Able and willing to work
As a senior leader in the disability employment sector, it’s no surprise Wayne Herbert has an impressive CV to match.
Along with his work in the public service, Herbert is a published author and an avid public speaker who will travel overseas in June to deliver a speech at the Canadian Association for Supported Employment.
He also has cerebral palsy.
As a gay man with a disability, Herbert jokes he “ticks every box” when it comes to disability and diversity questions on employment questionnaires.
But, Herbert, who hails from Grafton, NSW, is on a mission to “reshape the conversation” when it comes to the way Australians conceptualise disability.
“Disability is just as diverse as any other characteristic or attribute I have,” Herbert says. “It doesn’t define me.”
Herbert, who delivered the popular TEDX talk Anecdotes of a Disabled Gay in September last year, is trying to transform societal attitudes and change the “ever-present weight of low expectation”, one speech at a time.
While Herbert says employment services for disabled Australians have “come leaps and bounds” in his lifetime, he says “we need to ask what more can be done to improve it”.
“One of the questions I pose quite often is, here I am, a university-educated, published author, TED speaker and an employment services leader … if you wanted to hire me, could you?”
Herbert say many human resources professionals have answered “no”.
Frustratingly, he says, many companies around Australia are held up by “unnecessary red tape” that “sometimes gets in the way” for those wanting to hire candidates who happen to be disabled.
A key element to these non-inclusive policies are “myths surrounding the employment of disabled Australians”, which have “created barriers and anxieties for people”.
Although Herbert credits the ACT’s disability employment sector with “doing a good job” helping disabled Australians into the workforce, he says “employers need to be aware that people with disabilities make fantastic employees” and are “a clear worthy investment in the diversity of your organisation. They take less sick leave, stay in their positions longer, are less likely to have workplace accidents.”
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