Lessons from IncludeAbility

Two people side on smiling and laughing. The man is wearing a Woolworths hat.

On 24 November 2023 The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne hosted a webinar: Lessons from IncludeAbility: Unlocking jobs for people with disability with large employers. 

On this page you can find the webinar recording, transcript and answers to the questions raised by the audience during the webinar. 

IncludeAbility webinar 

On 24 November the IncludeAbility team hosted a webinar with the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne on the lessons from IncludeAbility. 

During the one hour webinar we heard from:

  • Professor Simon Darcy, IncludeAbility Ambassador
  • Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead, Woolworths
  • Kane Blackman, CEO, Good Sammy
  • Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission 
  • Professor Erin Wilson, Professor and Uniting Chair in Community Services Innovation at Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne. 

The webinar explored:

  • The history and background of the IncludeAbility Project
  • IncludeAbility Evaluation Findings 
  • What was valuable about participating in the IncludeAbility Pilot Employment Program 
  • Lessons learnt about increasing employment of people with disability 
  • Next steps 
Two people side on smiling and laughing. The man is wearing a Woolworths hat.

Watch the Webinar 

  • Webinar Transcript

    Rosalind Croucher:  Good afternoon. Welcome, everyone, my name is Rosalind Croucher.  I'm President and acting Disabilities Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. I'm delighted to be here today to welcome you to speak about the importance of employment and celebrate the success of the IncludeAbility project.  I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands on which we are meeting today.  I'm in Melbourne on the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation.  I know many of you are zooming in from all over the place, all over the country, on traditional lands of people of our First Nations.  I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging and any First Nations people and particularly First Nations people with disability who might be attending our webinar today.  Employment for people with disability is deeply rooted in the principles of human rights.  Including the right to work, to equality, non-discrimination and the pursuit of a more just and inclusive society.  Are article 27 of the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, recognises the rights of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others.  This includes the right to the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.  It is fitting to have this event so close to the International Day of People with Disability which is coming up on 3 December.  The UN theme for this year is united in action to rescue and achieve the sustainable development goals, SDGs, for, with and which persons with disabilities.  The employment of people with disability is related to every one of the sustainable development goals.  However, in particular SDG 8, decent work and economic growth, promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.  The learnings and model developed from the successful IncludeAbility project can realize this goal, and our obligations under the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.  IncludeAbility, a wonderful name, sought to address this critical human right in Australian society by creating equal opportunities for employment for people with disability.
    Only are 53.4 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 years with disability are employed.  Compared with 84 per cent of people the same age without disability.  This issue of course has been well-known by the disability community and highlighted in recent inquiries, many inquiries, including the royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability.  Or as we call it, the disability royal commission.
    The reasons why we should employ people with disability would not be new to you.  Meaningful and sustainable employment of people with disability benefits the individual and it benefits business, society and our economy.
    To creates financial independence, social inclusion, self-determination and empowerment.
    The employment of people with disability creates a more inclusive society where the diversity of employees reflects that of their communities.  And people with disability can participate on an equal basis with others.
    What IncludeAbility shows is that the "how", and that is what we will be discussing today.  It takes the commitment to the idea and the aspiration into "how" it can be done.
    It is with this that I'm delighted to announce that IncludeAbility has received $1.9 million in funding from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to continue the program until 2026.  In the second phase of the project, IncludeAbility will expand its employment pilots and share our successful model with employers and disability employment project providers.
    It will build on the recommendations from the disability royal commission final report from the end of September, in seeking to create opportunities for sustainable open employment, inclusion and desegregation.
    Today we are joined up by a line-up of impressive speakers.  I will say stellar line up of impressive speakers -- including the fabulous IncludeAbility ambassador and professor in management at UTS business school, Simon Darcy.  Employment network member and disability inclusion lead from Woolworths, equally fabulous, Geoff Trappett, OAM.  The Chief Executive Officer of good Sam me enterprises.  Kane Blackman.  And while I'm on a roll the fabulous Erin Wilson, chair of innovation at Swinburne.  Professor Erin Wilson again.  While I'm on screen I will say thank you to our Auslan interpreters, who will assist us ably as they always do in our webinars..I will now hand over the reins to IncludeAbility ambassador Simon Darcy to provide an overview of the IncludeAbility project.  Enjoy the webinar.  Keep up the fantastic work.  This is a great, great project.  Thank you and over to you, Simon.
    >>:  Hi, thank you.  Yes, my name is Simon Darcy.  I'm a professor at the UTS business school and co-lead of the UTS disability research network.  I'm a person of lived experience of some 40 years of a spinal cord injury a power wheelchair user.  I would like to thank Rosalind for her fabulous introduction.  I play a actually role as one of the IncludeAbility ambassadors and the external member of the steering committee.  Today I will give an over view of the IncludeAbility project as shown on the PowerPoint.  IncludeAbility is a national project led by the Australian Human Rights Commission which aims to increase access to meaningful employment opportunities for people with disability.  As Ros mentioned, I would also like to acknowledge the past disability description Commissioner Dr. Ben gauntlet has he had identified employment as the area he wished to contribute to in a major way of his focus during his term.
    The project achieves this by building a greater capacity amongst public and private sector organisations to address employment barriers for Australians living with disability.
    The original design of IncludeAbility was developed with pro bono assistance from the Boston consulting group, the model builds on success factors from other diversity programs such as champions in change, reconciliation Australia and Chief Executive women.  As Ros identified the project was funded by the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the Department of Social Services ILC and is being extended for another three years thanks to the generous support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation which obviously has found great value in what the steering committee over the last few months has been calling IncludeAbility 1.0, for them to be moving to fund the next stage of what the steering committee has called IncludeAbility 2.0.  We now have the four components of the IncludeAbility project up on screen.
