Minister Rishworth press conference in Adelaide


AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: It's really wonderful to be here at ACE gallery which is all about contemporary experimental art. I'm here with William Maggs, one of the public engagement curators here that will be taking us on tour and I'm here with Brian Dibbins from See Differently, a Disability Employment Service provider. Today is National Auslan Day, a day where we recognise that people are speaking differently. One of the key measures our government took, just over a year ago was to double the funding for Auslan interpretation for people relying on Auslan to use in their workplace. And this was a very important move, because we had seen that the amount had not been doubled for about 13 years. The extra funding that has been made available has allowed up to 15 per cent more people to access the program, and we've seen a 77 per cent increase in the use of Auslan interpretation. This is really important because when we look at workplaces, and this fund is used for workplaces through the Employment Assistance Fund, it is really important that people that rely on Auslan and other adjustments don't miss out on job interviews, don't miss out on training, don't miss out on other opportunities, because they can't be included in their workplace. So, this has been a really important program. I'm really pleased to see the take up of this extra funding. But I want to see more. My call out is for employers right around the country to consider accessing this fund. It is money available to them through JobAccess, and they will be able to visit the JobAccess website and look at how getting funding for Auslan interpretation and other workplace adjustments can help them not miss out on the talent that people with disability bring. We know that employers are crying out for talented people to work in their workplaces. But we know too many people with disability that have a lot of expertise and experience are missing out because there aren't the right funding adjustments in the workplace. This fund is just one of the many ways the government is looking at how we can make our workplaces more inclusive. Now I'm going to ask William Maggs who is an artist to say a few words, or sign a few words, about his work and how the Employment Assistance Fund has helped.

WILLIAM MAGGS, ARTIST (via Auslan Interpreter): My access to the EAF program was made possible through See Differently, which is my job service provider. I use that funding for the Art Gallery of South Australia in my role there and I use it for public curating and programs as well. The EAF funding has given me a lot of opportunities to attend work meetings and be able to be involved in discussions with other staff members in the building. My job relies heavily on communication, so it's great to have that EAF funding and increase in that funding. It certainly made it possible for my colleagues to be able to do some deaf awareness training as well which makes me more comfortable in the workplace too. So all those things have been really important. Without it, I feel like it would be really hard to do in terms of being able to communicate in the workplace.

BRIAN DIBBINS, SEE DIFFERENTLY: We use the EAF all the time for our clients. It is essential for people to be able to get into the workplace and be able to demonstrate the skills that they have and actually compete with other applicants for their roles. The Auslan funding enables clients to attend their meetings with their colleagues and their managers. We have Auslan interpreters on staff to provide supports through the desk program as well. What we found in our experience is that the regular meetings for some of our clients would tend to use up all of the funds available. We had a situation where somebody was going in for a 7:30am staff meeting each week, one of our interpreters had to drop their rates down to be able to make sure they could continue to have that service all year because otherwise they would run out. So doubling the funds basically means the interpreters can charge what they need to actually do the work.

JOURNALIST: How crucial is it that more workplaces are looking into this funding?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would urge every workplace to look into this funding but also consider employing someone with a disability because if they don't, they're missing out on a whole lot of talent and experiences out there. We've heard survey after survey saying that employers do want to consider employing someone with a disability, but they don't have the confidence or know how. JobAccess and the Employment Assistance Fund gives actual support. As William said, it actually also provides funding that could help with awareness training of colleagues. So if colleagues, if managers don't have the confidence, this fund also supports, not just the one individual, but also support to make the workplace more inclusive. And that's critical, but I would really encourage employers to consider it. There is funding out there through JobAccess and the benefits will be immense.

JOURNALIST: How important is the awareness side of it? So employees and workers are more aware and people do feel more comfortable in that workplace?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, it is really important that the message is out there from employers to people with disability, that their jobs are open for them. We have heard a lot of people with disability saying to us they didn't even think about applying for a job because it wasn't made clear that they would be accepted or encouraged. My message across the board is there are many very successful examples of people with disability not just becoming employed but contributing significantly to the workplace. It is really important that businesses have access to the support that builds their confidence so they can take advantage of the wealth and experience that pay for disability bring.

