Despite good intentions and a succession of initiatives over several years, people with disability remain significantly under-represented in the Australian Public Service (APS) workforce.
It is difficult at times to understand why this continues to be the case. Research recognises the need for and contribution made by those with disability in the APS. We know the benefits of having a workforce that reflects the community we serve. Agencies post detailed disability action plans on websites and, in many instances, include disability employment in strategic and business plans. And yet the number of individuals with disability in the APS is not what it should be. As stated recently by an APS officer with disability employment responsibilities: “The rhetoric is there but the reality is different.”
Why is this so? What stops us from building more diverse workplaces? In most instances, this rhetoric-reality gap can be distilled to one key factor. Disability employment is still considered a ‘nice to have’, not a ‘must have’ to achieve business outcomes. This is a result of a lack of understanding, incorrect assumptions and in some cases ignorance – all of which creates a deep sense of reluctance to explore hiring more people with a disability.