Donna Faulkner — Awarded August 2019
Donna’s entire professional life has been dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with disability. A passionate Gippslander, Donna established Work Solutions Gippsland in 2002—one of the first private providers of Disability Employment Services in Australia. For the past 16 years she has led a team of dedicated staff pursuing equal employment opportunities for people with a disability throughout Gippsland.
Much of the success of Work Solutions Gippsland is attributed to Donna’s innovation, particularly as it relates to working with employers. In 2009/10 she established GEMAD, “Gippsland Employers Making a Difference” where employers can register to receive support to assist them become more ‘disability confident’ in all aspects of their business. From the establishment of this local-based employer group, Donna had GEMAD asking challenging questions about accessibility, recruitment, and raising awareness. Within a couple of years Work Solutions had over 300 Gippsland businesses including the six local government authorities as signatories to GEMAD.
Donna’s next big adventure was setting up Job Shadow Day in Gippsland—an initiative that begun in Ireland and is now extended across multiple European countries. It is estimated that over 40% of Job Shadow Day participants gain employment within six months of that work experience. Then the Australian Government became interested. Today, all DES providers are expected, as part of their contract, to engage Job Shadow Day on their annual calendar of events. Just over 100 clients were involved in its first year, as created and run by Donna and WSG. In 2019 it is expected that thousands of DES jobseekers will have a directed work experience opportunity through this innovative scheme.
Donna is a stalwart of her local community, Gippsland, and the disability employment sector. She was awarded an Australia Day Award for services to local community in 2015. After over 16 years of owning and operating Work Solutions—not to mention finding sustainable employment for more than 5500 people with disability and employing hundreds of people across Gippsland—Donna has proven herself a successful businesswoman and a leader in the disability employment field.