Nathan is a young man who enjoys his life and is doing well by anybody’s standards. He studied drama, ancient history and English at school. He is a motivational speaker and has a part-time job at a radio station. He is buying his own home.
Nathan also has Down syndrome. While his life may seem relatively “ordinary” when compared to most people, it seems extraordinary when compared to those with Down syndrome. This is because people with disabilities in Australia don’t get the right opportunities to develop their skills. And it shouldn’t be this way.
Australia has some of the poorest labour market outcomes for people with disability in the OECD. A 2010 report found employment rates of people with health problems or disability were at 40%, and falling. Almost one in two (45%) lived in poverty, compared to an OECD average of 22%.
Australia needs policies that capitalise on the strengths of people with disability rather than simply helping them “overcome” limitations.
A lifetime of disadvantage
The cards are stacked against people with disability from the get go. People with any disabilities – not just those with intellectual disability – are less likely to finish high school.
Roughly 15% of children with disability are educated in segregated “special” schools and 19% in a special classroom in a mainstream school. This happens despite evidence showing that on the whole, children with disability are more likely to prosper in mainstream settings.
SOURCE: Kavanagh, Anne. “People with Disability Have a Lot to Offer Employers .” The Conversation,
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia