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Royal Commission - pathways and barriers to open employment.

The Disability Royal Commission is exploring pathways and barriers to open employment for people with disability in a public hearing.

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This week, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is exploring pathways and barriers to open employment for people with disability in a public hearing in Brisbane. 

The hearing will start at 10.30 am AEDT on Monday 7 December.

Content Warning

Some of the stories and information below contain details about abuse, neglect and mistreatment of people with disability. There is support if you have any concerns because of this information.

How can I attend? 

Due to COVID-19, the hearing is not open to the public. It is available to watch or listen to online via the live stream. This hearing will take place from Monday 7 December to Friday 11 December 2020. 

What is it about? 

The Royal Commission’s ninth public hearing will examine the barriers to open employment for people with disability. This is the first public hearing of the Royal Commission concerning economic participation of people with disability.

People with disability will tell the Royal Commission about their experiences in finding and keeping jobs in open employment, their transitions into and out of the workforce, and their experience of discrimination and exploitation.

The issues to be examined at the hearing include:

  • the human right of persons with disability to work without discrimination and on an equal basis with others
  • the systemic barriers to people with disability attaining meaningful employment, including attitudinal, physical/environmental, organisational and structural barriers
  • how these systemic barriers contribute to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability
  • links between meaningful and sustainable employment and inclusion of people with disability into broader society 
  • the experience of women with disability, First Nations people with disability, and people with disability who are from culturally and linguistically diverse, refugee and/or migrant backgrounds, or who identify as LGBTIQA+
  • employment programs and how different systems such as the Disability Support Pension, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Disability Employment Services interact
  • how employers can build inclusive workplaces to promote employment opportunities and career advancement for people with disability, as well as making adjustments for people with disability in finding, obtaining, maintaining and returning to employment

The focus of public hearing 9 will be on open employment. The Royal Commission is intending to consider segregated employment settings further in later hearings.

Live stream

Closed captions and Auslan translations provided as well as an audio-only stream


Witnesses include: 

Kalena Bos - Speak Out Tasmania 
Catherine McAlpine - Inclusion Australia
Suzanne Colbert AM - Australian Network on Disability
Dr Lisa Stafford Queensland University of Technology 

Official Transcripts

Chair Opening Remarks - 7 December 2020

Chairman Ron Sackville:

As Ms Eastman will explain, barriers are attitudinal (such as prejudicial assumptions made by prospective employers about the capability of people with disability); environmental (such as physical inaccessibility of premises or the absence of communications facilities); organisational (such as the lack of assistance or adjustment to allow for a smooth transition to employment); and structural (such as the lack of integration between income support programs and the labour market for people with disability).

Media Coverage

Disability Royal Commission hearings focus on discrimination in the workplace

ABC News December 8 

Almost half of the discrimination complaints received by the Human Rights Commission are from people with a disability and many of these complaints are about employment. That's what the Disability Royal Commission was told yesterday as it looks into the barriers people with disabilities are facing in the workplace.

Disability Royal Commission hears about employment challenges

ABC News December 8 

Australians living with a disability are twice as likely to be unemployed, as Disability Affairs reporter Nas Campanella explains.

Royal Commission exposes demeaning and exploitative practices against workers with disabilities

ABC News December 7

People with disabilities can face enormous daily life challenges, so it's distressing to know that the majority say they also regularly suffer workplace exploitation. And that's the focus this week at hearing 9 of the Disability Royal Commission -- to get a sense of the scale of the problem and the trauma it's causing.

Support Services

The Disability Royal Commission has set up support services for people with disability affected by or interacting with the Commission process. These supports include counselling, advocacy, financial and legal help. For more information and links read our resource on Royal Commission Support Services.

More Information

Go to Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability for our full coverage on the Disability Royal Commission or choose from some of the past hearings listed below. 

Past Hearings

Disability Royal Commission - First Nations People with a Disability
Disability Royal Commission explores barriers to education 
Disability Royal Commission hearing on the use of psychotropic medication 
Disability Royal Commission Hearing on Emergency Planning 

Disability Royal Commission 

Phone: 1800 517 199
Web: disability.royalcommission.gov.au 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

For more information read our full directory listing.

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