Speech by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

Launch of Disability Employment Services discussion paper

Location: Canberra


Subjects: Disability Employment Services discussion paper


We’re announcing the launch of the launch of the Disability Employment Services discussion paper.

This is a paper which is going to be the heart of an ongoing welfare reform agenda of the Turnbull Coalition Government.

This is a very important part of it, and just for the benefit of everyone that’s here, I’d like to note that Disability Employment Services offer services to 183,000 Australians. Just to put that in scale, Australian Disability Enterprises offer services to 20,000 Australians. JobActive, obviously which is central to those on NewStart, has 770,000 clients, and around 200,000 of those people have disability.

So this in effect is the second largest of all the employment services providers which we have operating inside the Australian welfare system. And we’re here because the unfortunate fact is, that there hasn’t been enough performance in this area, now for at least a decade.

Just to give you some idea of that situation, between 1993 and 2015 we have had basically had very static rates employment for Australians with a disability. That rate has been around about 53 per cent.

During that same period of time, the rate of employment for Australians without a disability, has shown significant increases of around about 77 per cent to 83 per cent.

So in one area we’ve made very significant impacts over the last decade or so. In another area we’ve completely flattened.

The benefits that will come from this process, we very much hope, are that there will be a significant increase in our ability, and in outcomes, to secure employment of all types for Australians with disabilities.

That employment is not about money, it is about dignity, self-worth and the community contribution that comes from the employment.

But what we have at the moment is a structure that hasn’t been serving the people that it is designed to serve anywhere near well enough.

The discussion paper is the first part of a detailed, and what will be, in depth process of consultation. We have instituted this discussion paper, and this reform, and this process because both the providers of the services inside DES and the recipients of the services have come to us and put the view that the present system needs significant improvement.

This discussion paper is about receiving feedback on a detailed basis from both participants in the system, the providers that are existent in the system to ensure that the system is structured much better.

At the moment, structures aren’t designed to give best outcomes.

There are very high barriers to entry for service providers. There is nowhere near enough competition between service providers. We know, by all of the data we’ve collected, there are higher and lower performing service providers, so we have to find a way to drive through the entire service provision in disability employment services, the culture and the outcomes we can see already in some of the superior service providers and work out ways in which a structure can be created so that we get best practice in the delivery of employment services right across the board.

We very much hope that what that will do, in due course, when the contracts comes up for renewal in 2018, and a new system is in place – that 53 per cent of Australians with a disability as employed figure, starts to move up.

It’s a very important part of a larger welfare reform agenda, so that very, very significant first stage managing that.


Thank you Minister Porter.

I thank the Minister for this great announcement, because the fact is that we are not doing very well in this area. As the Minister said, we can do better, and we need to do better.

We’re rating at the moment, 21 out of 29 OECD countries for disability employment. That’s totally not good enough.

If it was an Olympic sport there would probably be an outcry from the community. So this discussion paper will help us identify people who are doing the right way, the successful way. People like Donna Faulkner from Gippsland who initiated ‘Job Shadow Day’, which I think is a great idea, where she gets local employers to have people with disability shadow one of her employees for the day. And then they realise people with a disability make great employees, and that they could easily accommodate them in their business.

So I’d like to see that, perhaps, roll out in other areas of Australia as well.

People with disability are great employees. And you only have to speak to Di, who’s the proprietor here at Decedent, who employs three of them, to know the asset they can be to their business.

People with a disability invariably turn up early, they’re loyal, they don’t have five coffee breaks before 10 o’clock in the morning, they don’t tell you how to do your job after two days, and they’re very dedicated to the company.

In fact when you talk to people in small and medium enterprises, they say that their employees with a disability really become part of the family of that business, and an asset to the company.

So I’m looking forward to working with companies and disability employment service providers to, sort of, identify other opportunities.

I was very upset the other day to hear that there was an employment group who identified 50 potential mentors for people with a disability, but they couldn’t find people with a disability to work with them.

So, we need to put some people together, we need to form those linkages, we need to identify opportunities and improve the rate of disability employment in Australia.