Ashley Harris has been very keen to enter the workforce but has faced many barriers along the way.
- People with a disability have a high rate of unemployment
- A program in Adelaide has put people with a disability into aged care traineeships
- They say it has given them new-found independence
“I can find roles that I can do physically, but the problem is when I come to an interview because of my myoclonus and my Tourette’s, my performance at an interview level is very poor,” Mr Harris said.
“If anyone knows anything about Tourette’s, if you try to fight the noises, twitches — or whatever it is that’s specific to you — it just makes you do it more.”
Now in his 40s, Mr Harris has recently gained employment as an aged care worker.
He was one of eight trainees who participated in the Road to Employment program run by Adelaide-based disability advocacy organization JFA Purple Orange.
The program aims to connect people with a disability to meaningful employment.
Mr Harris said people with a disability were major assets to industries like the aged care sector.
“We have gone through a lot more hardship and discrimination in many ways and we often have that kind of extra empathy,” he said.
Access to independence
Fellow trainee Ben Hondow finished school in 2020 and said gaining employment and having a paid traineeship in aged care had given him independence.
“This has been way more supportive than school because at least people can understand what autistic and people [with a disability] go through these days,” Mr Hondow said.
“I never had my own car … I bought myself a little Mazda 2 green car — it gets me from A to B.”
Amber Aged Care in Adelaide’s north-east is one of the facilities participating in the program.
Chief executive Dominique Evele said she had faced roadblocks to employment herself.
“Being born with a congenital disability — and always feeling like everyone should have the opportunity to work — when the opportunity came to be part of this project, it resonated with me,” Ms Evele said.
“I wanted to ensure that we could support the trainees and once they’d finished that we could employ them in the future.”
The disability royal commission heard 53 percent of people with a disability of working age were unemployed in 2018.
JFA Purple Orange policy and research leader Tracey Wallace said the program was aimed at addressing unemployment and underemployment rates for people living with a disability.
“Some of our trainees have never had a job before — some have been unemployed for over five years — so this has provided them a step in the industry,” Ms Wallace said.
“Ultimately our endgame is that we don’t even need separate programs to be able to give people living with disability a chance in the workforce.”