Vale Brian Bourke

Vale Brian Bourke

Posted by Kairsty Wilson.

AED Legal Centre is mourning the passing of Brian Bourke, who died on Good Friday after a short illness. He was 88.

Mr Bourke was a friend of AED and supported many of our clients. We would often call on Mr Bourke asking for his assistance. He always responded with his usual generosity committing much of his time in helping our clients for free.

Mr Bourke practised law for more than 50 years and was Melbourne’s longest serving barrister. Last year Mr Bourke was honoured for his services to law and football by being made a Member of the Order of Australian (AM) in the General Division.

We at AED Legal Centre offer our condolences to Brian Bourke’s family and friends, including his wife Jen, his four daughters and six grandchildren.

Kairsty Wilson Posted by Kairsty Wilson.
Employable Me

Employable Me

Posted by Phillip Camela.

Employable Me

Starts 8:30pm Tuesday 3 April ABC

This uplifting & insightful series draws on science & experts to uncover people's hidden skills. Following people with neuro-diverse conditions such as autism, OCD & Tourette Syndrome as they search for meaningful employment.

Click here to watch trailer. 

Phillip Camela Posted by Phillip Camela.
The Australians stuck below the poverty line

The Australians stuck below the poverty line

Posted by Phillip Camela.

By Dr Nicolas Herault and Dr Francisco Azpitarte, University of Melbourne and Professor Guy Johnson, RMIT

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Despite decades of strong economic growth, poverty continues to be a major concern in Australia. Recent research published by the Melbourne Institute shows that more than two million Australians fell below the poverty line in 2015.

The dominant narrative we hear, however, is that poverty is a relatively short experience for most Australians. Developed countries around the world tell a similar story: poverty is perceived as an ongoing problem for only a very small number of people, and for most households it’s a temporary phase that does not last long.














Large population surveys can struggle to capture information from the most disadvantaged in society, because they experience high levels of housing insecurity and homelessness. Picture: Eric Ward/Unsplash

But our research reveals that poverty persistence amongst the most disadvantaged Australians is much higher than previously thought: less than 15 per cent of the most disadvantaged people in Australia get out of poverty from one year to the next.

Most of the evidence we have on the persistence of poverty is based on long-term surveys designed to be representative of the entire population. Although these surveys offer broad coverage of the population, they are typically limited in their ability to capture the most disadvantaged groups because they only constitute a small part of the general population.

So this makes it difficult to produce reliable estimates of the extent of poverty among extremely disadvantaged households.

We used data from the Journeys Home survey, run by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. It provides a unique opportunity to improve our understanding of the circumstances and extent of poverty amongst the most disadvantaged groups in society.

It followed nearly 1,700 welfare recipients from across the country who were identified by Centrelink as homeless or at high risk of experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

These are the types of people who have always been particularly difficult to survey, let alone follow through time. As a result, they are likely to be under-represented in general surveys used to study poverty. The Journeys Home project allows a more precise examination of the prevalence and persistence of poverty among those groups.

We found that significantly fewer people get out of poverty every year than the equivalent estimate based on data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) - a general population survey which has followed a sample of 17,000 Australians since 2001.

In studying people getting out of poverty, we applied a poverty line equal to 60 per cent of the median household income, which is the poverty line widely used to measure poverty in high-income countries. To get an idea, the poverty line in Australia for a single person in 2014 sat at $517 per week, whereas the threshold for a couple was $776. The gap between HILDA and Journeys Home in poverty persists even when we change the level of the poverty line.

People who experience persistent poverty are also more likely to experience other forms of disadvantage, like mental illness and higher rates of imprisonment. Picture: Public Domain Pictures

When we compare the poor in HILDA to the poor in Journeys Home, it is clear that Journeys Home’s participants are not only more disadvantaged, but much more likely to report several forms of disadvantage than those in HILDA. As an example, the poor in HILDA have higher education levels and are, on average, more likely to be employed than those interviewed in Journeys Home. Rates of imprisonment and mental illness are also higher in Journeys Home than in HILDA.

