Speech by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

Project Open Doors launch


Thank you Susan (Forde) for your acknowledgement and I also acknowledge the Yugambeh (link is external) and Gugingin people and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging and indeed elders of any culture who have joined us here today.

It really is just standing room only here today and it’s wonderful to be with you for this launch of the Open Doors Project and to be with Alastair McEwin, Disability Discrimination Minister, Professor Martin Betts Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Lesley Chenoweth, Kevin Cocks AM, Australian Disability Commissioner, Brett Casey from Deaf Services Queensland and Nigel Webb who really does rattle the cage for people with disabilities in Queensland and Allan Smith CEO of AEIOU who have their original facility on this Campus.

Most importantly the students of this campus, I am really looking forward to you telling the stories that we need to tell about the possibilities, about the abilities about the great things that people with disability are doing because we just don’t read about it in the newspapers and in the media.

Whilst we hear a lot about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, that will only support 460,000 Australians with permanent and debilitating disability. There are another 3.8 million Australians who identify as living with disability – probably someone you know.

Most people may have a relative or a friend who identifies with disability and these people like us want to lead the life that they choose and we need to do more to support them.

Now I’m embarrassed to say that Australia currently rates 21 out of 29 in OECD countries for employing people with disability.  Frankly that is not good enough and I am determined to do something about it.

We had $3 billion in the last budget towards disability employment over the next four years but we need to tell the story that people with disability actually make better employees.

In many cases they are the ones who  appreciate getting a job, they usually turn up on time, they don’t take five coffee breaks before 11o’clock like most Gen-Y’s do, and they don’t tell their manager how to do their job after two days like the Gen-Y’s and they make a great contribution to the team.

So I’m working with various sectors to try and grow the number of people employed who have a disability and I’ve also met with the Australian Public Service.

Now hand in hand with that is the International Day of People with Disability and that’s on the 3rd of December every year and I’m trying to launch a project this year called – AKA – because I’m not too sure of the name yet – Give It A Go Day – and this about trialling work experience for a day for people with disability to understand what the job involves because quite often they might get a job and find out it’s not quite what they thought it was and because they’re so grateful for the job they don’t speak up and say something.

So we’re doing this trial, no pressure on the employer. The message to the employers is that people with disability are great employees, but more importantly, for people with disability to understand what jobs are available in the community and what jobs are available to them.

I look around at some of the security companies at the moment who have actually rung my office and say ‘Can you please tell me where I can find people with Autism?’ because they make better employees than anyone else in my business. So there are actually positive messages out there but it’s very difficult to get the message out.

This year I’m delighted that Dylan Alcott, the Paralympian basketball champion and tennis player, he just won the Japan cup – he’s agreed to be patron this year of International Day of People with Disability and Dylan is also a DJ with Triple J in Melbourne. He’s also regularly on The Project, once again using the experience that he can do anything and probably better than people with ability in Dylan’s case. So he’s available to promote any ideas or proposals to highlight the importance of employing people with a disability.

So my challenge to the students enrolled in this project is what sort of message can we put out in the media about the benefits of employing people with disability?

We all remember that great ‘yes we can’ ad promoting the U.K Paralympics – what can we do – perhaps on social media? So that’s my challenge to everyone here today.

When you start meeting people with disability you will understand how much they have to offer and how they can make the workplace and our community better, just given the chance – but we have to make sure they get the chance.

So I would now, without continuing on about my passion this year, I’d like to hand over to a very special person and that is Alastair McEwin (Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner).