International Day of People with Disability Morning Tea


I'm going get in early and say Happy International Day of People with Disability. I know I'm a little bit early, but it really is a day of celebration. I would like to start by acknowledging that we meet on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples and pay my respects to elders past and present. I extend that acknowledgment to all First Nations people who are with us.  

I’d also like to acknowledge, of course, my colleague Minister for the NDIS and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten. We are a duo in this and so we very much work as a team in this space for disability inclusion.

But I did want to start by saying that the International Day of People with Disability does two things. The first I want to focus on, is it is a day of inspiration and celebration. If you think about the stories of our Ambassadors – and I'd like to acknowledge the Ambassadors here with us today – they are stories of achievement. They are stories of skill, they are stories of creativity, and they are stories of people following their passion. And for many of us, I would say me included, they are really stories of inspiration people achieving in the areas that they are passionate about. 

I do want to say a big congratulations to everyone and it is a celebration. When I talk with many of you here, the passion and inspiration, it really, really is palpable.

Of course, it's also a day where we look at and identify some of the barriers that have existed for people being able to always achieve their passion, and what they want to achieve, and recommit ourselves to looking at those barriers to full inclusion in community, full inclusion in Australian society and dismantling those barriers. 

And so, this is a day that is acknowledged across the world and across Australia of how do we constantly drive a more inclusive society, an inclusive community, where the strengths of people with disability are recognised, are celebrated. But where people with disability don't feel they have to constantly break down those barriers and that's certainly my vision that I am keen to drive through Australia's Disability Strategy. 

This is very important work of mine to really look at what's on the pages of that Disability Strategy and look at really how we bring that Strategy to life. Bring it off the pages of Australia's Disability Strategy and bring it in into life. 

I would like to acknowledge so many of you here today that have made such a huge contribution, to not just that, but the Disability Royal Commission where so many people put their experiences, or facilitated others to put forward their experiences. 

Together, we do have to look at that shocking evidence. We do have to listen to that key message about, not only just safeguarding against neglect and exploitation, but that message of the Royal Commission, which is about true inclusion. 

So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank so many of you for working through so many processes. I know it's been a busy year of making a huge contribution and ensuring that the lived experience of people with disability, and their carer’s and families, are part of the Government's decision making processes. 

And I'm sorry to say we're going to continue to draw on that expertise to draw on that experience as we move forward. Now, one of the key parts of this, as I mentioned, the International Day of People with Disability, is about strength. It is about celebrating strength and where we've come particularly in the area of disability employment, which I've been working very closely on, to drive more opportunities for disability employment. 

My message to employers has been one of strength. Looking at all the skills, the experience, the life experience that employers are missing out on when they overlook someone with a disability. And one of the really important pieces of work that we did last week was to work with the Business Council of Australia to talk, not just about jobs for people with disability, but talk about how those businesses address the careers of people with disability.  

That is so important because we're not just talking about entry level jobs for people with disability. What we're talking about is working with companies and working with business to ensure not only do people get opportunity for employment, but they actually get the opportunity to pursue their passion and create a career.  That is part of the work that we've been doing in the areas of tourism, in the areas of hospitality, but importantly in the work with the Business Council of Australia. 

Another important piece of work, which I know many of you have been contributing to, has been our national Autism Strategy. That's been a really important piece of work, where we have had people with Autism sitting alongside government officials, government departments, and consulting with the broader community. Once again, looking at how we can make our society more inclusive for people with Autism. 

So this work will continue as we work through the Disability Royal Commission's recommendations, as we work hard to bring the vision of Australia's Disability Strategy into life. But really, from my perspective, it is about elevating the strength and resilience and passion of people with disability to ensure that our wider society benefits. So Happy International Day of People with Disability and I look forward to, on an ongoing basis, celebrating with you 365 days of the year – but particularly on Sunday. 

Thank-you for having me here today.