JOURNALIST: Is this additional funding just the start? What more can be done?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I would say the Employment Assistance Fund is very important to make changes and adaptations to the workplace, but research has shown that close to 88 per cent of people looking for employment, of working age with disabilities, don't actually need formal workplace adjustments. They just need a change in attitude. So we do need to do a lot of work and we have been working with for example, the Business Council of Australia, looking at how we build employer confidence. Not just for the entry level jobs, but how these employers might support the career path of someone with disability. It is very important that this is not the only part that we are working on with employers. That’s where the Disability Employment Services are critical and it's really wonderful to have a representative from See Differently. Our job as government has been to improve the quality of our Disability Employment Services as well. When I came into the job, I was surprised that Disability Employment Services were not actually measured on quality. We've been working to look at how the client experience, the person that's participated, actually gets a say in how disability services are rated when it comes to quality. All of these things add up to ensure that we are looking at a more inclusive society, but particularly when it comes to employment and ensuring that people with disability get those opportunities and employers are supported to do so.

BRIAN DIBBINS: I really want to encourage everybody to get involved with Auslan. We need more interpreters. What we would like to see is more people studying it, we'd like to see more people taking that up, because it's a great language.

JOURNALIST: Minister, new statistics are out today showing Australians are paying different prices to see the dentist depending on where they live. Some places are paying double just because of their location.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We recognise as a government there are still barriers for people accessing affordable dental services in many places in the country. And that's why all health ministers including the Commonwealth and state health ministers have made dental health and access to dental care a priority reform. There is work being currently undertaken which will report back to health ministers later this year. But we do, as a government, recognise that access to dental health is critical to people's overall health. And we want to see, through the ministerial meetings more work done there.

JOURNALIST: Your teeth are just another part of the body why is a trip to the dentist costing some people more?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We have over many years invested in public dental health, but we recognise that it is not meeting people's needs and that work is underway. We’ll keep working with the states and territories, through their ministers, on funding options for more accessible dental health care. But critically, we need to make sure that people do get access to dental health care because it is a critical part of being healthy and happy and those barriers should not exist, and we want to work towards long-term reform.

JOURNALIST: We are hearing, and statistics show, that people are delaying going to the dentist because they can't afford it now when there’s a cost of living crisis and stuff like that. Is there anything in the upcoming budget that people can maybe look forward to?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I won't be able to speculate on the upcoming budget. you'll have to wait out for Budget night. As I said, this has been set as a priority of health ministers and a priority reform area. There is work currently underway on how we reform better access to dental health care.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you have a final message to Scott Morrison now that his final tie to Australian politics has been severed?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: My message to Scott Morrison, well it's coming to end of an era for him and I just want to wish him and his family the best as he retires into private life. I look forward to the outcomes in the by-election and having a new person sit in the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Why isn't Labor running a candidate in Cook today? And what does that say about Labor's value?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well look, I think you are seeing from a Labor Government an agenda that is about, first and foremost, supporting people, tackling cost of living including our tax cuts. From the first of July every single taxpayer will get a tax cut. Of course our agenda that the Prime Minister has outlined - A Future Made in Australia - we're getting on with the job. Obviously the people of Cook will get to cast their vote today and democracy is a good thing. But we're getting on with the job as the Labor Government delivering to the whole of Australia.

JOURNALIST: Why isn’t there a Labor candidate?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously these decisions are made by the party, but of course that is not getting in the way of us delivering to the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: Just one last question. Qantas have cancelled, delayed or currently stopped their flights from Perth to London from flying into Iranian airspace. Is the government worried about the escalating tensions in the region?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Yes, of course. We're taking the potential escalation in the Middle East incredibly seriously. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has had discussions with her Iranian counterpart urging for restraint. We want to see a peaceful resolution. We want to see de-escalation in the region and we will be working through every means possible as a country to urge for calm and urge for a de-escalation not an escalation.