The Honourable John Ajaka, Minister for Disability Services speaks about Bushlink in NSW Parliament

HANSARD

30 Wednesday 28 October 2015 Legislative Council

BUSHLINK

The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES: My question is directed to the Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism. What is the New South Wales Government doing to increase employment for people with disability?

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA:

I thank the honourable member for her question. The New South Wales Government is fully committed to increasing employment opportunities for people with disability. This week Premier Mike Baird and I visited Manly West Public School. We were there to see the great work Bushlink is doing in schools and to announce a $100,000 grant from the New South Wales Government to expand this innovative employment program.

Bushlink is a program of Northside Enterprise Inc. and is focused on people with disability working in open, non-segregated settings. Bushlink provides people with disability with the support that they need to maintain employment and to work in socially inclusive environments. An important part of Bushlink’s initiative is its connection with local schools. Bushlink offers school grounds and garden maintenance across the Northern Beaches area. Bushlink invites students to join in gardening activities with its team to work together to improve the school grounds. This creates opportunities for everyday conversation and builds the confidence of students to embrace inclusion of people with disability in workplaces and communities.

In addition to Bushlink’s gardening and bush regeneration services, it conducts corporate days that are run at local Bushcare sites. Bushlink and corporate volunteers work together to regenerate an area of bushland. Staff from my department have recently had one such day under the guidance of the Bushlink team, learning how to plant, weed, mulch and more. The day was a great success.

Through its initiatives, Bushlink is helping people with disability to make a contribution to New South Wales through employment and skill development opportunities at the same time as helping to repair and improve the environment of this beautiful part of Sydney. For all of us, employment is not only a means to achieve economic independence; it also contributes enormously to our sense of self. It connects us to other people in our society and offers us opportunities to play a part in the community.

This Government is working to support people with disability to participate in all aspects of society to the fullest of their capacity. Funding for Bushlink is one of several New South Wales Government initiatives aimed at increasing employment of people with disability. For example, the Employment Enablement Strategy I established earlier this year is a three-year project that assists people with a disability to gain and retain employment. The overall goal of the strategy is to increase employment outcomes for people with disability in New South Wales and continue to close the gap in the unemployment rate between people with disability and the wider community. I am proud to inform the House that a total of 225 support packages which provide 12 months of job readiness support to adults with intellectual disability will be allocated.

New South Wales has also commenced work with Social Ventures Australia and the Australian Network on Disability to identify growth industries and emerging markets, and develop an access and inclusion index and a demand-led job brokerage model. This important initiative will provide employers with the tools and confidence to look at the talented people with disability and understand they can meet their needs in the workplace.

The New South Wales Government is also supporting school leavers with disability to move from school to work or further education through its Transition to Work program. Transition to Work is a two-year program that aims to help young people with disability gain employment after leaving school. Since the program started in 2005 more than 2,500 young people have entered employment. The Employment Enablement Strategy and the Transition to Work program are part of this Government’s employment initiatives that the National Disability Insurance Scheme can build on in the future.