‘We will no longer have workers with intellectual disabilities working in Dickensian conditions,’ Maurice Blackburn partner Josh Bornstein said on Friday.

A triumph!

Finally, a fair wage for a fair day’s work, even at Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). After years of nonsense hopefully the exploitation of people with disability will end.

Mind you, some of this is a problem of the government and both political parties’ making. The system for calculating ADE-worker wages, known as the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT), gave ADE service providers consistently lower productivity results, thus justifying the appallingly low wages. (Yes, the $1 an hour.)

Though the federal government system is in violation of anti-discrimination laws, there will still be an outcry from some. ‘They're happy there!' and even ‘This is better than nothing.' And many will wonder, ‘What else can they do?’

I was so proud to be a part of NOVA Transition's graduation celebrations last week! 

TTW is a two-year program designed to prepare school leavers for the workforce. And it does this very well, if I do say so myself.

In 2016, NOVA found award-wage work or further education for 82 young Sydney-siders with a disability in hospitality, childcare, administration, warehousing, retail, horticulture, construction, hairdressing and the auto industry. Seventeen of these jobs were apprenticeships or traineeships. Six of these jobs were full-time roles. All of these jobs were in open employment with the same conditions and pay as everyone else.

That's right: the same conditions and pay as everyone else. It's not too much to ask.

Why set up a Disability Employment Service? Or, to go back to basics, why create a legislative framework such as Australia’s Disability Services Act 1986?

Those of us with long experience in the field might yield to cynicism and disappointment when contemplating these questions in 2016. We might mutter darkly about where the road paved with good intentions inevitably leads. Myself included.

However, the answers remain clear to me, even after thirty years in disability employment services. For one thing, there are so many benefits of employment for the most disadvantaged citizens. For another, people with significant disabilities experience barriers to work and need extra time and specialist support to reach the goal of employment.

It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

But the model we set out with in Australia is no longer working.