    The first of these -- of which impart -- is the ambassador advisory group, comprised of 17 Australians with lived experience of disability with different employment experiences ranging from the positive to the more challenging.  The role of ambassadors is to co-create IncludeAbility activities and direction consistent with the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, obligations to embed lived experience into policy and programs.  Am basis fors are involved in all IncludeAbility activities, design and delivery of pilots, review of resources and in my case steer committee meetings.  Ambassadors are remunerated for their time and expertise which is a component of valuing not only their lived experience but their expertise in employment and the sectors in which they are engaged.
    Second, the employer network is comprised of executive leaders from 17 of Australia's largest organisations and businesses.  Large organisations were strategically selected because of their ability to make changes at scale to what is a depressing situation with the employment levels, as Ros outlined.  And we want to impact a significant number of Australians with disability into the world of employment for the first time.
    While the initial commitment was at CEO level, the diversity and inclusion leads from each organisations are the primary contact with IncludeAbility.  They attend quarterly employer network meetings with ambassadors and subject matter experts to exchange ideas on specific topic areas such as reasonable adjustment, targeted recruitment and job customisation.  Employers also complete an annual access and inclusion health check and participate in employment pilot programs.
    Third is hosting a range of publicly available employment and workplace resources to support the employers and employees with disabilities.  I want to give in a big plug as a great go-to place, particularly if you aren't confident with understanding all aspects of employment.
    There is a wonderful elearning module that is freely available on the importance of and ways to improve employment for people with disability.  Other guides include targeted recruitment guidelines, access and inclusion health checks, hosting accessible and inclusive in-person and online meetings.  Preparing for an interview, establishing a disability employee network.  Your rights under the Disability Discrimination Act.  Fourth -- and be if this was master chef we could refer to the pilot program as the hero of the dish.  The pilot -- the networking and learning of IncludeAbility, hits the road.  They have delivered exceptional success outcomes and created a new blueprint for how businesses could increase employment opportunities for people with disability.  Kane and Geoff are here to speak about their experiences of the first pilot in the coming session.  The pilot employment program brings together employing organisations, specialised employment providers and people with disabilities through a focus on building place based partnerships to achieve long term job opportunities.  The pilot model involved the -- first the employing organisation offering a guaranteed number of new roles to people with disability, very important new roles.  An intermediary specialised disability employment support provider for example providing the talent pool, screening and matching candidates and providing support to both employees and employing organisations.  Australian Human Rights Commission provide the initial link between the employing organisation, and intermediary as well as offering disability confidence training to the employing organisation, project management support and advice regarding tailoring jobs and supports.  IncludeAbility Illawarra was a place based program in New South Wales Illawarra region, in collaboration with the Disability Trust.  The focus was on employees with acquired disabilities seeking to return to work.  Employers were asked to chit to offering employment to at least one participant for a minimum of 13 weeks and a minimum of 15 hours a week at full wages.  Six employers took part, disability trust, disability employment network members, KMart and Australia Post, Universities of Wollongong and Illawarra iTech.  13, some 86 per cent of participants, have continued their employment at the end of the pilot period.  In Western Australia IncludeAbility collaborated with good Sam me enterprises and Woolworths.  15 young people over 18 with intellectual or cognitive disability who work at the Australian disability enterprise good Sam me were offered roles in Woolworths stores in the Perth area.  The pilot period was for 12 weeks with 8 hours of employment per week at full pages.  The pilot applies a job customisation approach of matching individual interests and skills with roles that need to be performed in Woolworths stores.
    At the end of the pilot, 12 of the participants, some 80 per cent, accepted ongoing roles with Woolworths.
    I will now hand over to professor Erin Wilson, who will speak about the IncludeAbility evaluation findings.  And the key project learnings.  Over to you, Erin.
    >>:  Thank you very much, Simon.  That's great.  Appreciate that.  As Simon said, I'm Erin Wilson from the centre of social impact at Swinburne University.  We worked alongside the IncludeAbility team for several years on this project.  We had two roles.  We acted as a critical friend to bring the evidence into the implementation design across all stages of the project, and we has had the role of evaluator, trying to understand what made things work here and what things remained in the way of employment.
    Before I proceed I want to remind you that there is is a Q&A section on your screen.  You can questions to be addressed at the end.  Head over to the Q and A tab.  I want to talk about the barriers today and the ingredients that made it work.  There are substantial evidence about the barriers to work for people with disability.  To some extent this program upheld the evidence.  But dug deeper, highlighting the need to understand had each specific employer context when designing and providing appropriate support and capacity building.  The five key barriers we surfaced to some extent are not new.  They are in relation to attitudes about disability that sit inside employing organisations and also the broader expectations of society about people's capacity.  Recruitment and on boarding practices and processes was identified as a barrier as was embedded organisational structures, processes and reporting.  Also the culture of not disclosing or even asking about disability.  And difficulties in finding the right person for the job.
    I will talk about some of those today, but overwhelmingly participants identified attitudinal and organisational barriers were some of the key barriers that result in people with disabilities being excluded from workplaces.  Organisational barriers have been built up over time inside employing organisations and have become part of business as usual.  They've not really been critiqued or identified over time but are just an accepted part of the way things are done in each organisation.  For example the disability royal commission has also identified some of these and they've identified the increasing systematisation of recruitment process.  Linked to this are remnants of unnecessarily narrow selection criteria for jobs.  Often where position descriptions have been sitting around for a long time and haven't really been critiqued, inherent requirements really need a make over but that hasn't occurred.  Organisations also use standardised and sometimes group interview processes that don't work well for some people.  And there are often complex and rigid on boarding processes that can be time consuming and require some skill sets and access to digital processes that may not be appropriate for people.
