By Dylan J. Stone
If you ask almost any business owner in Broken Hill about current labour force issues, they will be sure to tell you that they are understaffed and desperately searching for employees.
Hospitality, retail, beauty services; you name it, those industries are understaffed.
The COVID pandemic has certainly contributed to the chronic staff shortages many of our businesses are now working through, with so many employees changing positions and moving to different industries in the last twelve months.
Nevertheless, members of our community who are living with a disability are still finding it difficult to find meaningful and engaging employment.
The disconnect between employers urgently searching for staff, and members of our community urgently searching for meaningful and engaging employment, beggars belief!
Adrian Kent-Johnston is just one member of a vibrant community of people living in Broken Hill who has struggled to find meaningful employment.
Adrian has experience in cleaning and maintenance, hospitality, and food preparation and processing; but yet Adrian has found it remarkably difficult to find employment in Broken Hill. Adrian says he has failed to find meaningful employment due to prejudice relating to his disability, and although he believes this prejudice is unintentional, this doesn’t ease the pain and anger of failing to find employment.
Adrian comments that ‘I think the reason I haven’t found employment is because people might think I’m a liability- there might be insurance risks or other issues for whatever reason, they feel they can’t hire me.’ Adrian holds several formal qualifications, which are relevant to the industries which he is seeking employment in, but his visual disability is a barrier that he just cannot seem to overcome.
Adrian’s story is shared and understood by an entire part of our community, and unfortunately due to these reasons, Adrian is now moving interstate simply to find meaningful employment.
The assistance of government schemes and initiatives, which are readily available to businesses who hire employees living with a disability, has not been enough to facilitate employment for Adrian.
Unfortunately, the net result of this disconnect is that Broken Hill now loses a member of our community that was willing to give 100% effort to any employer who took him on, and our community now has one less candidate available to fill a position that is desperately needed due to chronic staff shortages.
We are now all the poorer for this disconnect.