Last week we hosted here at our Dandenong HQ a group of about 20 senior business executives doing a community leadership course with Leadership Victoria and it led to some robust conversations about inclusion, the value of jobs and fairness in our society.

The core theme for the day was the interface of disability and work and how can we do better as a country and a community to include more people with different abilities in employment.

One of the questions explored on the day was ‘should there be a base assumption of work for everyone regardless of your ability?’ We all know how much value a job provides to a person above and beyond the actual pay packet in terms of feeling productive and social interaction etc. so having work of some sort as a base assumption makes sense. It also means everyone is treated the same. No-one asked me if I wanted to work when I was 17 and about to leave School, and if I asked my son in Year 11 this question now I’m pretty sure he would say no which would be a very uninformed choice indeed.

Australia currently ranks very low on the OECD index for employment participation for people with disabilities so there is a big push on to get everyone who can work, into work.

Two examples in Melbourne we discussed which are yielding great dividends were the Level Crossing Removal Program (LCRP) and Wallara’s partnership with the Hawthorn Football Club (aka the mighty Hawks)

Under the LCRP we know of 2 other disability services which have received some fantastic opportunities for their clients because the Victorian State Government required tendering companies to meet social procurement targets. After the level crossings have been removed there needs to be some landscaping so a social enterprise nursery in Lilydale called Yarra View Nursery is picking up some great new business. And we have also heard of adults with disabilities being trained by Lend Lease in traffic management and receiving award wages for their effort.

The Hawthorn Football Club has 80,000 members and needs a provider to handle all the warehousing and storage of merchandise and picking and packing of customer orders. Instead of choosing a generic provider the Hawks chose Wallara Logistics for this task and this means every time a Hawks fan clicks online to buy a piece of merchandise they are providing meaningful work to someone with different abilities. To celebrate this partnership we recently made a fun video to show the ‘team behind the team’ where our clients had starring roles.

Congratulations to both these organisations for showing how it can be done and let’s hope it inspires others to follow their lead. Supply chains and procurement hold enormous potential to drive inclusion and I hope those 20 executives we hosted are going back to their organisations to think about what else they can do in this space. Not everyone has to leave the private sector and join a not profit in order to drive social change. Every organisation – public, private or social – can play a part.

CEO and blogger, Phil-Hayes-Brown is one of Australia’s most passionate advocates for making social change happen for people with different abilities. A father of two, who sees disability support like coaching a sporting team, Phil brings his commercial NBA experience and community development focus to the issue of inclusion and meaningful social roles often challenging the status quo in the disability sector.


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