    While employing organisations in this project clearly had a strategy in supporting employment of people with disability otherwise they wouldn't have signed up for the project, interestingly, this did not frequently translate within their organisations to specific targeted recruitment actions, even to welcome to messages on job ads for people with disability, on or to explicit invitations to I have a just recruitment processes to suit individual needs.  This project highlights that barriers well beyond recruitment practices and policies.  It's interesting the research evidence and to some extent employment interventions have focused a lot on recruitment as a key barrier but this project highlights the barriers sit well beyond that as well, in other part of the organisational operating environment.  This can include things like company productivity metrics that assume that everyone in the organisation can work at a set pace and the same pace, and organisational processings that reward and penalise parts of the organisation if they don't match up to these kind of standardised expectations.  This sort of approach actively disincentive advices managers from building a diverse work force.  Organisational processes also mean managers have little flexibility to customise their roles.  Employers also reported they sometimes found it difficult to find appropriate talent pipelines of people with disability, even when they wished to employ people with disability, in some cases they wanted people with specific skill sets and they were unable to find a match of those two things -- people with disability who had those skill sets.  We also could see employment organisations required substantial support from employment support providers beyond recruitment and that included support to customise the roles once identified and to troubleshoot and problem solve in an ongoing way.  Next slide, please.
    There are some key ingredients why this quite multi leveled process of the project worked.  We have identified five of those here as the secret sauce that made IncludeAbility successful.  Some of these clearly echo other -- those identified in other interventions but there are some new ones as well I will get to.  Broadly we think the five are that the change initiative was led by the Australian Human Rights Commission as an expert particularly in the area of disability discrimination legislation as it applies to employment.
    The second ingredient is safe spaces and a culture of learning.  The third, access to high-quality information.  Also enabling piloting an pro toe typing inside employing organisations and finally what our informants in the research have called shoulder to shoulder support for employers.  Whilst as I said it's multi component project that Simon has outlined, we want to briefly focus on one set of ingredients here and then go to the whole set as they are played out in the pilots, in in a minute.  A key theme of the data around barriers and enablers is the focus on the need to support employers to build the capacity to problem solve and implement very localised solutions, with the confidence these are consistent with legislative requirements particularly those in relation to the Disability Discrimination Act.  Employers generally don't want to the wrong thing and often need some reassurance that the solutions that they are customising actually are consistent with the guidelines in relation to disability discrimination.  It was the involvement of the commission here that many commented was really key to them to have an expert ally to both train, train their work force but also walk alongside employers.
    Participating employers talked a lot about the safe space created together with the commission to build knowledge, to try out strategies and to learn by doing, in some cases they also talked about learning from other employment network members about that.  In one community -- one pilot there was a community of practice of employers brought together and led by one of the IncludeAbility ambassadors along with other commission staff and the intermediary involved.  The key elements of the pilot design highlight the other ingredients as well.  I want to turn to that now if we can move to the next slide.  Thank you.  The pilots are an example of the way these key ingredients all came together.  As Simon has explained, the pilots involved three parties.  There was the commission as the expert in the disability employment rights and practice.  We had large employing organisations, and we had an intermediary which was an employment support provider and talent pipeline.  In one set of pilots in the Illawarra region the intermediary a disability employment service but they added additional features to their service delivery.  In the other pilot in Western Australia the intermediary was an Australian disability enterprise or ADE working in the same industry sector as the pilot employer and therefore having a ready are talent pool of people with disability who already had experience in that retail environment.  Drawing these three elements together created an enabling environment for employment.  Unlike other employment project designs, the pilots brought together work across all levels of the employing organisation.  The commission worked with the CEO and senior executive such as diversity or Disability Inclusion Leads at at that top level through their involvement in the employer network.  Through this there was also high level authorization and oversight of the way the pilots were running inside the organisation.  The commission also worked at the level of state and regional managers in the employing organisation as well as at the level of store managers and key staff.  Both the commission and the intermediary were involved in training with the employing organisation focused on grounded understandings of job customisation adjustments and support as Simon just explained.  The intermediary worked closely with each applicant for the jobs, and supported advised recruitment processes and supported employees in their on boarding processes.  They also provided ongoing support to the employer and employees and this was really quite intensive in the form of weekly meetings that were held between all three parties across the breadth of the pilots across the 12 or 13 weeks of each pilot.  This level of what people called shoulder to shoulder support is a key element of the pilot and one all party attribute to its success.  This kind of direct support of employers is not new but there are features here that we think are different from the way we are seeing it played out in other places.  So, we have been trying to capture those features a set of case studies each of the pie lots.  While the evaluation report is available online today the case studies will follow along shortly and you will be able to find those on the IncludeAbility website shortly.  Keep an eye on the website for those.  Another key element of the pilots is they acts as a model or play book or prototype for employing organisations.  It wasn't just a one-off activity where employing organisations took part, employed new people and kept them on at the end of the project.  But it was a way for them to test out a method of employing people with disability that could be subsequently used again in other sites and other parts of their business.  And this kind of prototyping could be further refined as things proceed.  So, with that background, I would like to now welcome our other guests, Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead at Woolworths and Kane Blackman as key partners in the Perth pilot.  Welcome, gentlemen.
