Address by The Hon Gary Gray, AO MP
Special Minister of State,
Minister for the Public Service and Integrity
Before commencing, I too would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting.
I would also like to thank Aunty Jannette for her wonderfully warm welcome to country.
Thank you for the privilege of being a small part of this very important launch.
The As One initiative represents a significant change in how we approach people with a disability in the public service.
The Australian Public Service needs this new approach to people with disability.
But I hope that we don’t need it for too long.
Because its true measure of success will be when it is no longer necessary. Until then we have much to do.
The Government believes that transforming the APS workforce, and more broadly the working landscape for all Australians, is fundamental to addressing social inclusion issues that face many people with a disability.
Last Tuesday the Treasurer stood before the Australian people and made real the historic first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme — something he noted is the most fundamental social policy reform since Medicare.
An NDIS will ensure people with disabilities get the individual care and support they need.
Last year the Council of Australian Government’s developed the National Disability Strategy, a 10-year plan to improve the lives of people with a disability.
This national approach to supporting people with a disability will maximise their potential and ensure their participation as equal citizens in our society.
The strategy specifically mentions the APS and makes a commitment to:
“Improve the employment, recruitment and retention of people with a disability in all levels of public sector employment…”
And of course, this Government released its National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy in September 2009, as part of our broader social inclusion agenda.
In 2008 the Government also ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Not only does this convention recognise the right of people with a disability to work on an equal basis, it goes even further, explicitly obliging member countries to employ people with a disability in the public sector.
These are important milestones because having a job is a key part of social inclusion for people with a disability.
That our existing practices might mean we never employ people with a disability or, not allow them to fulfil their potential is unacceptable.
For us or any organisation.
Particularly so in a low unemployment economy and at a time when we are trying our best to increase capability and knowledge across the entire APS.
But, on a fundamental level we already know that having a workforce within the APS that better reflects Australia as a whole will lead to better policy and program outcomes.
After all, we are here to provide the public with the best service possible.
The As One Strategy is evolutionary and revolutionary.
At its heart are two key principles aimed at renewing and refocusing our collective attention and, to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted.
The two parts are:
Fostering an inclusive culture is an imperative that clearly shines through in both of these principles.
Of course, this also needs to be combined with increasing agency demand for candidates with a disability, as well as improving recruitment processes to enable more candidates with a disability to enter the APS.
And it almost goes without saying that we need to improve leadership across the APS with respect to progressing a more inclusive agenda.
But of course there is also an economic imperative from a capability and a talent management perspective.
The 2010 Intergenerational Report noted that population ageing will put significant pressure on the economy. It is a fact that people with a disability in Australia are currently an underutilised part of our potential workforce.
The As One Strategy is an important step in ensuring we are able to tap into the huge talent pool that exists among Australians with disability. It will also ensure that existing APS employees with disability are provided with a workplace that is inclusive, respectful and grateful for the enormous contribution they make.
As much as the As One Strategy is a key action in creating an equal and engaging workplace for all, it is also a call to action for all of us.
Much work has been done to get to where we are but, I know, in fact we all know, that there is still much to be done.
So the call to action is for you all, for your colleagues, peers, managers, and staff.
Without your support and that of the wider APS there is little chance of success.
Before I finish I would like to draw your attention to a quote in the National Disability Strategy document that perhaps best sums up why we are here today.
It is taken from the Shut Out publication which our next speaker, Rhonda Galbally, was instrumental in producing:
“If I lived in a society where being in a wheelchair was no more remarkable than wearing glasses, and if the community was completely accepting and accessible, my disability would be an inconvenience and not much more than that. It is society which handicaps me, far more seriously and completely than the fact that I have Spina Bifida.”
Clearly, this speaks volumes about the critical part attitudes play in erecting and removing barriers.
As I said in my introduction, our goal should be to create an inclusive culture in the Australian Public Service.
One which provides pathways and opportunities to all Australians.
I would like to thank all agencies that have worked on this strategy, and those that will continue to provide leadership and guidance on what is a truly remarkable program.
I would also like to thank all of you for attending this launch today and wish you every success in creating an APS that is equal for all.