Opening Opportunities

A two-day conference exploring the life-changing power of customised employment for people with disability

Thank you to everyone who attended the Opening Opportunities conference in May 2023. It was a brilliant two days of presentations and conversation about Customised Employment.

You can now watch the sessions for free in our online resource library.

Browse the conference presentations.

Audience members listen to one of the presenters during the Opening Opportunities conference in Canberra in May 2023


Meet the speakers | Conference details Conference schedule

Employment for people with disability

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2019, working-age people with disability had a lower employment rate (48% or 984,000) than those without disability (80% or 11.3 million). Working-age people with severe or profound disability had a much lower employment rate (24% or 120,000) than those with other disability (56% or 863,000) (ABS 2019). From the same report, people with sensory and speech disability had the highest employment rate (50% or 205,000), while those with psychosocial disability had the lowest (26% or 165,000) (ABS 2019).

These figures are supported by data released by the NDIS in its analysis of Employment outcomes for NDIS participants as of 31 December 2020.

Statistics from the 2020 NDIS report: Employment outcomes for NDIS participants as at 31 December 2020

It’s an unpleasant and confronting fact that if adults with intellectual disability and autism work at all, they are most likely to work in low-paid, part-time jobs, which are often insecure and offer no opportunity for growth. And they’ll most likely work exclusively alongside other people with disability in roles that don’t necessarily hold their interest or match their skills.

Family members of people with disability often share the same pervasive worries:

  • Will my family member ever find a paying job that holds their interest or sticks longer than a few months?
  • Will I need to give up work or reduce my working hours to care for my unemployed family member?
  • Will I need to change my retirement plans?
  • Will a life of unemployment commit my family member to a life of isolation without relationships or ties to their community?
  • Will my family member ever be able to live independently if they’re always unemployed or underemployed?

Despite these commonly-held fears, many families still pursue meaningful employment that suits their family members.

After all,

Employment is an essential element of the Good Life

Having a good job or career provides financial security, independence, the opportunity to meet people and form relationships, opportunities to contribute, and funds to pay rent, buy a home, travel, eat out, pursue hobbies, and partake in all the great things life has to offer.

If you dream of a workplace where your family member

  • can thrive as the work aligns with their interests
  • are appreciated for their unique contributions
  • have good workplace relationships
  • can grow their skills
  • has sustainable paid work,

then we think you are going to love this conference. It’s all about

Opening opportunities

Opening Opportunities was a two-day national conference focused on uncovering employment opportunities for people with disability. The conference featured speakers including families, young people with disability, and professionals from Australia and overseas who have opened opportunities using an approach called Customised Employment.

Customised Employment is a tried and true method when implemented with integrity, and it has been used locally and internationally. At this conference, we saw abundant evidence that it’s an approach that works. Our speakers shared their lived experiences of customising employment and provided practical tips that could be implemented immediately.

Meet the speakers | Conference schedule | Browse the conference presentations.

Why you should watch the Opening Opportunities Conference recordings

By watching the conference recordings, you’ll become part of a supportive tribe of changemakers who share your values, are walking the same path, who can see people’s potential and believe in creating a better employment future.

By watching the conference presentations, you’ll come away with

  • the realisation that there’s an abundance of employment opportunities waiting to be discovered
  • a greater understanding of how to map out a customised employment pathway
  • various ways to create employment opportunities
  • ways to navigate stigma about disability
  • insights into how to identify a person’s interests in a way that leads to employment
  • networking opportunities and ways to connect with other people after the conference.

These presentations are perfect if you’re

  • Overwhelmed (or underwhelmed!) by the limiting post-school options for students with disabilityLogo of the ACT Accredited Program TQI for 2023
  • Feeling stuck and worried that your family member might never be able to work
  • Feeling disheartened by the limiting beliefs of others about your family member’s ability to be meaningfully employed
  • A family member, a mentor or paid supporter, a professional, a prospective employer, or someone who wants everyone to be meaningfully and sustainably employed.

Browse the conference presentations.  
Meet the speakers Conference schedule

Who presented at the Opening Opportunities conference?