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Endeavour Foundation CEO David Barbagallo has today welcomed the Australian Government’s continued strong stance in support of employment for people with a disability, after a $173 million funding boost this week.
Despite a public campaign against specialised employment services, and a potentially devastating wages ruling by the Human rights Commission earlier this year, Mr Barbagallo says Disabilities Minister Senator Mitch Fifield has continued to stand firm in support of the specialised employment services provided by Australian Disability Enterprises.
“Senator Fifield and the Government are dealing with a range of complex issues, but have shown they “get” the true value of employment services for people with a disability. For that we are grateful,” Mr Barbagallo said.
“Without government- supported specialised employment services, a majority of people with an intellectual disability could not take part in meaningful employment and training,” he said.
“That would create devastating circumstances for thousands of people with a disability, who would be out of a job and unlikely to find a new one, increasing their marginalisation and isolation - a significant backwards step for our nation.
The funding announced yesterday will help supported employment providers to manage the complex transition away from the Business Services Wages Assessment Tool (BSWAT), after the Human Right Commission ruled that disability organisations could have just 12 months enact a replacement tool.
As CEO of Australia’s largest employer of people with an intellectual disability, Mr Barbagallo said the ruling had endangered the livelihood of the most vulnerable Australians by placing employers in an unworkable and unrealistic situation.
“Endeavour Foundation avidly supports the call for people with a disability to be included in all aspects of society, from employment to health, education, sport and community groups,” he said.
“And we want to see the day when all people with a disability to have the chance to work in the open labour market alongside their fellow Australians, being paid fair wages for fair work. However experience tells us that this ruling by the Human Rights Commission will have exactly the opposite effect.
“Other wage assessment tools measure physical disability, but do not measure the amount of support required by a person with intellectual disability in their work. In effect this discriminates against the least capable employees, by failing to acknowledge what is required to ensure they are offered a positive and supportive employment experience.
“The lack of inclusion practices in mainstream employment means that many people with a disability would not be able to obtain work in the open jobs market.
“Until the day comes when Australian businesses are prepared to employ every person with a disability who wants to work, we must ensure there are meaningful employment and training options available.
“In the meantime we can provide people with a disability with the choice of the dignity of work, preferably in an environment which they know is a commercial operation. That’s not a handout, but a real wage for real commercial work, which brings self-worth, confidence and the opportunity to develop practical skills.”
Established in 1951 with a makeshift school on a verandah, today Endeavour Foundation is a diverse community organisation providing disability support, accommodation, employment, education and respite for people with a disability in Queensland, Western Sydney and Victoria. Endeavour Foundation provides meanginful supported employment choices for more than 2,000 Australians with a disability.
Note to media: Mr Barbagallo is available for interview.
Media Contact: Kirrily Boulton, National Media & Communications Manager
Phone 0429 077 886