Community News

CHESS Connect Staff Chris Jones, Troy Dent, Michael Sullivan and Paul Kelly

Film night challenges disability employment stereotypes

There are 2.2 million working-age Australians with a disability, yet they are significantly under-represented in the workforce.

The unemployment rate for people with disability is almost double compared to those without disability, and it is increasing.

Local human services organisation CHESS Connect and its network partner CoAct are working together to reverse this trend by engaging local communities in a new nationwide storytelling project, Change the Story.

The film-based project showcases seven short stories of Australians with a disability changing their lives through meaningful employment as well as employers’ experiences of hiring people with disability.

The short films were played before a special VIP screening of Marvel blockbuster Avengers: End Game at the Saraton Theatre 1 May.

One of CHESS Connect’s employers, Priya Prasad, featured in one of the films which is being shown nationwide over the next few months.

Over eight years, Priya has employed 18 people with disability, injury or illness in her Pizza Hut franchise.

But she said before CHESS approached her, she would never have considered it.

“It felt like it was be too hard, that there would be too many allowances to be made,” she says in the film. “And especially working in a franchise, there are a lot of standards and safety precautions we need to take.”

But her experiences have changed her mind.

“Honestly, I don’t find working with people with disability any more frustrating than working with anyone else in the team. Every person that I work with will present challenges in one way or another. Everyone has their strengths and everyone has their areas where they can improve, same as myself.”

CoAct CEO Matt Little says the films are aimed at breaking down the stereotypes of what ability means and show the flood of positive flow-on effects that come with disability employment.

“When we change the story as a society to focus on ability, choose inclusion and celebrate diversity, we open a world of opportunity, not just in people’s lives but in the whole community,” he said.

The film project aims to reach people with disability who might want to know more about employment possibilities, and employers looking at embracing a diverse workforce.

Change the Story film nights are being held across the country.

For more information visit www.community.coact.org.au

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