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Cabinet papers: Harder for people with a disability to get public service jobs

Recruitment of people with disabilities should be monitored and an APS-wide target for them considered, the cabinet decided in 1991.

People with disabilities were forced to compete for fewer places and tougher jobs in the public service, the Hawke government was told.

As well, public servants with disabilities were at risk of being affected by ongoing structural and organisational reforms.

Data from 2013/14 shows not much has changed in two decades with disabled public service workers leaving four times faster than they were hired in that year and being more likely to be made redundant than their co-workers.

This led the disability sector to call for a reform in federal government hiring procedures just two years after the launch of a 2012 strategy to improve the recruitment and retention of people with disability.

A report to ministers in 1991 said it was more difficult for the Australian Public Service to recruit people with disabilities because of the extent of organisational change and the increasing range of duties being performed as administrative service officers 1 to 3 levels.


"In addition, departments are under increasing pressure to 'do more with less' in pursuit of substantial productivity gains including the introduction of enterprise bargaining and with tight control on running costs," a cabinet submission says.

"In this environment, it is likely to become increasingly difficult for equity objectives in Commonwealth employment to be met, without not only strong reinforcement to managers of Commonwealth objectives but, where appropriate, supplementation to recognise the greater operational costs resulting from the employment and training of people with disabilities."

Papers released by the National Archives show cabinet ordered departments and agencies to undertake marketing programs to improve managers' attitudes to the employment of people with disabilities and to encourage them to seek recognition of their performance through the Prime Minister's Employer of the Year award.

A cabinet meeting on December 10, 1991, decided departments would be required to report regularly on employment of people with disabilities.

The Public Service Commission was to monitor the recruitment of people with disabilities against additional selection criteria and consider the feasibility and desirability of setting an APS-wide target for the employment of people with disabilities.

The submission was based on a report from a working party on the employment of people with disabilities in the APS.

It pointed to problems collecting accurate data on the numbers of public servants with a disability.

Ministers were told it was becoming harder to find a public service job, with the number of applicants for ASO 1 positions rising by more than 20,000 in one year, to 71,650 in 1990-91.

They were competing for 4564 positions, compared to 10,290 in 1986-87.

"The working party noted that an understanding of the capacities of people with disabilities must be promoted with APS managers and staff and recommended that a marketing strategy be undertaken by agencies to improve managers' attitudes to the employment of people with disabilities," the submission says.

"The working party did not support the introduction of quotas as it was considered that ultimately these would be counterproductive.

"It should be noted that promotion rates for people with disabilities at present are not significantly different from those of people without disabilities.

"However, there is concern that in the future the advancement raes of people with disabilities in the ASO 1-4 grades may be adversely affected by restructuring.

"The extent of organisational change and increasing range of duties being performed at ASO 1-3 levels are likely to make it more difficult for agencies to recruit people with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual disabilities and the severely disabled."

A press release prepared for the relevant ministers said positive policies had been in place for some time to help with the employment and career progression in the APS of people with disabilities, including modified selection arrangements to remove any disadvantage resulting from a particular disability.

The Public Service Commission was asked to give priority to the significant difficulties with collecting information on the number of people with disabilities in the APS.

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