    >>:  Thank you.
    >>:  Great.
    >>:  So now we have an opportunity to dig more deeply into your views about what happened here, you both have experience in a range of employment projects.  What is fascinating for all of us is to try to get into what was valuable about this particular pilot and what perhaps might have made it different from some of the other activities yous might have ongoing now or might be involved in.  Geoff, what was valuable for this you about this approach?
    >>:  Thank you.  Firstly, I would like to acknowledge I'm coming to you today from Sydney, from the land of the Gadigal people.  For me, what quality and safeguarding valuable about the pilot really comes down to the partnerships that were involved.  The partnerships with Sammy, with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the partnerships with Swinburne.  All working their piece of the puzzle to ensure that we held people with disability at the centre of the project and we furthered the cause of people with disability.  I look at Good Sammy -- Kane might disagree, but we were what I think is a match made in Heaven.  For two organisations that both had a very similar way of looking at what does meaningful employment mean for people with disability and we aligned very quickly on that.  For us that's been one of the biggest learnings -- is we have taken out of this project that we need to do a piece of work working with all of the disability employment providers we work with across Woolworths group, to ensure we do have that same level assignment we had with Good Sammys.  That was crucial.  We both knew what meaningful employment was.  We knew the end goal and what we wanted to head to.  From there was a really easy process for us to work through what those societal barriers that we all know unfortunately exist for people with disability in employment were specifically to Woolworths group and work on removing those and using Good Sammys as that expert.  Because we are at our heart a supermarket and as such we're not going to be experts in disability.  We relied on Good Sammys to be that expert in the candidates they were providing us and they were certainly experts in those individuals and that was certainly a huge and valuable aspect, a successful project for us.
    >>:  Thank you.  You really highlighted a couple of things that resonate from the other data that we heard and one of those is that values alignment between the intermediary and the employing organisation.  Many talked about it works when that works but other employers have talked about it doesn't work when you don't get that right.  So there had been some critique in the past.  I think the other thing there was the deep understanding of the intermediary about the people with disability that were entering the workplace there.  They were common elements I can hear across the pilots.  Kane, what is your views about what was valuable about the project.
    >>:  I would like to acknowledge I'm on the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar nation in Western Australia.  For me there are number of things.  Absolutely the commitment a person centred approach, to understanding an individual's employment goals and especially when they are open employment goals.  The commitment of all parties to achieve those goals was very important.  That required some detailed discussions with the individuals to understand their aspirations, what supports they required to be successful and then the partners themselves having that can-do attitude.  I think it was a very safe space for all of those key partners to come together to have that shared commitment and that appetite to achieve employment outcomes.  There was never a time where it was, "We can't do that" or, "That's too tricky" or that's been our previous problem.  It had been how can we make this work for this wonderful talented cohort of people with disability?  I also was very proud of the outcomes this trial has delivered, because from the Good Sammys' perspective it focused on young people with intellectual disability.  That cohort within disability we photo faces significant disadvantage and unemployment at a greater rate than other people with disability.  It was wonderful to be able to demonstrate that such a large number of young people with intellectual disability are able to achieve open employment in one of the nation's largest employers.  And that's -- I hope that's something others can look at and replicate within the state and within the country as well.  It demonstrates that it's possible, those pathways.  The other thing for me is that the importance of finding the right partner to achieve those employment outcomes.  Good Sammy Enterprises is a work integrated social enterprise.  We run a range of social enterprises.  And have deep experience of disability and intellectual disability.  It makes it easier to achieve those outcomes when you have a partner like Woolworths that was very much committed to seeing employment -- that saw the benefit for their business, saw the benefit for the individual and saw the benefit for the whole system change that could be generated.  So often you are having to convince employers of the merits of hiring people with disability.  When there is an amazing talented cohort in our community at a time of the lowest unemployment rates in the country's history.  The right partner was a key one for me.
    >>:  That's really interesting.  Again you raised a number of things that resonate across the pilots -- that shift in thinking can we employ people with disability to how can we do that and moving into the problem solving or make it happen mode -- that's something that pilot participants at all levels talked about quite a lot.  And also the focus on the conditions of successor the things we have to get right to make this work across all of the parts of the puzzle including inside the employing organisation.  In that context Geoff what are you taking away in terms of lessons to do this stuff going forward?
    >>:  Probably the biggest lesson for Woolworths group is that we already do a lot of the good work that needs to be done in this space.  We already make efforts to understand each individual as we take them on as a team member.  We already do good work in understanding what barriers each of our individual team members might experience and really doing that in a disability space is just taking that deep dive -- that deep dive -- into exactly what we have already been doing with a disability lens attached.  So looking at what barriers a person with disability might be coming up against in their workplace, what barriers might we have in the talent acquisition space or the recruitment space?  We really took this as an opportunity to look inwards on ourself and stop and think have we really been giving this the old college try as they would say when it comes to removal of those barriers?  And it was employment that we had that critical can -- those critical frames of good Sammy and Australian Human Rights Commission keeping us honest on that, is that as far as you can go.  Kane will tell you when we first started having the conversations around this project we came up with a number of reasons why this might not work.  Funnily enough once we had humans actually speaking to humans it all fell into place.  I think that's another lesson, make sure that you keep a human feel to these things.  Don't try to look at this as an analytical -- that we need X number of employees or team members of the look at each individual as a human being and what are we adding to the life of that human being by being able to give them meaningful employment?  