For many people just hearing the word “work” makes them think about calling in sick, or reminds them to start planning their next holiday, yet it remains a fact that for most people work is simply a part of everyday life. However work can be something fun, enjoyable and rewarding that not everyone gets to experience, which is why many disability service groups continue to advocate for disability employment, strategies and opportunities.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2017, 18 per cent the Australian population had a disability, while 10 per cent of the population or 2.1 million people had a disability and were of working age, yet only 1 million of this group were employed. Official unemployment rates for the general population currently sit at 5.6 per cent, while for those with a disability it is almost double at 9.4 per cent.
There are many reasons given as to why disability unemployment is higher, however there are an increasing number of organisations evolving that provide employment and other services to people with disabilities to ensure they get equal opportunities. Across the Central West organisations such as OCTEC, VERTO, BINC and Wangarang not only offer people with disabilities the chance for employment, but also the opportunity to lead rich and fulfilling lives and further participate in society.
Wangarang has been supporting people with disabilities and helping them seek active and fulfilling professional and social lives for over 50 years. Cheif Executive Officer Kevin McGuire, said while many organisations offer employment opportunities for people with disabilities, there was a lot more to their efforts than just simply providing a job.
“While employment and professional development is a focus there is certainly more to what we do. We offer a full suite of support under the NDIS plan and put a strong emphasis on social activities including crafts, woodworking afternoons and even simple group activities such as going for coffee. Wangarang also has a social club, run by the supported employees themselves, that adds to social networking through events such as ten pin bowling tournaments, movie nights and major functions like the annual Christmas party,” he said.
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Training and self improvement are also a major part of disability services. From completing TAFE courses and learning new skills to on the job training, all are encouraged to try and reach new heights. Kevin said a great example was 30 people from Wangarang completing their Certificate II in Cleaning, with carers and support workers noticing the difference to the individual’s professional and personal lives by having more confidence, better skills and taking on more responsibility.
The advantages these programs and employment provides is two fold. The benefits to the employees themselves include gaining employment and wages, contributing further to society and increasing their sense of worth and confidence, along with the opportunity to up-skill.
For the organisations themselves they are able to run competitive and successful businesses allowing them to grow and offer further employment and support to those with disabilities. Kevin said he was passionate about Wangarang and the people who worked there. “We operate as a true, innovative business. If we see an opportunity in the market place to pursue- we will. We look at what is involved, our resources and our skill levels. We can’t be everything for everybody, but we never say no until we see how we could help,” he said.