There is hope for our “national shame”

by 09 May 2012

A recent HC opinion article, titled Lack of opportunities for disabled ‘a national shame’  provided commentary on the John Walsh Report 'Disability Expectations: Investing in a better life, a stronger Australia'.

Whilst it is undoubtedly disappointing that Australia came in 21st out of 27 OECD countries, and 45% of disabled Australians live in poverty (double the OECD average), there is positive news!

Break Thru (one of Australia’s largest employment, training & community services provider & winner of the 2011 Australian HR Awards Employer of Choice NFP/Public Sector) and Droga5 Australia (one of the world’s most successful creative agencies) are working in an enthusiastic partnership to address this issue, and they are achieving some early success through the newly launched “Creative Spirit” campaign.

'Creative Spirit' is the product of Droga5’s decision to employ someone with a disability, only to find it a life and workplace changing experience for all involved.

Launched in November 2011 and rolled out across Australia and internationally, 'Creative Spirit' is a challenge to all employers in the creative sector and beyond. This challenge is to seek diversity and difference in their own workplace and to experience for themselves the many benefits of employing people with a disability. The campaign asks employers, “What could be more creative than being different?”

The campaign focuses on a common challenge for employers in 2012 and beyond – how workplace diversity can bring rewards to workplaces and reinforces the recent Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry report, 'Employ Outside The Box, The rewards of a diverse workforce', February 2012. In this report, the ACCI urged employers to consider options for diversifying their workforce by considering untapped potential of groups of motivated Australians who currently sit outside or are marginally attached to the workforce.

Droga5 are one employer who gave it a go with incredible results for their entire workforce.

So what’s happened since the launch of the 'Creative Spirit' initiative?

  • Over 70 creative companies have registered their interest including Clemenger, News Limited, Lion Nathan & more
  • Break Thru and Droga5 are also liaising with employers based in the UK, US, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore & Canada.
  • To date 11 job seekers with disabilities have started employment since the launch in November 2011
  • The campaign has been promoted online, in print and television
  • Shared recruitment learning across the creative sector on employing a person with a disability. Droga5 Sydney has been able to discuss some of the initial challenges of employing a person with a disability and also provided some tips to other businesses as they considered their options. This has been helpful in working through employer’s uncertainty or feelings of being “unqualified”.


The key to the success of the campaign is simplicity of process and support - as well as the powerful and positive impact diversity can have in a single workplace. Droga 5 Partner/Creative Chairman, David Nobay agrees: “There’s something really exciting about having someone like Lloyd in the company. It’s a catalyst. It’s a kind of game changer. It’s all those cliché’s that we talk about.”

For this to be a success there needs to be support from both the employers and any partnering employment service. Break Thru, via its ‘Celebrate Success’ campaign, is communicating with employers at various levels about how to engage with diverse talent pools. Break Thru are in a unique position of being an employer of choice, and as such, are able to share with employers real understanding of how employing someone with a disability provides great results from both from a business perspective and in the employer of choice space.

About the author

Anita Le Lay is the Executive Manager – People, Culture & Corporate Services with Break Thru People Solutions. Break Thru is a not for profit organisation providing employment, community and training services to disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, ex-offenders, people from CALD backgrounds and the long term unemployed. Anita’s role incorporates strategic human resource/employee relations management and organisational strategy development for a workforce of over 750 and oversight of corporate services functions across nearly 70 sites in NSW, Victoria & QLD.  

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