Last year AGL signed up to the Valuable 500 and we launched our first Disability Action Plan to play our part in improving accessibility and inclusion for the 4.3 million people (one in five) who live with disability in Australia.
Damien Nicks, our Chief Financial Officer and Executive Sponsor of AGL Ability, said that while we’re only one year into our two-year action plan, we’ve already started to see positive impacts.
“Our commitment to the Valuable 500 and our Disability Action Plan is not just about driving important programs and initiatives, it’s also about building a positive culture in our workplace, in our homes and in our society,” Damien said.
“We’ve recently updated our Reasonable Adjustment Guidelines for our recruitment process and work environment, employed three paid interns at our Liddell and Bayswater sites in NSW as part of Australian Network on Disability’s Stepping Into Internship program, and we are currently reviewing external communication processes for our customers to improve accessibility.”
A standout achievement has been our participation in Australian Network on Disability’s Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) mentoring program this year, which has seen four AGL people mentor jobseekers living with disability.
Setting the pace for inclusion
Alix Sampson, AGL’s Senior Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, has been mentoring Lauren, an engineering student who has myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue) and bipolar which Lauren describes as carrying stigma and misinformation.
“I wouldn’t always truthfully answer if asked about my capabilities and personal requirements, however, seeing Alix and other participants be unapologetic with their conditions means I have been better able to appreciate myself,” Lauren shared.
“Being able to be authentic with Alix gave me the courage and safe place to practice talking about my needs which translated into being offered a role that not only accommodated me but supported my ideal work environment.”
Not only has this program had a positive impact on mentees like Lauren, PACE has also had a profound effect on our mentors, with our people learning a little more about the barriers people with disability face when entering the workforce.
Leadership and inclusive language
Hilary Thorpe, AGL’s Group Counsel, Corporate Development & Secretariat, has a three-year-old son with an intellectual disability, and said she wants to see more companies become leaders and play their part.
“My hope for my son is that we do everything we can as a workplace and society to make the world more welcoming, inclusive, and accessible for people with disability”, Hilary shared.
Hilary saw the mentorship program as a great opportunity to learn more about the barriers people with disability face when entering the workforce and it gave her an opportunity to reflect on inclusive language.
“This experience has made me stop and think about how I interact with people in my everyday life, whether or not they have disability – the language I use, the judgment I make and the perspectives I bring to conversations.”
Recognising barriers and self-discovery
For Alix Sampson, being a mentor gave her the opportunity to come to terms with her own invisible disability – something she can’t put a price on.
“Throughout the program, I was noticing things about myself that had always been there but that I hadn’t addressed. I spoke to my doctor who eventually referred me to a psychiatrist, who formally diagnosed me with ADHD on top of my anxiety diagnosis,” Alix shared.
“Discovering these new aspects of myself, and being a role model to my mentee Lauren at the same time, forced me to lead by example and not shy away from being who I really am.”
“I am so proud of my identity and my quirks, and I’ve realised these differences are something to be celebrated and not ashamed of.”
Continuing to champion disability at AGL
Our AGL Ability Committee, which is made up of 15 passionate AGL people, will continue to champion disability inclusion through our Disability Action Plan – including working to improve leader understandings of disability and encouraging volunteer days with disability organisations.
Damien said he is excited to be leading this piece of work alongside the Committee and to see the success of the action plan in the years to come.
“It is great to be leading such a passionate group of employees across our organisation who are determined to create disability inclusion in our workplace,” Damien said.
“We are focused on continuing to hit milestones and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can all achieve for disability inclusion in the future.”