Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards


Thank you Steve (Liebmann – Master of Ceremonies).

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

These are my first Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards and I am very pleased to be here to host these, the thirteenth such Awards. I know from my colleagues who have attended this event in past years what a special event this is. This year we received over 350 nominations, over 100 more than last year.

There are over 650 people here tonight – a record attendance for these Awards. If you look around you’ll see that the Great Hall is full. I’m told that more than 700 people wanted to come but could not be accommodated. This is a big event by any measure and reflects increasing interest in the Awards from employers around Australia.

These Awards are not about perfection.
They are not about always getting it right.
They are not just about numbers.

These Awards are really about Attitude. They are about giving people a fair go. They are about giving people a chance to participate, to learn, to succeed and to develop in real jobs. They are about reaching potential, for both employee and employer.

These Awards are about the journey that is engaging with disability.
Tonight we recognise employers on that journey. For many employers it has just begun. Others are well along the road. I think all of them would acknowledge that it is often a very long journey, and they’re not there yet, and they are still learning.

Many of the businesses nominated, and the Government agencies represented here tonight, know that they can do even better.

But the Howard Government too is on the journey and is very pleased to publicly recognise Australian businesses that are succeeding in providing real job opportunites for people with disabilities.

The successful businesses with us tonight have all done more than take on and develop people with disabilities in the workplace. They have urged other businesses to undertake this journey.

The Government believes that the best people to influence employers of the merits of employing people with disabilities are other employers.
So I am pleased to announce tonight that the Government will provide $40,000 in initial start up funds to the National Diversity Think Tank, to establish a pilot national employers forum which will aim to provide practical and strategic help and advice to its members. It’s a practical example of the Howard Government’s determination to work with Australian business and we are delighted to help kick-start this important initiative.

I want to congratulate all the businesses and government agencies that were nominated for this year’s Awards, as well as those whose success we are announcing shortly. This event highlights the good sense, vision and commitment you’ve shown to employing and opening up your businesses to people with disabilities.

My congratulations then to the State and Territory Winners, and to the National Winners that Kevin Andrews and I will announce soon.

I want to thank the Awards judging panel, comprising the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, the National Disability Advisory Council, the Australian Public Service and Merit Protection Commission, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, and representatives of the Awards sponsors.

Finally, I want to thank the sponsors of these Awards. Without their support and help this event would be very different.

Thank you for coming tonight, and congratulations again to our winners.

I’d like to end now by asking our sponsors to come to the stage to collect a plaque recognising their support.

Please come up Telstra, Qantas, IBM, RG Capital Radio, The Australian, and the Crowne Plaza Canberra.