Access to sustainable employment remains out of reach for almost half of Australians who have a disability. This has significant flow-on effects on all parts of life including lower community participation, poorer mental health and well-being outcomes and lower economic participation, all of which are necessary for a successful economy. 


National Disability Employment Framework

In June 2015, AFDO prepared a comprehensive report to the Department of Social Services Employment Framework, chiefly recommending a move to a market-driven approach based on the NDIS and practical measures and reform that support Australian businesses to become disability confident.

AFDO’s submission outlines a series of recommendations, including five areas where we believe reform is most beneficial

  • Set up of a market-driven approach modeled on the NDIS, with a funding package allocated to jobseekers with disability to purchase a wider variety of employment-related supports that lead to employability and individual capacity building
  • Direct support to businesses of all sizes to become disability confident (with modeling underway of the Diversity Field Officer concept)
  • Leadership by Federal, State, and Territory governments to increase the proportion of people with disability employed in the public sector
  • Development of clear benchmarks, goals, and accountabilities to close the employment gap experienced by people with disability
  • Systemically address the concerns of business regarding Workplace Health and Safety, industrial relations, and disability discrimination.

AFDO’s latest submission (November 2016) to the Department of Social Services Disability Employment Framework is available here and Appendix A



A new way of thinking about employment

AFDO believes that a new approach, which places the identified needs of employers and the skillset and aspirations of people with disability in the centre, needs to be the catalyst to increase workforce participation, meet the needs of business and increase productivity.

In 2013 - 2014, AFDO conducted a project to work collaboratively with business stakeholders to identify solutions to address the chronic under-representation of people with disability in the workforce. AFDO met with a range of stakeholders including the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council and individual Council members to inform Australia’s reform agenda.

In April 2014, AFDO hosted a Roundtable to investigate the parameters of a contemporary employment model which is reoriented to the needs of business and jobseekers.

In 2015 a two-year pilot will commence in Geelong Victoria, to trial the new employment model which involves two Diversity Field Officers (DFOs) who will provide specialist advice and work one on one with small businesses who are committed to hiring people with disability. Each DFO will work with up to 25 small to medium sized businesses (50 businesses in total across two DFOs) to review their policies and procedures and to recommend strategies which support a diverse workforce.

The project will be a significant step forward for employment of people with disability in the Barwon region. The data collected from this project will be used by AFDO, Deakin, and DEA to inform the 2016 review of Disability Employment Services. 


Image of AFDO CEO, Ross Joyce & Dr. Kevin Murfitt of Deakin University

Image: AFDO CEO, Ross Joyce and Dr Kevin Murfitt of Deakin University at an AFDO Diversity Field Officer Service event.


Reforming Disability Employment Services to best meet the needs of consumers

AFDO has been a leading voice to the Australian Government on the changes needed to best support people with disability into work, including how Disability Employment Services (DES) can be most effective. Our advocacy has included:

  • Representation on the Australian Government’s DES Reference Group and DES Operational Working Group
  • Representation to Senate committees
  • Advocating for the improvement of the DES star rating system
  • Advocating for performance framework changes, including the introduction of a 52-week performance indicator and public release of DES outcomes by disability to enable people with disability to make an informed DES choice
  • Advocating for the tendering of DES’ with star ratings 3 stars or less in the 2013 tender process to ensure a high-quality DES program
  • Advocating for concurrent access to employment programs, particularly for people with disability working in transition to work services.

In 2014, AFDO produced a national report from data collected by national organisations representing people with disability. Adopting a holistic perspective, the report looks at how the DES system can be re-oriented to best meet the needs of people with disability and makes recommendations informed from AFDO’s broader systemic work.  

This report was funded by the Department of Social Services DES Consumer Engagement project.



Providing respected advice

During 2013 and 2014, AFDO worked with the Australian Retailers Association, Australia Post and Disability Employment Australia on the development and rollout of three National Disability Employment Initiative (NDEI) projects.

These projects, designed to explore innovative ways to assist people with disability to actively participate in the workforce, included the development of a 12-month brokering program to support retail employers hire and retain employees with disability; career development for DES clients currently in employment; and the development of an innovative Australia Post training resource.

AFDO have also presented at a number of leading conferences including the 2013 Jobs Australia Conference, the 2014 Australian Network on Disability ‘Leading the Way’ Conference and the 2014 Disability Employment Australia National Conference.