I think of the example of one of our team members that wanted to safe up enough money to buy his dad a beer.  You can't come up a better story than that for me of what the difference that makes to have meaningful employment.  And everyone can get behind those kinds of stories, those kinds of meaningful acts that a person with a disability wants to have in their life.  Pulling out those meanings of what this role, this job, could mean for a person with disability helps a team atmosphere.  I'm probably more proud if I'm honest of the more people we have taken on post the pilot from Good Sammys than what we did during the pilot.  During the pilot it's all too easy to put a level of hyper care on a pilot and ensure it works.  We really went above and beyond to try and not put a level of hyper-care over this, that we knew we couldn't continue with post the pilot.  And to see it -- to see more people being employed post the pilot is really the thing that a gives it a tick for me.  That we have done well.  Because we have embedded the processes on how to employ people with disability in business as usual processes for those teams in Perth.  That's really what will put us in good stead, to not only do more good work over on that side of the country, but to take the lessons from the project and build that out across the country and across to New Zealand.  That's what I'm looking forward to doing next.  I have really -- what I take away from this personally is as a D number of I professional it's all too easy for me to be in the room and help something to be done of the it's what can be done when I'm not in the room anymore.  That's really where the rubber hits the road on employment.  That's where I'm the most proud because we now have teams doing this by themselves and that's really fantastic for me.
    >>:  Kane what are you taking away from this.
    >>:  I echo Geoff's point about the team approach here and ensuring that model is moved forward.  We have had an amazing team with our employment pathways team that have provided that a shoulder to shoulder support to the individuals and the employer, Woolworths.  The core thing for me is finding more people like Geoff and more employers like the Woolworths group really.  There there is a large number of talented people with disability who are searching for employment in this country.  There is also a deep pool of people with intellectual disability often working in work integrated social enterprises that are keen for those open employment opportunities.  I'm keen really to find more partners that align with those employment goals of the individual, be it -- not everyone wants to work a supermarket, but in all industries, finding those people and then helping to provide those pathways to the individuals, into those work place settings and in a really inclusive way, not a work that someone can succeed for two or three months but ongoing as a business opportunity.  Our organisation is its putting significant focus on those open employment transition pathway resources.  We're trying to find like-minded thinkers in that space who are deeply committed to the individual's employment goal, whether that be within our outside the organisation.  The focus on educating employers about job calving and job customisation and what they will oft find is they already have examples of that occurring in their own workplaces and often sometimes are unable to draw the link that that might be a tool in their belt they can use to increase the number of more employment opportunities for people with disability.  We're very much focused in that preparation for that.  And on the search for more employment partners.  The other thing for me I take away is the importance of employment for people with disability in public facing customer service roles to raise the awareness of this wonderful talent people and to better build community attitudes towards people with disability in the workplace.  And it's absolutely delightful to see our now former staff working in grocery stores, in the bakery areas, and it's certainly then generated enough buzz for other people who have seen that success and then said, actually, I perhaps hadn't thought about that pathway before for myself.  Now I can see my former colleagues there and I'll put up my hand for that as well.  Equally, other people see that in the community and then start to change their perceptions of what is possible.  For us it's really doubling down, continuing forward to achieve that a.  Because there is a million Australians with disability of working age in this country not in employment.  A million people.  At this period of low unemployment -- if not now, then when, for me?  About.
    >>:  Great.  I can see there are a lot of questions in the chat as well.  Firing off this conversation.  I want to invite now our other panelists into the chat area.  And hand over to Dr. Jenny Crosbie at the Centre for Social Impact to take us through the chat and wrangle the cats on the panel and also welcome Rhiannon Walker from the Australian Human Rights Commission on to the panel today and Simon back into the room.
    >>:  Thank you, Erin.  Thank you for that great discussion.  We have a lot of questions coming in.  Wonted be ail to get to all of them today.  But we will keep the questions and produce answers and get answers to attendees.  If your question doesn't get answered today we will still be able to give you a response.  One of the questions I wanted to ask the panel was around the language we use when talking about employment for people with disability.  We use terms like reasonable adjustment, disclose and inherent requirement of the job.  These are subjective words.  In the case of "disclose" it sounds like somebody is trying to hide something.  Do you think it's time to update the language we're using.  Who would like to start, Geoff?
    >>:  I'm happy to jump in.  I certainly think there is value in aligning with what you mean when you use language.  I will use the example of meaningful employment.  Having a good understanding of what you mean when you use that term I think to me is crucial to make sure you are aligned with the other people in your space so when you look to a success metric you know you are heading in the same direction.  For me, I don't tend to focus on the specific term.  And it being right or wrong.  I tend to focus more on understanding, on having shared understanding of each term as being the crucial element.
    >>:  If I might just add -- there is a section in the evaluation report that goes to policy and implications.  Part of that does pick up on some of this.  And also drills into the disability royal commission's recommendations in the space and they are suggesting sold changes around that, reasonable adjustment language and the concept of adjustment just being adjustment, we make adjustments and we provide supports a much more expected business as usual way rather than having to go through some proof of reasonableness test in relation to that.  There are some interesting policy changes coming.  It's a discussion in the evaluation report.
    >>:  Okay, thank you.  I will move on to the next question.  In the evaluation section Erin you talked about the talent pipeline and most organisations being unable to locate where there was talent pools of people with disability.  Has anybody got any suggestions about how we can better connect particularly specialised disability employment services with these large organisations?  What do we need to do?  What needs to change?
    >>:  Kane might be a good one for this.
    >>:  Do you want to do go first?
