One in 5 Australians have some form of disability today (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). A lack of awareness, stigma, and discrimination are additional barriers to employment for people with disability and lower employment outcomes when compared to the general population. The social model of disability (as opposed to the medical model) takes the view that disability is a result of the way society is organised, rather than by a person's impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people.
In the Department, disability is used as an umbrella term for any physical or function impairment, and limitations or restrictions to employment-related activities; and can be temporary, permanent or episodic in nature. These extend to chronic health conditions, mental health, and injury; and to carers for people with disability.
The Department values the unique skills and qualities of all employees and is committed to treating all employees, including those with disability, respectfully and equitably at all stages of the employment lifecycle
As one of the largest employers in Victoria, the Department has a significant opportunity to increase the number of people with disability it employs. In 2019, the Department launched its to increase the employment outcomes of people with disability. This will help the Department to move towards the Victorian Public Service disability employment targets of 6 per cent by 2020, and 12 per cent by 2025.
In addition, the Department is working to improve its disability confidence. As well as building greater understanding of disability across the Department, this will equip hiring managers with strategies they can use in recruitment processes to support candidates with disability and ensure employees with disability can request and implement reasonable workplace adjustments successfully.
Legislative and policy framework
According to the legislation, disability is defined broadly and includes:
- total or partial loss of a bodily function, or part of the body
- the presence in the body of organisms that may cause disease such as HIV or Hepatitis
- malfunction, malformation or disfigurement of a part of the body
- a mental or psychological disease or disorder, or other condition that may result in a person learning more slowly
- past disability or impairment which may include childhood illnesses, having had a broken leg or a period of psychiatric illness.
Under the Department’s Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination Policy, discrimination against employees with disability is prohibited. All employees, managers and school leaders should be aware of their rights and responsibilities covered in the Department’s policy and ensure that these are upheld.
Getting to work – the Victorian public sector disability employment action plan
The plan is for people with disability at all levels of the public sector to:
- be employed more
- have successful careers
- have a fairer employment experience.
This employment plan ensures that the Victorian public sector can take action in achieving the targets set by key state-wide policies:
- Enhancing the economic participation of people with disability is a priority of .
- The development of is a key commitment in the state disability plan. Every Opportunity seeks greater effort by government in the employment of people with disability, particularly through setting a target across the Victorian Public Service of 6% by 2020 and 12% by 2025.
What does discrimination look like?
Many people with a disability report positive experiences in workplaces which are inclusive due to a combination of policies and positive leadership. However, the rates of discrimination, bullying and harassment experienced by people with disability in the Department are materially higher when compared to the averaged rates of their peers.
Discrimination can be direct (when someone is treated unfavourably on the basis of a disability) and indirect (when an unreasonable requirement or condition is imposed on someone that could disadvantage a person with a disability). Also, discrimination can be overt or very subtle, and can take many forms.
Examples of discrimination against people with disability in the workplace include:
- being bullied, intimidated, harassed or threatened at work due to an actual, or perceived disability, even after notifying the manager about one’s disability
- being unreasonably denied a workplace adjustment that was requested, such as flexible work arrangements
- rejection from a job even though the person’s disability does not prevent them from performing the required duties with reasonable adjustments
- being denied a promotion or employment benefits due to a disability
- being excluded from workplace social events or off-site activities.
At the Department all employees have a responsibility to ensure that discrimination is not tolerated or condoned, as outlined in the Equal Opportunity and Anti-discrimination Policy.
As well as ensuring that discrimination does not occur against people with disability, there are numerous ways to demonstrate support and help build an inclusive culture.
Disability awareness/confidence training
Attend disability awareness/confidence training and encourage your team members to complete as part of their ongoing professional development. The aim of these sessions are to provide you with an understanding of accessibility and inclusion in the workplace, and to assist staff to identify ways to develop an inclusive and accessible environment for employees and those that the organisation comes into contact with. You can find out about the next available training sessions by emailing
Make your information accessible
Follow the Department’s guide for (staff login required), to ensure your information is available to everyone, as per the and . Simple steps like ensuring text is a reasonable size and a high level of contrast between text and background can make a big difference for people with low vision.
Disclosure – sharing disability or personal health information
Gently encourage people to share their disability or other health information only where it is likely to impact their ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job, the ability to work safely, and the safety of co-workers.
Understand and implement workplace adjustments
Use person-centred language
Person-first language is the most widely accepted terminology in Australia. Examples of person-first language include: 'person who is deaf', or 'people who have low vision'. Put the person first, and the impairment second (when it’s relevant). Other phrases that are growing in popularity and acceptance are: 'person living with disability', and 'person with lived experience of disability'. webpage includes a range of suggestions to write in person-centred and inclusive language for people living with a disability.
Use appropriate body language
Always ensure you speak directly to the person and not anyone else who may be accompanying them such as Auslan interpreters, and carers.
Ensuring that meetings are inclusive of everyone is critical to ensure that all staff and external visitors can contribute effectively to meetings. With so much of our work now taking place online, it is even more important than ever that we plan to be inclusive. Remember, that not everyone shares their disability information.
There are some simple steps that can be taken to help make meetings more inclusive, including:
- asking all attendees what they need to be able to contribute to the meeting effectively, prior to the meeting
- ask what a person's preferred method of communication is, highlighting the inclusivity options available on Webex, such as transcription
- make sure any documents are (login required) and are sent out ahead of time
- organise any adjustments ahead of time, such as captioning or interpreters.
Premises and buildings
Ensure staff know the location of accessible entrances and exits, toilets and bathrooms, First Aid rooms and sick bays, and defibrillators. Also having a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan is important in making the Department safe and it demonstrates our commitment to ensuring accessibility for everyone.
Support the Enablers Network
Join, participate, and promote the Department’s Enablers Network. This is a staff-led network that advocate for members, raise awareness and provide peer support and advice to people managers, including an Induction Pack and a Buddy Program for new starters with disability. For more information contact:
Ensure that your job ads are accessible when undertaking recruitment and encourage people with disability to apply. Consider recruiting a person with disability using , such as identified/designated roles.
Promote the Mental Health and Wellbeing Charter
Celebrate days of significance
Promote and participate in departmental initiatives for days of significance such as World Autism Day (2 April), World Mental Health Day (10 October), AccessAbility Day (23 to 27 November) and International Day of People with Disability (3 December).
Learn more about inclusion for people living with a disability
Reviewed 22 February 2023