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CAM Sullings is directing his desire to do good towards securing employment for 10 people with a disability this year, through the Canberra Business Chamber’s (CBC) Inclusion in Employment project.
As the CBC’s business development manager, former broadcaster Cam manages the project and is organising peer-to-peer information sessions to give private-sector businesses the chance to learn more about employing a person with a disability.
The next peer-to-peer session will be held at the Canberra Business Chamber at 8am on Thursday, August 9.
“In the sessions we’re bringing together three groups – employers interested in learning more about employing someone with a disability, employers with experience in doing so and who are willing to share their stories, and the disability employment sector,” says Cam.
“The sessions are about storytelling, sharing real experiences, the many positive outcomes and opening up doors for others to consider doing the same.
“We’re connecting these groups so the conversation can start.”
The year-long initiative, created by the Canberra Business Chamber, the ACT Inclusion Council and the ACT government, has already successfully placed one person in a role and has six other conversations currently at various stages of progress, Cam says.
“Hugh MacWilliam has been placed into the team administrator role in the new Michael Page Canberra office by Jim Roy as a direct result of the project,” says Cam.
“We need to change the language from disability to ability. It’s a change in culture and in messaging so that people’s abilities are being recognised.”
Cam says that the CBC has heard that a lot of businesses, especially small to medium, say the biggest problem is risk.
“There are intellectual and physical disabilities and every individual story and disability is different, and so every situation is different,” he says.
“People tend to see more risk than the positives and that’s where we want to address any questions employers may have and demonstrate the services and support structures that are in place to make this work.”
Research has shown the positives include increased loyalty to an organisation that values diversity and inclusion, and a workforce that reflects the community it operates in, as well as better attendance and higher retention rates than those without a disability, the CBC says.
“Through learning from others and having that conversation, we want to show other Canberra businesses that it can be done, and while there are complexities, the benefits far outweigh the things you think might go wrong,” says Cam.
The CBC and Deloitte Australia business survey from 2017 shows that 61 per cent of businesses who completed the survey are finding it hard to find someone to place in their roles, Cam says.
“Of that group, 42 per cent said they were willing to hire in the next 12 months,” he says.
“So you’ve got the business sector on one side saying, in this area we can’t get enough people, then a whole range of people with a disability who for whatever reason, and a lot of it is in and around stigma, can’t get jobs, and many of them are highly qualified. Which is why this project is so important.”
One of the things Cam says he misses about his career as a radio presenter is being able to make a difference in people’s lives.
“That can be in a range of ways, but when the Victorian bushfires happened, it was my idea originally to put a shipping container at the radio station and ask people to donate items, which ended up being 14 shipping containers filled with stuff, so seven trucks went from Canberra down to Victoria,” he says.
“For me personally, this project means a lot because it’s changing people’s lives.
“If we’re successful in placing 10 people in roles, we hope to attract more funding and to keep going.”
The third peer-to-peer information session will be held at the Canberra Business Chamber, 216 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon, 8am-9am, on Thursday, August 9. No cost, a light breakfast will be served and ample free parking is available. Registrations to eventbrite.com.au