    >>:  Yes, sure.  There are lots of ways to connect.  I don't think challenge is connection.  Sometimes it's who is at the end of one of those connections, which is probably then having a proactive em employer with appetite to find and employ people with disability.  It's not enough just to put a Seek ad out and encourage sometimes people with disability to apply and use the traditional channel in that way.  There needs to be active work done by employers to reach out to work integrated social enterprises and build that relationship with them.  There are 140 of them across Australia.  To reach out to service providers and build that relationship.  To reach out to the amazing disability advocacy groups we have throughout the states and Territories and nationally and the great pipelines for them.  And also to have a plan that they can communicate that really shows their appetite and desire to increase the inclusiveness of their workplaces.  For me it comes more down to the willingness to really do that.  And also thinking internally their willingness to then actually consider customisation and job calving for some people who might not want to work the five days a week.  They might only want two days a week or there might be some part of their role they need additional support with.  Again it's the willingness and attitude to be able to be flexible and actually meet someone where they are.  For me that's the key.
    >>:  Okay.  Thank you.  Does anybody else have any comments about how we better connect the talent pipeline with the large organisations?
    >>:  It's certainly something we need to think some more about.  I think Geoff as you were talking about, the match made in Heaven with Kane.  I imagine you want another 100 of those around Australia.  There is work in finding that.  If you want those values alignment you have to build the people to people relationships begin as you say it's people at the end of the phone speaking to each other.  There is a bit of work in that space to be done.  One of the things done in the project was surfacing some different talent pipelines as well.  Kane you mentioned some others as well.
    >>:  Simon you might have had something to add there?
    >>:  I was doing my usual trick of mute on once again.  I think it's both sides can be a lot more creative.  I'm talking about on the talent side interest has to be a lot more opportunities for people with disability.  And a diversity within disability -- that also needs to be recognised.  There are very different forms of accommodations for very different types of people with disability.  Being able to communicate that in a way that doesn't scare off employers I think is really important.  What they're looking for is a simple answer to what is a a complex question.
    Being able to demystify that.  But I think on the disability side of things -- and I reflect back from the time I was 15 to 19 when I had my accident, I had done probably 20 casual jobs, work experience, you know, all sorts of opportunities.  Many people with disability don't get a chance to do that and go, "Oh my God, I never want to do that again".  For a lot of people it's been a one shot.  Being able to give people a variety of experiences, also build up their job fittedness -- fitness in that a sense as well.  I think there is a lot more on the supply side, from the schools stepping stone programs to make people confident, but also on that employer side, as was said, the first piece of research I did, not on employment, somewhere else -- and a can do attitude by the employer or the business is gold.  You can make adjustments very easily when the person has got an open mind.  I will stop there.
    >>:  We definitely saw that in the pilot questions.  We are very short of time.  I'm going to ask Rhiannon one question, which is around IncludeAbility 2.0.  We're getting a lot of questions about what that is gonna look like.  I know it's early days for you.  But have you got any sense of what or how the people on the webinar today particularly might be able to engage with IncludeAbility 2.0 when it starts?
    >>:  Thank you, Jenny, it's Rhiannon here from the IncludeAbility project.  I'm have seen all of the questions on the chat about IncludeAbility 2.0 and particularly co-design and the role of ambassadors, employee network members moving forward.  And I would love to talk to this for another hour or so because I'm really excited about the next phase of IncludeAbility.  But how we plan to proceed with the next phase of IncludeAbility is -- we are awaiting the announcement of our new disability discrimination Commissioner.  Once they are commenced in the role we will kick off the new year a series of co-design workshops that will bring together key stakeholders from the project as it stands and also the sector more broadly to consider what really worked in term it's of the project and what we could do better and some opportunities for the project moving forward in light of the disability royal commission findings and other key policy reform areas.  These are planned we're hoping, we are in very early stages of planning these, but we're thinking around March-April.  We're looking forward to authentically bringing the sector together with us to not only co-design but implement and evaluate the project so we can make sure that we're really authentically listening to the voices of live experience.  Naturally the terms of reference of the ambassadors will expire but will all will be invited to participate in the next iteration.  I will be opening up invitations to wider networks as well.  Stay tuned; we will have more information regarding this in the next month or so.
    >>:  Thank you.  In terms of staying tuned, people can subscribe to the AHRC newsletter.
    >>:  Yes.  And social media and website.
    >>:  If you tick the disability box as one of your areas of interest you will receive information about IncludeAbility, LinkedIn and X, for merrily Twitter, the IncludeAbility project is on there as well.  I'm sorry we didn't get to more questions.  We have # 36 questions sitting there now.  We will aim to address some of those questions and get those responses back to you.  That's all for now.  I would like to hand back to Simon Darcy to conclude the webinar.  Thanks, everyone.
    >>:  Thank you to everyone that attended the webinar.  There were between 250 and 300-plus.  We know there were over 600 plus registered.  I get access -- the link to the video recording will be shared next week as well as answers to any questions that we didn't get to today.  I would also say to look at the FAQs on the website, which are already there.  The IncludeAbility website has that further information about employment for people with disability for employers and people with disability themselves.  The evaluation report is on the Swinburne centre for social impact's report.  As Rhiannon said, stay tuned for IncludeAbility 2.0.  In signing off, the learnings are about matching values of organisations.  I think that's a very important one.  Businesses, don't worry.  You have the business knowledge and the intermediaries will bring the disability knowledge.  I would also like to say risk management is important but don't over think it.  A lot of organisations really get stuck in the mud of risk management.  There is always going to be barriers, but as I said a can do attitude is more important.  Just picking up on something Geoff said, in the academic world we always complicate things.  But the post pilot embeddedness is a real outcome for me.  There's scaffolding but it's not over scaffolding of it.  What we're seeing here is a a good retention where we know that retention after six months in previous disability employment agency agency programs was down to at little as 13 per cent.  Let's go forward.  Pilots are a good kick-off.  I'm really hyped to see what comes next with IncludeAbility 2.0.  Thank you all very much

