A Christmas message from CEO Suzanne Colbert AM

Thu 21 December 2017

As the year winds down, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what really makes a difference - individuals.  I meet and work with exceptional people who are smart, generous and spirited changemakers. They are truly creating impact, often one conversation at a time. 

Two such changemakers are AND founders and now-retired board members Steven Bennett OAM and John Bennett OAM. John retired at the December AGM after being a director for 17 years. During their ownership of Benbro Electronics Steven and John were instrumental in the development of AND and encouraged many employers through sharing their success in employing people with disability. 

Current and previous board members came together to honour Steven and John at a recent dinner. Blog, End of an Era: AND founding Board Members honoured, has more on their story.  We sincerely thank Steve and John for their tremendous leadership and foresight which has made an enormous contribution to AND’s success today.  

From our early days we recognised that employers have incredible opportunities available for skilled and talented university students with disability and this summer 100 interns will showcase their capabilities through the Stepping Into Internship program.  We expect that demand and competition for talented university students with disability will continue to grow and I sincerely thank and congratulate Stephanie Littlewood, Isabel Heiner and Philip Zamora of our programs team for their willingness and flexibility to stretch to accommodate this fantastic growth.

These opportunities come from our growing member base and with 200 members we now have more organisations than ever working towards the inclusion of people with disability. We hope that 2018 sees this increased commitment channelled into jobs and inclusion.

I’m partucularly excited by Woolworth’s commitment to people with disability being 20% of their workforce at their new distribution centre in Victoria. I’m also pleased that HealthShare NSW has set concrete goals for recruitment as has Life Without Barriers. NSW Government has set a target as have South Australia and Queensland governments.  

Despite some progress it’s a sobering fact that many people with disability still experience a community that’s not accessible or inclusive.  We know that beyond the statistics, individuals and their families experience exclusion that is corrosive over time and takes its toll on their resilience.  March next year will see the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and it will provide an opportunity for reflection as well as an opportunity to craft a plan that will deliver on the much-overdue promises of the DDA. I am sensing that we are moving from a tipping point to a turning point. 

AND was founded on the quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

I sincerely thank you - our members, our board of directors and the AND team for being on this journey as changemakers – together we can make a difference.

I wish you, your colleagues and your family a peaceful and joyous Christmas and New Year.  

Read End of an Era: AND founding Board Members honoured

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