Are you willing to work?

Australians who are willing and able to work should be allowed to do so, is the conclusion of a wide-ranging report into age and disability discrimination in the workplace.

Released yesterday by the Attorney General, George Brandis, Willing to Work: National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability Report  is a wide-ranging and comprehensive inquiry into the real situation faced by many older people. Initiated by Age and Disability Commissioner Susan Ryan, it provides a detailed picture of the social, health and economic repercussions when a sector of the community is denied employment opportunities. The report is the result of Australia-wide consultations and research. YourLifeChoices was pleased to take part in the inquiry by attending a consultation in Melbourne and conducting an online survey, which received 5474 responses to 14 questions on the subject of work, age and discrimination. Commissioner Ryan makes five key recommendations to challenge the way we approach employment opportunities for older workers and those with a disability.

These are:

  • establishing a Minister for Longevity
  • developing a national action plan to combat discrimination and lift participation for those most affected
  • expanding the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to include diversity
  • creating national education campaigns to challenge the myths and stereotypes associated with older and disabled workers
  • adopting targets for employment and retention within the public service.


Perhaps the most important recommendation from this report is the call for a Minister for Longevity. Not an enhanced role for a Minister for Ageing, but a far broader role for a Minister for Longevity who can liaise with colleagues responsible for education, training, employment, treasury matters and health.

Read the full AHRC report.

Listen to ABC RN Drive host Patricia Karvelas interviewing Susan Ryan

Opinion: There’s still hope

You can be forgiven for thinking its Groundhog Day. Older workers are unwanted except as (unpaid) volunteers. But wait, there’s hope.

The release of the Willing to Work report yesterday told us many things we already know and have known for a couple of decades. Older Australians and those with a disability are systematically shut out of employment because of age and disability discrimination. Employers admit it. They ‘don’t know how to deal with’ older people and those with a disability. Mature workers, as we know, spend almost twice as long trying to get back into the workplace. They are rarely offered training. It’s not an exciting time to be an older worker at all. But full credit must be given to Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan who has brought expertise, gravitas and vision to her role and, in particular, to the broad scope of this inquiry.

The key aspect of the report which offers hope to older workers is the detailed evidence of the breadth of the impact that such discrimination has on the victims. Not only do they miss out on the economic benefits of ongoing, secure work, but they miss the social participation and the health benefits of being part of society, rather than existing on the edges. And in addressing this multi-policy challenge, the idea of a Minister for Longevity is a stroke of brilliance. This is not about ageing and decline and a gradual withdrawal from an active life. On the contrary, a Minister for Longevity can recalibrate the debate, so that we celebrate our longer lives with programs created via a sub-committee of Cabinet including the ministers responsible for employment, treasury, social services, education, health and industry, Innovation and Science. So the full gamut of Cabinet expertise can shine a much-needed light on ways to celebrate age and disability and unlock the wealth of human capital which is currently underutilised, or worse still, ignored.

Love your work, Susan Ryan.

What role does work play in your life? Are you willing to work but find yourself shut out from employment opportunities? Would you work more if you could?

Related articles:
Older workers key to our future
Age discrimination uncovered

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