The ‘Future of Work’ is an opportunity for inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion conversation on ABC The Drum

When invited to participant in the conversation on the ABC The Drum, I’m always a little curious as to how the story will evolve. Panellists of course will have a variety of experiences and view points to bring to the conversation.

So, when asked to be a part of the panel on the topic of ‘disability inclusion in workplaces’ for the 25 March 2021 edition, with Ellen Fanning, I thought it was an opportunity to speak about the work being done particularly for youth. The transition from school (maybe via tertiary education) to work can be the most challenging for people with a disability.

For close to a decade I have worked as a governor to the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, as such I know the work, and the challenges that are being faced by many. I reached out to the team at CPA to get the ‘data’.

The ‘future of work’ or the new ways we are working represents a huge opportunity for all of us, not least of which are people with disability. We are on the cusp of being a truly inclusive society, primarily if recruiters give up the ‘labels’ and perceived barriers.

Here are some insights:


  • Most (93%) people with disability find engaging in the workforce difficult [1
  • Yet, recent studies show the majority of young people with a disability are engaged in education and their top post-school plan is to go to university
  • Sadly, less than a third of individuals aged 25-44 yrs with disability actually participate in paid work in Australia
  • This is on par with developing countries (ie. Australia ranks 21 of 29 OECD list for workforce participation)[2]
  • This is due to systemic issues relating to access

Access to life skills training

Access to post-school education and training

Access to meaningful employment opportunities– persistent stigma, and preconceived myths relating to people with disabilities


  • We need to debunk these myths
  • 88% of employed working-age people with disability do not require additional support from their employer to work
  • 82% do not need time off from work because of their disability [3]


  • We are seeing an evolving landscape of what diversity and inclusion at ‘work’ means- more universally inclusive
  • This means more working from home, emerging ‘diversity models’ and the rapidly-growing tech space that is breaking down economic barriers for people living with disability
  • Equal employment can only occur if people are provided with supports that are inclusive of their needs (eg. mainstream high school supports often exclude students with disability) AND there is systemic change where businesses are actually employing people with disability and impairment
  • It is time for a major cultural/attitudinal shift in perception of people living with disabilities as active contributors in our companies and communities, and the long-time returns on having an inclusive and diverse workplace
  • In an ever-changing world, we all need flexibility to be our most effective


  • Youth programs and life skills training
    • Cerebral Palsy Alliance runs unique life skills, school and work- readiness programs for young people living with disabilities (not in a classroom setting!)
    • This is more than just helping someone prepare a ‘resume’ –
    • They (CPA) are empowering youth with independence and the soft skills needed for the workforce; team building, problem solving and communications
  • Coaching
    • They also provide individual life skills coaching, mentoring and development for young people with disabilities to build the skills needed to live the best life possible

[1] Australian Government, Institute of Health and Welfare, Oct 2020
[2] National Disability Insurance Scheme, Employment Outcomes Report, June 2018
[3] Australian Government, Institute of Health and Welfare, Oct 2020


Also published on Medium.

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