Webinar Q and A

During the webinar we received many questions from the audience that we were unable to answer due to time constraints. 

You can find the questions and our answers below. 

Question: Geoff talks to what is meaningful employment means for people with disability? Did they find that meaningful employment is highly personal and different for everyone in the workforce?

Answer: Absolutely it is a personal issue. But some things are universal also. Everyone wants to learn something new. Not stagnate in their role. That's been one key similarity. Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead, Woolworths. 

Meaningful employment terminology is used by some to describe factors such as the job being: a source of economic independence, ongoing or with the significant prospect of becoming ongoing, fulfilling and inclusive. A person-centred approach is best practice. Kane Blackman, CEO, Good Sammy. 

Question: What support and assistance was being provided to the people with disability particularly with intellectual disability by intermediary, and being considered by the project to ensure that the candidates weren't being filtered based on unclear inherent requirements?

Answer: It differs for each person. Typically information, advice. access to key resources, supportive onboarding, training arrangements, regular-peer check-ins. Kane Blackman, CEO, Good Sammy. 

All participants that expressed interest in participating were offered roles and if the role or some of the requirements of the role weren’t suitable the intermediary worked with the employer to adjust or customise the role, or look for another role. No candidates were filtered out of the program based on unclear inherent requirements. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative. 

Question: What ongoing support did people with disability continue to receive for ongoing support to ensure continuity of the employment?

Answer: Peer support, ongoing advice, additional communication and advice. Kane Blackman, CEO Good Sammy. 

Question: I am interested in whether the Good Sammy pilot was supported by having access to funds for participants under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)?

Answer: Unfortunately not. Kane Blackman, CEO Good Sammy. 

The Good Sammy pilot participants were in receipt of NDIS funding. However, the quick turnaround required for this pilot meant that the individual’s plans could not be reviewed in time. Good Sammy provided the support utilising other funds they had access to. 

Any future initiative would require the NDIA to be able to respond quickly to a change in circumstance (such as starting employment) and provide the necessary funds to support the recruitment, onboarding and post placement support. 

Also, non-DES providers such as Good Sammy do not receive an outcome payment for the placement and there is not funding available to work with employing organisations to set up these types of projects. Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Representative. 

Question: Did you encounter any barriers or resistance internally? What were they and how did you get around those?

Answer: The biggest barrier was trepidation; wanting to make sure everything was perfect before we even met candidates. ‘Perfection is the enemy of done’ was a phrase used a lot. Those of us that work in inclusion know this is messy, know we won’t get perfection, but those we support will appreciate us trying. Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead, Woolworths. 

Question: Does Woolworths have an intended target percentage of how many people with disability (particularly more significant disability such as ID cohort)  are employed within the group? What percentage does this look like now?    

Answer: We are currently developing a disability action plan (to the AHRC framework) this will include a target. So stay tuned. Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead, Woolworths. 

Question: How diverse are the roles that you have been able to create? Did those roles already exist and require adjustments? Or were they newly created and defined roles?

Answer: One of the positives of Woolworths is that there is very rarely a time where we are not hiring. However that does not mean every person is right for every role. Understanding the person has been key in this project. Ensuring some level of job customisation is always on the table. Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead, Woolworths. 

Across the pilot sites a mix of roles were created, some were customised or carved, and many already existed; some requiring adjustments and others not. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Has the project resulted in employment across WA stores, or is it a couple of key stores? ... ie, is it important to have stores that are champions that have groups of disabled workers who support each other and a team that is trained in integrating the new cohort? Or is the program sophisticated enough that we would expect to see this resulting in people with disabilities in all stores (I work for the retail union, we will want to understand and support these employees as appropriate). What support did employers find most useful?

Answer: The project has actually resulted in employment in more stores than we thought it would. With store managers moving since the start of the project they have then reached out to Good Sammys to build a new relationship at their new store. And a key member of our team has made the move from WA to Qld so again spreading the message literally across the country.
For us we know we will never be the expert in the person with disability, so the support most useful was getting that insight.  Geoff Trappett, Disability Inclusion Lead, Woolworths. 

Question: Are there any culturally adapted processes for implementation of IncludeAbility, or plans for co-creation with persons with lived experience who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander? 

Answer: There will be an opportunity for co-creation with First Nations people with disability next year as part of IncludeAbility 2.0 co-design and implementation.  We are in very early stages of planning this and will have some more announcements and invitations before the end of the year. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Are all the Ambassadors staying on for IncludeAbility 2.0? and same question for Employers? If not have they shared their reasons as part of evaluation or review?

Answer: Ambassadors and Employer Network Members were invited to contribute to the evaluation of the IncludeAbility Project. All Ambassadors and Employer Network Members will be invited to express their interest in being part of 2.0, and all will be invited to contribute to the 2.0 co-design workshops. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Sometimes the phrase ‘inherent requirements of the job’ can be an all purpose excuse to just not employing people with disabilities. Are there any principles that we can apply that really allow us to judge what’s an ‘inherent requirement’?

Answer: Unfortunately, in many instances the term ‘inherent requirements’ has excluded people with disability. 

See below for more detail. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Having worked across many accessibility and inclusion initiatives, I was advised that using the term 'reasonable' in relation to adjustments, opens the door to subjective interpretation and/or a reason to deny adjustments. Surely 'workplace' adjustments is more dignified? Same with the term Disclose  -it implies 'hiding' information. Sharing surely is less loaded? Is there a sector consensus or pilot consensus?

Answer: Language is evolving and terms that are commonly used in this space can be problematic. 

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability recommended that the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) should be amended in regard to this. Recommendation 7.26 to amend the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) states:

Section 21A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) should be amended to expand the factors to be considered in determining whether a prospective or existing employee would be able to carry out the inherent requirements of a particular role. 

These factors include the:

  • nature and extent of any adjustments made
  • extent of consultation with any person with disability concerned.

The Australian Human Rights Commission supports this recommendation and has recommended that the Australian Government amend the Disability Discrimination Act to clarify that a failure to make reasonable adjustments, except when it would impose unjustifiable hardship, constitutes unlawful discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act.

With regard to disclosure, discussions have been had within the sector, including at many of our Employer Network meetings about the term ‘disclose’ and what meaning this may have, or what it may infer. Alternatives such as ‘identify’ and ‘share’ are commonly used. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission very much welcomes further discussion on both of these issues raised, and support amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act as proposed above. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Did the Board and Executives of the 17 participating employers publicly advocate the pilot both inside and outside of their organisations?

