people with disabilities are ready and willing to work – they just need the opportunity to put their skills to use ,” Liesl Tesch said.


The State of the Public Sector also found that people with disabilities are experiencing bullying at a higher rate in their workplaces.


According to the report, one in four employees with a disability experienced bullying. That’s almost double the rate of the bullying that was experienced by public sector employees overall in NSW.


Ms. Lukey says that she prefers volunteering over paid jobs because she feels like she is appreciated by her co-volunteers more.


“When I volunteer, like at the SES, I feel like I am appreciated. People are nice and they don’t treat me like I have a learning disability,” she said.


Unfortunately Ms. Lukey says the same supportive culture is not necessarily present in most workplaces she has experienced.


“The difference is that in paid employment people talk to me differently, like they are talking down on me as if I am a child,” she said.


“Honestly, if I’m new it feels a bit like workplace bullying at first. As soon as I’m at a new place of employment I need to have co-staff know me. I feel like I have to explain how I learn and my disability but I feel like sometimes when I tell them that some places don’t like me, it’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place.”


While the numbers focus on the public sector it is clear that in the private sectors disability employment levels are low with only 1.15 per cent making up the employees according to the numbers provided by the ten major Australian companies who had taken part in the Disability Royal Commission.

While more needs to be done to address the private sector, including provisions for mandatory reporting of disability employment numbers Ms .Tesch says the NSW Government must lead by example.


“I will continue to push for this and alongside those trying to gain employment with disability, I will not stop putting pressure on the NSW Liberal Government until real change happens,” Ms. Tesch said.

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