Disability Employment Australia. Represent, Support, Resource

Hall of Fame

The Honourable Emeritus Professor Peter Baume AC - Awarded August 2016

Professor Peter Baume boasts a professional history as a gastroenterologist, politician and university academic.

Peter served in the Australian Parliament from 1974 to 1991.  In the late seventies, he chaired the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare.  During his seventeen years in parliament, he has been Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Health and Minister for Education.  Famously, when Shadow Minister for the Status of Women in 1987 he crossed the floor to vote for a bill giving equal employment opportunities in some government-owned bodies.

Peter held the positions of Chancellor of the Australian National University and Professor of Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, where he also served as an honorary research associate within its Social Policy Research Centre.  He has been Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Deputy Chair of the Australian National Council on AIDS and Foundation Chair of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

In 1992, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).  In 2008, Peter was awarded the Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC).

Of particular importance to Disability Employment Australia is Peter’s role in the 1994 Review of the Commonwealth Disability Services Program, which was later dubbed the Baume Review.  The review focused on the employment-related aspects of the program underpinned by the Disability Services Act 1986 and considered its objectives and effectiveness to provide a policy framework to the year 2000. 

The review was critical of block-funded employment services for people with disability and pointed to an emphasis on inputs, huge unmet demand, inequitable distribution of resources, enormous variation in costs and a lack of coordination between the worlds of school and work.  While critical, it also acknowledged these services were leaps and bounds ahead of the past. 

Somewhat prophetically, the Baume Review concluded that a major shift in thinking was needed to turn rhetoric about employment into reality: to move from good intentions to good outcomes for people with a disability will require a paradigm shift in the services and sector.

Baume’s recommendations to bring about this paradigm shift outline the architecture of the DES program today.  It was this review that categorised the employment aspects of support as a labour market program that should be available to all people with moderate to high support needs that needed the service. 

It recommended an increase in overall funding, collapsing services into two categories: in-work support and employment preparation, clear targets and performance measures, case-based funding, a focus on individuals not services, standardized entry assessments and better data collection. 

The clear direction outlined was for funding to follow the person rather than the service, this by extension signaled a preference for open employment and more choice and competition. The cleverly-named report ‘Working Solution’ is widely cited by those researching disability employment in Australia given its undeniable impact decades later.

Peter Baume led the charge for uncapping services and ensuring adequate funding was attached to each person to address their individual goals.  He was instrumental in laying the foundations of the DOES, DEN and DES programs: equitable and outcomes-focused funding, streamlined referral and assessment processes and quality assurance accreditation.

Throughout his career in medicine, politics and the academy, Peter has stressed that people are more important than their impairments and that the whole person is the proper focus of attention.  He reminds us that we are all different and we should value and respect the individual nature of each other’s life journey.