These results call into question the way we think about poverty as mostly a state of transition. While this may well be true for the general population, there are certain groups who are not well captured in national surveys, and who appear to be at risk of longer spells of poverty. This is an important issue as the view that poverty is largely a transitional experience has influenced the design, implementation and even the evaluation of welfare policy in Australia.

There is evidence that most Australians who fall below the poverty line do so for a relatively short amount of time, which is good news. However, it is equally clear that among chronically disadvantaged people the chances of poverty becoming an enduring feature of life are much higher than previously thought.

If people are trapped below the poverty line for long periods of time, the sort of help needed to get them out of poverty is likely to be quite different than when the experience of poverty is transitory. The evidence suggests those who get stuck below the poverty line also have numerous disadvantages – so perhaps we need to re-think interventions designed to assist the most vulnerable members of the community.

A common thread among welfare reforms dating back to the 1990s has been to frame long-term reliance on welfare as welfare dependency. Australia’s welfare system might do better if it avoided stigmatising those who get ‘stuck’, and recognise the systemic and structural barriers that make leaving poverty particularly difficult for some households.

For these households, much deeper forms of assistance are needed to help them make a permanent transition out of poverty.

A version of this article also appears on The Conversation.

Banner image: Housing commission in Fitzroy, Melbourne. Daniel Walker/Flickr

Phillip Camela Posted by Phillip Camela.
Wage Justice Campaign

Wage Justice Campaign

Posted by Phillip Camela.

In 2018 fair and equitable wage determination will remain one of the key strategic issues for Wage Justice Australia. The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is reviewing the Supported Employment Services Award (SESA) which is the award under which supported employees working in ADEs have their wages assessed and set.  

AED Legal Centre, United Voice and the HSU have been arguing a case for better wages for supported employees working at ADEs at the 4 yearly award review by the FWC in Sydney. This has involved many of hours of hard work drafting documents and submissions in preparation for attendances at the hearings. Well done team and let's hope we get a good outcome!

Photo: Left to right - Kairsty Wilson (AED), Malcolm Harding (Barrister), Paul Cain (Inclusion Australia), Rachel Liebhaber (HSU), Courtney Davies (AED) and Samantha French (PWDA) at the Fair Work Commission.

Phillip Camela Posted by Phillip Camela.
Wage Justice Campaign video

Wage Justice Campaign video

Posted by Phillip Camela.

This is a short YouTube video about the need for fair and equitable wages in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs).

Please Share with your friends and family.

Phillip Camela Posted by Phillip Camela.
Employment terminated after disability disclosure

Employment terminated after disability disclosure

The client was the wife of and is the trustee and executor of the estate of a deceased 45 year old male who had been diagnosed with cancer. His work hours were reduced and employment eventually terminated after disclosing his cancer diagnosis to an employer he had been working for 17 years.  

The deceased had worked for his employer for 17 years, no issues ever being raised about his performance. After disclosing his diagnosis, his hours were drastically reduced and his employment eventually terminated several months later. The employer claimed that the deceased was unable to perform his daily work functions and posed a risk of danger to other staff. This contradicted a medical certificate issued at the time declaring that the deceased was fit for work.

With the support of AED, the client filed an anti-discrimination complaint to VCAT on behalf of the deceased, under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. The employer made a strike out application on the basis that the client did not have sufficient standing under the law to bring such a claim on behalf of another person. A hearing was held where barristers for both parties put forth arguments claiming that the client had or did not have, under relevant legislation, sufficient interest to make the complaint on the deceased’s behalf.

 Current legislation is unclear about the client’s position with regards to commencing her action. In such circumstances, Parliament’s intention in enacting the relevant legislation is considered. The VCAT member found that the objectives of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 include the ongoing improvement of society by the elimination of unlawful discrimination and that the client is not excluded from taking the present action against the deceased’s employer. The strike out application was therefore dismissed and matter is ongoing.


Kate back on the job after dismissal

Kate back on the job after dismissal

WHEN Kate Last was sacked she thought her world had ended.

