Your questions answered

Our 12th Annual Conference: Stronger Together, was jampacked with prestigious speakers and presentations. We didn’t get to all your questions on the day so to continue the conversation, we followed up with the speakers to find out more. Here are answers to your questions on Champions, Employee Resource Groups and progressing change across organisations.

What is the difference between Champions and Allies?

Answered by Michael Patterson, NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

‘The distinction between a champion and an ally, is a champion is at the executive level ensuring that the inclusion of people with disability remains on the agenda, and an ally is a non-executive person who wants to support change and their colleagues.

At DCJ our Disability Employment Network (DEN) has 3 levels of membership. Having 3 levels of engagement within our DEN works to break up the norms and intensifies the rate of change. The three levels are:

  • Staff with disability.
  • Allies – staff who do not have disability but who want to be active in supporting the work to bring about change. What I have noticed is that colleagues who become allies have a broad commitment to equity and inclusion. They want to make a declaration of their support and becoming an ally is a clear way of doing that.
  • Champions – leaders who acknowledge their responsibility to ensure the organisation is doing the right thing and effectively supporting their staff and customers. In my view, champions have a clear role to ensure the organisation meets its obligations [moral and legal], as well as conveying the commitment across the organisation’s executive leadership.’

How did your department increase engagement among the employee resource group members? How did you sustain it?

Answered by Kimberley Congram, Attorney-General’s Department.

‘I won’t lie, it was a very long journey. In reference to the maturity model I presented at the conference (shown in Figure 1), we started from the bottom of the model – Level 1. Being clear about where you sit on the maturity model is useful, as it allows you to scope and focus your activities and effort. At Level 1, the focus should be on building awareness and generating interest in your committee.

Figure 1: Attorney-General’s Department Maturity Model

Attorney-General’s Department Maturity Model accessible Word version (Word, 21KB)

Our activities primarily focused on three to four main events a year, such as International Day of People with Disability, Carers week and Mental Health week. Through these events we aimed to raise awareness of disability, the impact of perception on disability, and the barriers (faced by people with disability) to entry to the workforce.

We also pivoted to ensure that our network wasn’t just for carers and people with disability but open to allies as well. This was an important step in gaining traction and mainstreaming awareness of the network. When we had low member numbers, we partnered with other larger networks in our department to leverage their resources. For example, we worked with the women’s network to do an intersectionality event about disability and women.

The main thing is to know where you’re starting from, seek to build a strategy for growth based on that knowledge, and work out how you can add value, or leverage existing connections to increase your network’s capacity and reach.’

Employee Resource Groups (also known as Disability Employee Networks (DENs)) amplify the voice of people with disability through creating a collaborative space for organisations to learn directly from people with disability. If you are looking to start a network or would like support to build engagement and momentum, contact your Relationship Manager or contact us.

How did you balance the need for privacy while growing the network across the organisation?

Answered by Kimberley Congram, Attorney-General’s Department.

‘Privacy is always at the forefront of our minds. Within our network we don’t talk about disclosure, we talk about people sharing their stories. When you come to work you want to bring your full self, and that means ensuring that people can be as open and honest as they would like to be. The emphasis has been on the individual and giving them control of their story.

It’s also important to note that a network can grow without the need for people to share disability information. There shouldn’t be a requirement for individuals to share their stories in order to evidence a need for inclusion or change. Instead, use general case studies available, or look at best practice guides.

When people feel confident and comfortable sharing their stories, you know you are experiencing a change in your culture to one of disability confidence and inclusion.’

How has ATO helped their employees with disability feel safe and comfortable in sharing their stories?

Answered by John Lennox, Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

‘One of our approaches was an informative video from our Disability Champions to help educate staff on sharing disability-related information. In the video, leaders discussed the Privacy Act and provisions, further explaining that the ATO uses deidentified data to help drive new strategies, and understand where we need to invest in, such as reasonable adjustments and raising disability confidence.

Moving the ‘My WorkAbility’ passport (ATO’s internal system for recording adjustments) from the manager back to the employee has assisted staff to be in control of their information and workplace adjustments. We also support our employees through the local HR People Support Team and by encouraging individuals to be part of an employee network to share their ideas and experiences.’

For further information on sharing and monitoring disability information in the workplace, visit our Guide for employers. This guide was developed by AND with valuable input from the Australian Human Rights Commission and Business Council Australia

What were the key influencers in making progress in promoting and providing workplace adjustments at RMIT?

Answered by Allison Shevlin, RMIT.

‘It is so important to us at RMIT to provide an inclusive place to work and study with workplace adjustments forming a critical part of this. This drive and commitment to continuously improve our accessibility offering is the key influencer in progressing our adjustment process.

Workplace adjustments are a service proposition for our staff and supports our staff to contribute and succeed. There is a dedicated team responsible for workplace adjustments across technology and in the physical and workplace environments.

Our role at RMIT is to remove barriers, to actively think around universal design and promoting inclusive workplace practices.

The RMIT Workplace Adjustment Passport was a recent addition to our workplace adjustment service. Staff are now able to fill out a ‘passport’ in order to track their adjustments. This allows the adjustments to ‘follow’ individuals into new roles, with new managers and colleagues, without another workplace adjustment request process occurring.

In addition, our Disability Confident Recruiter accreditation process has allowed our Talent Acquisition team to provide adjustments in the recruitment process for potential RMIT staff.

It is important that we continue to communicate the services and supports offered to staff and students, and continually evaluate our approach to improve our process.’

What small change would you encourage others to take to ignite their organisations journey in access and inclusion?

Answered by Sarah Kerr, Medibank.

‘In my conference presentation I talked about the importance of measuring and monitoring data to understand our priorities and where we commit our time. To achieve this, we used the Access and Inclusion Index and employee engagement surveys to understand what actions to take. I think it’s important that we don’t take a stab in the dark at what initiatives would make a difference to people with disability. I would encourage organisations to use data and talk to your employees and customers to know where to start.’