National Inquiry into Disability and Employment: Roundtable 1

Opening Remarks

Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM,
Human Rights Commissioner and
Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner Sydney , 31 March 2005

Sev Ozdowski

I would like to welcome you all to the first official event of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's National Inquiry into Disability and Employment since its launch on 4 March.

We are very excited about the opportunities and possibilities that this Inquiry can offer to people with disabilities.

You all know the statistics: the participation and employment rates of people with disabilities in the open workplace just keep getting worse and worse, despite the Disability Discrimination Act, and despite the fact that we have known about this problem for a very long time now.

So we need to look at a new approach to the problem. Through this Inquiry we want to focus on practical solutions - and this consultation is the first step in that process.

We are acutely aware that there have been many reviews of the issues surrounding participation rates, employment rates and retention rates for people with disabilities. In particular there has been a lot of focus on the barriers to entry and the hurdles facing employers. And of course there is the current policy debate surrounding the DSP.

All of those reviews and discussions are relevant to our process. But we are not interested in replicating those conversations or reports. What we want to concentrate on is problem solving.

We are not so naïve to believe that we can come up with the silver bullet that will answer all the practical issues facing government, employers and people with disabilities.

But we do think that if we can get the right people around the table then we might have some chance of:

•  focussing in on the most pressing priorities

•  identifying practical ways to address those priorities and

•  converting ideas from paper recommendations into real action.

You are those 'people around the table'. We have no chance of reaching these rather ambitious goals without understanding your experiences and obtaining your collaboration.

I know that my team has asked you to come to this meeting prepared to share your ideas and I thank you for the time you have taken to prepare for today.

I look forward to hearing your views and ideas both during the day today and into the future.