JobAccess seminar in Brisbane highlights the benefits of building a disability-confident culture

19 March 2024

Clockwise L to R: Elisha Elisaia, Katrina Webb, Caley Sheedy, Sharon Bailey, Daniel Osgood, Daniel Valiente-Riedl, Claudia Steveson and guide dog Poppy.

Image description (clockwise L to R): Elisha Elisaia, Katrina Webb, Caley Sheedy, Sharon Bailey, Daniel Osgood, Daniel Valiente-Riedl, Claudia Steveson and guide dog Poppy.

JobAccess successfully held its 34th Driving Disability Employment seminar in partnership with Queensland Government’s Department of Energy and Climate (DEC) in Brisbane on 19 March 2024.

The seminar, ‘Unlock the potential of a disability-confident culture’, provided employers with information about supports available to move the dial on disability employment.

Over 90 representatives from wide-ranging industries attended the seminar. Inclusive employers, employees with lived experience and industry experts shared their disability employment journey and discussed services designed to help businesses attract, employ and retain people with disability.

Irene Violet, Deputy Director-General Corporate Services at the Department of Energy and Climate, highlighted the importance of fostering a diverse workforce culture.

“Employers can lead by example with building a workforce that truly reflects the diversity of the broader community. It’s also important to provide employees with the care and support they need to do their best work while building awareness and confidence with teams and managers.”

Ms Violet further added that partnering with JobAccess and the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC) facilitated them in reviewing their policies and processes through the lens of disability.

“The (NDRC) partnership helped us expand our candidate pool, enhance manager and employee knowledge, and increase overall confidence.”

Challenge and change your thinking about disability

Panel moderator and keynote speaker Katrina Webb OAM, Triple Paralympic champion, encouraged people with disability to learn from each other and find their hidden strengths to give their best performance in the workplace.

“Through my experience of having disability, one of the most amazing things I have learned is how to live and thrive with having a difference. That took me some time, but it has taught me the most incredible skills that I would never have learnt without it,” Katrina said in her keynote.

Effective communication is critical

JobAccess General Manager Daniel Valiente-Riedl shared easy but powerful ways to help employers improve their employment process to hire more people with disability in their workplaces.

“Think differently and focus on what needs to be done, not how it is done. Start communicating about your organisation’s commitment to inclusion and disability employment on the website and job ads.”

“Rethink your employment framework and offer workplace adjustments at every stage of the recruitment process. Additionally, help them advance in their job roles by promoting inclusive career progression pathways. It will give them a chance to contribute to their best and feel valued.”

“And, as I always say, when in doubt, reach out to JobAccess for support. Since 2006, we have been providing holistic advice, navigational support and tailored solutions to people with disability, employers and service providers. Our support aims to remove barriers to sustainable employment for people with disability.”

Employer insights: putting disability inclusion into practice

The employer panel highlighted the positive impact of building a disability-inclusive workplace culture.

  • Sharon Bailey, Deputy Director-General and Disability Champion at the Department of Energy and Climate, shared, “The more inclusive the Department is, the more we all benefit. People with disability are getting access to opportunities that use and develop their skills. We have a broader and richer experience for all our employees, and we’re creating better social cohesion.”
  • Daniel Osgood, Disability and Social Inclusion Manager at Ventia Australia Pty Ltd, emphasised that breaking down barriers and having open and honest conversations with your employees and jobseekers helps develop a conducive work environment.

    “By employing people with disability and providing them with the necessary support, employers can help them feel valued and more engaged in their job.  As a result, they will pass on positive feedback about their employer with co-workers, families and friends, and thus it's like the ripples in the pond spreading out.”

Employee perspectives: how inclusive workplace practices can unlock potential

The panel of employees with lived experience shared insights on the steps they took to initiate and advance in their employment journey:

  • Caley Sheedy, A/Principal Advisor at the Department of Energy and Climate, said, “A simple conversation can go a long way in supporting staff with disability. While some employees are comfortable discussing their concerns and seek/offer support, others may struggle with this.”

    “Employers should create a safe and non-judgmental space where employees feel empowered to have confidential conversations.”

  • Elisha Elisaia, Branch Manager at Southern Queensland Steel, said, “Don’t judge and be open to having appropriate conversations with people with disability. If you’re not sure, say that you’re not sure and ask!”

    “Employers should prioritise employing people with different abilities and the value they will add to the business.”

  • Claudia Stevenson, NDRC Professional Adviser at JobAccess, emphasised, “Start a conversation. People with disability know themselves and their capabilities. Work together to brainstorm solutions. Knowing the inherent requirements (what needs to be done) is the key.”

    “Just because something has always been done one way doesn’t mean it has to be done that way.”

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