8 September 2022

Disability Support Worker, Balthazar Boutry, shares his reflection on attending the first-ever NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum.

Image: Claire Robbs, Life Without Barriers Chief Executive (Left) and Balthazar Boutry, Life Without Barriers Disability Support Worker (Right) at the NDIS Jobs and Skills forum.

The first-ever NDIS Jobs and Skills Forum, held at Parliament House in Canberra, brought together NDIS participants, families, providers, and disability organisations to discuss disability and employment. Balthazar Boutry, Life Without Barriers Disability Support Worker, found the forum to be a refreshing experience.

“Attending the forum was an empowering opportunity, and I was stoked to be a part of it," Baz said upon reflecting on the experience.

"By bringing together different types of supports all in the one room, speaking to those who actually call the shots – it felt like democracy in action.”

“You had people with lived experience, people like me who manage the Supported Independent Living homes, politicians and leaders of many big organisations who provide disability services, talking about the challenges we've been facing over the last couple of years and what a lot of people are hoping to change.

"I think it’s important that Life Without Barriers continues to participate in these types of events, but it’s just as important that we have representation from people who are working on the ground."

"I’d like to see more support workers be part of these conversations, almost like a revolving door of frontline staff at sector-influencing events”, he said.

When asked what his main takeaways of the day were, Baz said there were two recurring themes that stood out to him:

How can we better support and link people with disabilities with employment?

How do we increase awareness among businesses and employers about the unique abilities and opportunities that come from employing someone with a disability?

Baz felt people with disabilities are always the ones making the change, and it is too often the focus. He would like to see more employers increase their awareness and see the value in employing someone with a disability.

“A lot of the people we support are incredibly intelligent, motivated to work and have great attention to detail. There are tasks in particular organisations that many of them would do a really good job of. We need to look at matching their skill set with jobs that require those skills,” he said.

He also reflected that there aren’t a lot of leadership positions where people with both visual and nonvisual disability are represented, and that Life Without Barriers and the wider sector must set the standard.

“As a support worker, it gives me perspective to know that the best way we can work with the people we support is to enable them to become so independent that we don’t really need to support them at all, or at least far less than we do now,” he said.

“Sometimes, we get comfortable doing things for them, but really, if we were to take things up a notch, we could work towards a system where people with disabilities wouldn't have to live in a group home or supported living because more and more people could be independent themselves.”

While Baz admitted he wasn’t brave enough to ask for a selfie with the Hon Bill Shorten MP, Minister for the NDIS, he felt the Minister came across as a very approachable guy who doesn’t pretend to have all the answers but wants to know the answers, from the people who matter.

Life Without Barriers' Employment Without Barriers campaign is the organisation's long-term commitment to creating employment without barriers for people with disability. The campaign encourages other employers to radicalise their own recruitment process and welcome people with disability into their workplace.

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