Call for disability quotas

Chevonne Straunch, a Radius employee who has a disability.
Chevonne Straunch, a Radius employee who has a disability.

A BENDIGO disability service has called on the federal government to introduce workforce quotas for people with a disability.

Radius chief executive Cath McDonald said statistics showed that 15 to 20 per cent of Australians had a disability and the make-up of each workplace should reflect these figures.

"One of the better models that is around is when workplaces are supported by legislation to procure a certain number of people who have disabilities," she said.

She said the government could provide tax cuts to employers who met the set quota, as an added incentive.

Ms McDonald's call comes as the federal government has signaled it will crackdown on the disability pension, making people deemed unfit to work under "less rigorous" legislation in place from 2008 until 2011 be reassessed.

It was recently revealed by Senate Estimates that psychological problems and mental illnesses are the leading reasons people are on the disability support pension in Australia.

Ms McDonald said her organsiation provided mental health training for workplaces, to provide employers with advice about ways they could help and support their mentally ill workers.

"How many people get depressed in their lifetime?" she said. 

"Depression is a huge ... cause of absenteeism."

But she said if workplaces had mental health training, it could help alleviate absenteeism among psychologically ill people and encourage colleagues to be more considerate of one another.

She said hiring people with disabilities was "part of trying to have a truly integrated community".

"It's a partnership," she said.

She said the government's agenda to get more people off the pension would be challenging to some, but her organisation would be available to help people.


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