Despite Australia’s efforts to promote workplace diversity and inclusion, people with disabilities still face significant challenges in securing employment. According to Australian Broadcasting Company reporters Kim Napier and Sunshine Wood, the jobless rate for working-aged individuals with disabilities is alarmingly high, at 10%, compared to 4.6% for those without disabilities. However, there are heartening instances where employers are embracing a more inclusive approach and challenging stereotypes. Finn Graham-Hilder, a 20-year-old Tasmanian man with Down syndrome, has exemplified this shift in perspective by successfully landing a role in the hospitality sector.
Graham-Hilder’s story is a testament to his determination and the changing attitudes of employers. He is one of two individuals with Down syndrome employed at Launceston Airport, holding positions specifically designed to be inclusive of people with disabilities. To secure the job, Finn went through the standard interview process, highlighting his capabilities and eagerness to contribute. His role at the airport involves engaging with customers and has provided him with newfound confidence and job satisfaction.
Emirates Leisure Retail Australia (ELRA), the company that owns and operates several establishments, including Launceston and Hobart airports, initiated these inclusive roles. ELRA reached out to Down Syndrome Tasmania, reflecting a growing trend among businesses to recognize the value of employing people with disabilities.
Stacey Jackson, the executive officer of Down Syndrome Tasmania, emphasizes the importance of diversity in the workplace. She notes that the most significant challenge to employing individuals with disabilities often stems from misconceptions and stereotypes. Overcoming these preconceived notions about capabilities and productivity is crucial to creating inclusive work environments.
While individuals with Down syndrome may face unique challenges, Finn Graham-Hilder’s story underscores the importance of offering opportunities, access to training, and dispelling misconceptions. Finn’s journey was facilitated by two years of training with a disability support provider, NOSS, which equipped him with the skills needed for his role. However, accessing training can be a significant hurdle for many people with disabilities, which underscores the importance of streamlining these processes and providing valuable information to those in need.
Finn Graham-Hilder’s story reflects the changing landscape of employment opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome in Australia. While he aspires to be a famous entertainer, his success in the hospitality sector showcases his determination and the willingness of employers to embrace diversity. The key to making progress in employing people with Down syndrome is to focus on their capabilities, offer training and support, and challenge misconceptions. These steps will undoubtedly contribute to a more inclusive and equitable job market for individuals with disabilities.
Thanks to The Australian Broadcasting Company for information used in this post.