Answer: Not all Board Members and Executives of the Employer Network publicly advocated for the pilot. However, CEOs of Network Members committed to publicly and privately advocating for other employers to review their policies and processes to address barriers to the employment of people with disability. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: What learnings from this pilot do you think would be transferable to small and medium size employers?

Answer: This project specifically targeted large national organisations, which are often very complex. However, pilot two in Illawarra had some smaller organisations engaged and the learnings did transfer. The key learnings would be the role of the intermediary – that is the employing organisation having access to a trusted partner to walk alongside them and to create a safe space to ‘get it wrong’. All employers also need intermediaries who can problem solve and know the new employee well so they can create solutions if issues arise in the workplace. 

Lastly, recruitment practices of small to medium organisations can also create barriers for people with disability, particularly if there is no mechanism to request adjustments. This is something all organisations could address. 

Please see information about the Diversity Field Officer project undertaken by Deakin University and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations for more information about Small to Medium Enterprises. Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Representative. 

Question: National Disability Services, as the peak body for disability service providers, is looking to support providers to show leadership by employing more people with disability in their organisations. Many of these are smaller organisations with fewer HR resources than Woolworths. Have you looked at what support is required to overcome barriers specific to small to medium size workplaces?

Answer: See above response. 

Question: You mention in your slides one of the challenges many organisations/companies have is actually finding suitable candidates living with disability to fill their positions. We provide a specialised recruitment service that focuses solely on placing people with disability into work. How can we work with IncludeAbility to help solve that problem for these companies you have mentioned? 

Answer: In 2024 the Commission will be inviting organisations to submit Expressions of Interest to collaborate on Pilots, and work with the Commission and employing organisations to find talent and support talent as part of the Pilot Employment Program. This will be advertised on the IncludeAbility social media and networks. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: I worked with NDS NSW in 2026 on an employment pilot for Disability Support Workers based on Values based sourcing and selecting. It seems we are STILL trying to crack this nut in 2023! Will we really see a radical shift at scale versus discrete pilots/projects with great stories but minimal sustainability?

Answer: The Commission leading this project means that the findings can be shared widely and inform the policy development work that is needed. There are also new projects specifically targeting employer support through the Department of Social Services Building Employer Capacity grants and the Business Council of Australia projects just announced by the Hon Amanda Rishworth, Minister for Social Services. CSI continues to advocate to government that support to employers must be a priority if the numbers are to shift and we remain hopeful that the current environment might enable that to happen. Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Representative. 

Question: Erin mentioned the Critical Friend role Swinburne held, can you explain that a little further and perhaps could someone from IncludeAbility team comment on how that role worked - was it beneficial/challenging?

Answer: The Critical Friend role enabled CSI researchers to bring evidence about ‘what works’ into the project in real time, drawing from their knowledge of the academic literature. CSI provided advice and information through fortnightly meetings that were structured like a Community of Practice, and were available at other times as required. CSI also undertook the project evaluation. Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Representative. 

Question: At what level in the organisation are the roles that the people with disability from the project have been hired on?

Answer: Pilot employees were hired in varying levels, particularly in the IncludeAbility Illawarra Pilot. Most pilot employees were hired in entry level positions. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: What will the next steps be now that the pilot program has been done? Is there a way to be part of the implementation process?

Answer: The current iteration of IncludeAbility will now wrap up, and in the new year the next phase will commence with co-design workshops. The Commission will be inviting interested parties to contribute to these workshops. This will determine the implementation.  Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: The outcomes are incredible, did you see any specific areas of improvement that may require a pivot in the program?

Answer: The second phase of IncludeAbility will shift a greater emphasis to the pilot activity and the ‘learning by doing’. The evaluation highlights a need to also support the organisations involved in the first pilots to continue to ‘roll-out’ this model into new sites and regions, using the learnings and model of the first pilots as a prototype for this. The evaluation suggests that it is important to continue to support this roll out and to capture learnings from this scaling phase of the work within organisations. Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Representative. 

Question: Are these employees on supported wage? (ie a wage below the Award level based on assessed productivity)

Answer: All employees were paid full award wages. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Have any local councils been involved in the program? If not, any potential for future involvement?

Answer: Yes – City of Syndey Council is an Employer Network Member.  Stage 2 is in early stages of planning. More information will be provided in 2024. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: People on disability support pension have their benefit shaved after earning more than $180 per week, is there scope to use this program to lobby for people claiming benefits, but who also want meaningful employment, to have income limits raised so they are able to live more comfortably, ie not being stuck below the poverty line?

Answer: While the IncludeAbility Project did not aim to specifically address this issue, the Commission acknowledges that it is a significant issue in Australia. An ongoing point of advocacy for the Commission is that adequate standard of living, social security and employment are fundamental rights that cannot be addressed independently of one another.

The Commission hopes the findings from the report can contribute to policy reform such as this more broadly. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: Congrats on this terrific project. I was wondering if the evaluation only covers the pilot period or the retention of employees post-pilot period?

Answer: The evaluation only covers the pilot period. However, now that the project has been extended there is a potential opportunity to follow the employees in stage 2.0. Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.

Question: How can the model used be applied to intersectional disadvantages with employment? for instance Indigenous people and disability?

Answer: This model is appropriate for any cohort that is experiencing disadvantage in relation to employment. It is also a model that encourages a partnership approach. For example, an Aboriginal Controlled Organisation could partner with a disability services provider and a large employer to create a similar outcome. Each would need to bring resources to the partnership and a willingness to work together to create a safe environment to learn. Centre for Social Impact Swinburne Representative. 

Question: Great work, I'd like to know what other champion medium to large employers have been identified through the life of the project in addition to Woolworths Group?

Answer: The IncludeAbility Project worked with 17 Employers over the past three years. A list of Network Members can be found on the Meet the Employer Network page.  Australian Human Rights Commission Representative.