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Disability no barrier to employment participation

29 July 2008

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has applauded calls by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, The Hon Bill Shorten MP, for broader consideration of staff with disabilities.

“Staff with disabilities make a valuable contribution to the agricultural workforce,” NFF President David Crombie said. “In fact, employees with disabilities, occupy a greater share of agricultural employment than they do, on average, across other industries.

“Although unemployment is at record lows, there are still 700,000 people who rely on disability pensions, as well as a significant number of short- and long-term unemployed who are similarly classified as ‘incapacitated’.

“Many of these people are not just looking for jobs, but careers, and with unprecedented labour and skills shortages, the agricultural sector is offering both.

“Regional Australia has a great deal to offer, whether through its relatively good cost of living, its community focus or a more relaxed lifestyle.”

Earlier this year, the NFF released its 2008 Labour Shortage Action Plan, which mapped ways specific labour shortages can be resolved. It identified improving employment participation as especially important in filling longer-term career opportunities.

“Getting a wide range of people into work involves more than simply offering them a job,” Mr Crombie said. “Traditionally, many are given short-term work only to slip back into unemployment. They need long-term development with a clear career pathway.

“That’s the next initiative under our 2008 Labour Shortage Action Plan. We will be setting out a detailed proposal to more effectively engage and meet the needs of jobseekers, focussing on the long-term unemployed, those with disabilities, indigenous Australians and women in agriculture.

“Actually making headway must be premised on building partnerships with people looking for opportunities, and maximising the important contribution they can make to modern farming.

“Accommodating staff needs is an important part of the NFF’s longstanding commitment to flexible workplaces and an integral part of being employers of choice. At a time when many farmers have done it tough, they are especially well-placed to appreciate what many jobseekers face in terms of getting their careers back on track.”

In coming weeks the NFF will release an employment participation discussion paper to gather input from prospective employees – the long-term unemployed, those with disabilities, indigenous Australians and women – ahead of a final proposal being put to Government later in the year.

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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