The Parkville woman, who has an intellectual disability and short-term memory loss, worked for a disability service provider for four years before being dismissed.

Ms Last said the reason given for her dismissal was she had become a danger to other employees.

The 40-year-old was handed a letter of termination and escorted off the premises.

She said in her job she was required to undertake multi-tasking but due to her disability, she wasn’t able to understand new tasks that were only relayed verbally.

Her co-workers went on strike after learning why Ms Last wasn’t at work.

Ms Last said in the years that followed she lost a lot of weight and at times contemplated suicide.

Ms Last said because she felt she was wrongly done by she contacted the Association for Employees with a Disability Legal Centre to get her job back.

Two and a half years later and three days before a scheduled hearing at the Fair Work Commission she was reinstated.

Ms Last said when she learnt she could go back to work she was over the moon.

Dismissal in contravention of a general protection

Dismissal in contravention of a general protection

A 42 year old male with brain damage after an accident, as well as physical injuries including shoulder reconstruction and broken back and neck contacted ADE Legal Centre. 

The client was unpaid by his employer for substantial number of hours worked beyond his employment contract. He was also made to perform duties outside of the scope of the contract, subjected to treatment by the employer amounting to bullying and/or vilification and not provided with entitlements under his contract. The employer made rude and abusive comments about the client’s and his partner’s disabilities to other staff.

The matter was initially brought to the Fair Work Commission as a General Protections Application Involving Dismissal, under the Fair Work Act 2009. A conciliation was organised by the Commission but no settlement was reached.

The parties continued negotiating on their own but failed to reached agreement. The matter was subsequently filed at the Federal Circuit Court as a Claim under the Fair Work Act 2009 alleging dismissal in contravention of a general protection. A mediation was organised by the court in which the parties managed to reach a mutually agreeable settlement

The outcome of AED's intervention is that the parties agreed on terms of settlement after a mediation at the Federal Circuit Court.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments for employee with disability cost employer over $170k

Failure to make reasonable adjustments for employee with disability cost employer over $170k

19 July 2015

Article by Louise Rumble and James True

Marque Lawyers

The Federal Circuit Court has ruled that Corrective Services NSW unlawfully discriminated against Caryn Huntley, an employee, who suffered from Crohn'sDisease and idiopathic hypersomnolanceby failing to make "reasonable adjustments".

While the Court found a number of flaws in Corrective Services NSW's handling of the medical condition and subsequent termination, it focussed on the employer's obligations around "reasonable adjustments". Suffering the disease and sleep disorder ("disabilities" for the purposes of disability discrimination legislation), Ms Huntley had provided medical evidence to the employer regarding her ability to perform her role which, relevantly, included some travel.

The Court found the employer had misinterpreted that evidence when it determined Ms Huntley should be medically retired because she was unable to travel for more than 30 minutes. On the contrary, that medical evidence asserted Ms Huntley could take trips greater than 30 minutes, so long as she was able to take a break along the way. A reasonable adjustment to make?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (Act) provides that an employer will not have unlawfully discriminated against an employee if, because of the disability, the employee would be unable to carry out the inherent requirements of the job even if the employer made reasonable adjustments for that employee. Under the Act, an adjustment is reasonable unless making it would impose an unjustifiable hardship on the employer.

So, did Corrective Services NSW make reasonable adjustments? Basing its decision on the fact the employer had misinterpreted the medical evidence presented by Ms Huntley, had considered the condition an "illness" rather than a "disability" (the latter meaning the disability discrimination legislation was relevant) and subsequently terminated the employment, the Court said no.

Corrective Services NSW had failed to: consider the inherent requirements of the role; consider any reasonable adjustments that could be made to assist the employee to perform the inherent requirements; and implement those adjustments. Relevantly, the employer was ordered to pay compensation for pain and suffering and breach of contract to the tune of over $170k plus interest.

Lessons learned: employers ought to carefully consider whether an employee's illness or medical condition is a "disability" and, if so, take steps to comply with the obligations which arise from the disability discrimination legislation. A failure to do so could be costly.

We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're quite proud of it really.




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