Greg Lewis - Awarded June 2010
Greg Lewis is the Executive Director of EDGE Employment Solutions.
Greg Lewis graduated as a psychologist in 1978 and joined state government disability services in Perth. Over the next few years he supported people with multiple disabilities in high-care hostels and people with moderate intellectual disability living in group homes or their own flats in the community.
It became increasingly apparent to Greg that while government had been very successful in moving people into the community to live, there was no other real work option than the local sheltered workshop, which many simply rejected in favour of unemployment or occasional employment.
In 1983 Greg was completing his master’s degree in clinical psychology and used his research thesis to explore the possibility of establishing open employment services for people with intellectual disability. The success of this research led Greg, and his then research assistant (and now managing director of EDGE Employment Solutions), Sue Robertson, to establish an open employment service in Perth. Project Employment officially opened its doors in February 1984 with the support of the state government. It would be another two years before Project Employment would secure commonwealth funding: first from the predecessor to DEEWR and subsequently the predecessor to FaHCSIA.
Project Employment had been unsuccessful in securing commonwealth funding up to that point as the only funding available in 1985/86 was for ‘Demonstration Projects’ – and it was determined that, because Project Employment had already been in operation for more than a year, it could not be classed as a demonstration project. Project Employment was advised to establish a project of ‘national significance’ in order to attract future funding from the commonwealth. Over the next two years Project Employment worked with local organisations around Australia to establish a network of Project Employment outlets. By 1987, independent Project Employment outlets were operating in Bunbury, Adelaide, Albury, Wollongong, Tweed Heads and Darwin. Project Employment provided constitutions, budgets, staff selection, staff training and ongoing support to Project Employment network members. Each of these original network members has grown and evolved into widely respected disability employment services, changing their names along the way. They now operate as EDGE Employment Solutions, Personnel Employment SA, Essential Personnel, Personnel Employment Albury-Wodonga and On-Q Human Resources. EDGE has also nurtured several internal replications of itself before establishing them as separately incorporated entities. These include BIZLINK in Perth, Peel Personnel in Mandurah and Forrest Personnel in Bunbury.
In 1985 Greg and his colleagues at Project Employment developed a practical training manual to assist its own growing staff to find, secure and retain regular jobs at regular wages for people with disability. That manual, Finding a Job, Keeping a Job, became a widely used resource for disability employment services that began springing up around Australia from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties. A Commonwealth survey of disability employment services in the early 1990s revealed that one-third of the 150 services then in operation around Australia closely modelled themselves on Project Employment (most having been set up with Project Employment’s assistance) and a further third used Project Employment’s training manuals and training services.
Over the ensuing 25 years, several thousand staff from more than half of the disability employment services operating in Australia have attended Finding a Job, Keeping a Job (or its later companion courses Applied Marketing and Selling Skills, Supporting Co-workers with Disability and Managing an Employment Agency). EDGE has delivered training in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, New Zealand - and as far afield as Zambia.
In 2005, Greg was appointed president of National Disability Services, the first and only stand-alone disability employment provider to hold that position. In addition to serving as Board member of EDGE for 26 years, Greg also served as a Deputy Chairman of two other disability employment agencies, BIZLINK in Perth and Essential Personnel in Northam, for almost 20 years. In 2006 he was appointed adjunct Associate Professor at the Centre for Research into Disability and Society at Curtin University of Technology. In 2008 he was appointed to the State Training Board to bring a stronger and broader equity focus to training and workforce development in Western Australia.
In 2009 EDGE celebrated its 25th anniversary and its proud achievement of having secured more than 5,000 award wage jobs for more than 2,000 people with mainly intellectual, physical or sensory disability.
EDGE retains a strong focus on research and development, with Greg having run the R&D and training divisions since 1995. Over the past ten years, EDGE has maintained a strong research focus on school-to-work transition, public sector employment, employment in major corporations, and apprenticeships and traineeships for people with disability. All of these endeavours are intended to provide better employment outcomes for people with disability over the course of their careers.