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By Samson Hailu

I attended the Inclusion Australia National Open Employment Forum which focused on the importance of engaging mainstream employers to be more inclusive.

I thought the speakers presented well and I liked the fact that they were delivering a positive message on the importance of engaging the mainstream employment sector to be more open-minded in employing people with a disability.

Minister Martin Foley supported the speakers when he addressed everyone, promising that the Victorian Government is committed to giving people with a disability every opportunity to reach their potential, to have a fair chance to work, study and make their way in business.

Speakers focused on the positive outcomes employment can have on people’s lives and how different organisations are adopting inclusive approaches and how it has altered their perception. Gerard Langridge has been a leading self-advocate for people with an intellectual disability and open employment since the late 1980s. It was great to hear about his experiences.

Gerard currently works for Australia Post and has been there since the 1990s. He has had a career spanning over 40 years and is currently looking forward to retiring at the end of the year. Hearing positive stories like Gerard’s was what I enjoyed the most at the forum. It was fantastic hearing about the impact of being employed and how this has made him feel like a productive member of society.

Paul Cain was also one of my favourite speakers. Paul recently delivered workshops across Australia in partnership with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to people with a disability and families who have school leaver employment support in their NDIS plans. Paul also represents people with disability in a reference group focusing on reform in Disability Employment Services.

I found that an important message that came out of the forum was that people with significant disabilities can successfully work in the open labour market when jobseekers and employers get the right support.