Speech by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Opening Address to JobSupport’s 600 clients milestone event, Venus Reception Centre, Kogarah

Location: Venus Reception Centre, Kogarah


Thanks very much Paul. And ladies and gentlemen what a wonderful afternoon it is. Can I acknowledge at the outset my good friend and local member for Barton, Nick Varvaris – a former distinguished Mayor of Kogarah and someone who has been an absolute breath of fresh air in Canberra, let me tell you.

Paul, the President of JobSupport – good to see you. Also it’s terrific to see Peter Baume, who is a former distinguished Senator, and someone who has made a great contribution in his post political life, particularly to helping people who might face some extra challenges in life.

And a very special acknowledgment of that force of nature, Phil Tuckerman. For those of you who know Phil personally, or who may just know him by reputation, you pretty quickly learn that if Phil asks you to do something, you shouldn’t treat it as a request. You should treat it as an order. And you should simply say yes because it will save time, which is why I’m here today. Phil, you’ve just put your passion, your life, your all into helping Australians with disability into work and I want to pay tribute to that.

Can I also acknowledge the employers who are here today. Without you there would not be the possibility of making sure that more Australians with disability enjoy what is their right – and that is the dignity of work. So thank you for everything you do.

But most of all – to those of you who are and have been DES participants, who are looking for work, who have found work, who have stayed in work – congratulations to you for wanting to make your contribution to the community. And also, I acknowledge the parents and families who are here today, sharing in what is a great milestone for JobSupport.

The milestone we’re here to celebrate over and over again is that incredible achievement of 600 people who have been placed in work – placed in ongoing work. And I think if there is someone who is perhaps emblematic of the great success of JobSupport, it’s Anna Chan, who started her working life in 1984. She had a passion to work with children and has done so as the longest-serving employee of the Kindergarten Union’s Concord Children’s Centre. 30 years of commitment. 30 years of hard work. Anna is someone who really has been a pioneer for Australians with intellectual disability. So congratulations Anna on your personal milestone.

I think today is also a moment to pause and reflect on the success of the Disability Employment Services programme. About 160,000 people have been supported through that programme. Obviously it’s not perfect and we’re always looking to see if we can enhance and refine the DES programme. And we have the opportunity to do that as we approach the conclusion of the current contractual arrangements in 2018. So to family members, to participants, and to employers here – if you have ideas on how we can improve the DES programme then please do let me know. Because none of us want to rest on our laurels. We all want to make sure we are doing absolutely everything we can to help more Australians with disability into work.

Jobsupport really has been an exemplar of the DES programme. I think part of that is obviously the drive of Phil Tuckerman. But it’s also because of the quality of staff employed at Jobsupport. For those who work at Jobsupport, it’s not just a job. They know that when they wake up in the morning and they go to work, they’re going to be making a contribution to improving the quality of life of other Australians. And Jobsupport really do take seriously the idea of after sales service for employees and employers. And they really do take a pastoral approach to the great work that they do. So I want to see more of that, and let’s see if we can make the new DES contracts support that sort of approach even more.

Obviously it’s an exciting time in disability with the advent of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Although it is not in and of itself an employment programme, if people with disability are getting the daily supports that they need, then they will be and should be in a better place to consider employment. And when we have DES programmes and providers like Jobsupport, we’re going to be in a much better position as a community to help more people with disability into work.

I really just want to say congratulations again to the participants who are in work. Congratulations to Jobsupport for the incredible effort they’ve put in securing this milestone for 600 people in work. And again, thank you to the employers who are here today. You really do make this possible.

Thanks very much.