Human Rights Disability Forum Announced
15 July 2014 at 11:59 am
Human Rights Commissioner Susan Ryan has begun her term as Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, announcing she will convene a National Disability Forum in September to meet with people with disabilities and their representative bodies.
Ryan says she want to reinvigorate a national discussion about creating opportunities for people with disabilities to enter the workplace.
The Former Labor Minister and Human Rights Commissioner is replacing the full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, who retired from the post last week.
In his final speech after almost nine years in the role, Inness called for a national jobs plan to make it safer for people with disability to venture off the Disability Support Pension and into work.
“It is important that we have this discussion at a time when the Government is considering significant changes to the welfare system, including the disability support pension,” Ryan said in announcing the Forum.
“The only way we can reduce welfare dependency is to address the barriers to paid employment that are faced by people with disabilities.
“These barriers start from the moment a person leaves their house: is there reliable, accessible transport to get to work? It continues as they reach a workplace: Is the workplace design accessible? Are there flexible workplace practices that can accommodate people’s distinct needs? And it continues on with prevailing attitudes and stereotypes about what people with disabilities are capable (or more commonly, deemed incapable) of achieving.
“We know that the cumulative effect of these barriers is that too many talented Australians are not in the workforce when they could be.”
In preparation for the forum the Australian Human Rights Commission says it will shortly release a survey asking people with disabilities to identify the key issues that they face, especially in relation to access to jobs.
It says the information will be used to inform discussion at the National Disability Forum and to guide the development of the Commission’s future work priorities in advancing the rights of people with disabilities.
“I look forward to continuing the Commission’s work under the Disability Discrimination Act,” Ryan said.
“Initially, I will do so by focusing on the area where there has been inadequate progress over the past 20 years – creating employment opportunities.”
Susan Ryan was appointed as Australia’s first Age Discrimination Commissioner on July 30, 2011 for a five-year term.
Up until her appointment as Commissioner, she had been Women’s Ambassador for ActionAid Australia and chaired the Australian Human Rights Group since 2008. She had also chaired the Australian Human Rights Act Campaign Inc since 2005.
From 1975 to 1988, Ryan was Senator for the ACT, becoming the first woman to hold a Cabinet post in a Federal Labor Government. She served in senior portfolios in the Hawke Government as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and Special Minister of State.