Progression’s Sharon Bard speaks at Australia’s 2015 Disability Employment Conference

The Australian Disability Employment Conference, presented by Disability Employment Australia, is the premier forum for managers, aspiring managers, practitioners and academics working in or with the Disability Employment Services sector. Disability Employment Australia is an industry body for Australia’s Disability Services, whose primary purpose is to support the Australian Government to deliver high quality employment support to people with disabilities.

As part of its on-going commitment to industry development and growth, Disability Employment Australia presents its annual conference to provide delegates with opportunities to think, question and respond to a range of critical issues in ways that are meaningful to their organisations, people with disabilities, employers and the industry more broadly.

Sharon Bard, Australian born Diversity Specialist, who previously spearheaded Progression South Africa’s Diversity Department and who now directs Progression Australia, presented a breakaway session at the 2015 conference. Her presentation traced the journey of two large corporate companies that, within their respective countries, Australia and South Africa, have become incubators and participants of social and economic change by carving a model for managing disability in the workplace that has resulted in tangible outcomes of inclusion.

 “Both Australia and South Africa have unique political and social landscapes that are fraught with legacies of the past and saturated with aspirations for the future of all their people,” stated Sharon during her presentation. “In both countries, the legislative and social frameworks that exist specifically in the disability sector are sophisticated and are based on comparable outcomes and principles of fair access, equal participation and the recognition of skills, aspirations and talents of all. Both countries rely heavily on the participation of the public and private sectors to contribute to the evolution of social maturity. The workplace is a perfect incubator to inspire greater social and economic change.”

Her breakaway session highlighted the similarities, differences, opportunities and challenges within Telstra, a leading Australian telecommunications company, and AfriSam, a leading supplier of construction material and equipment in South Africa, and how each has contributed to the successful workplace participation of people with disabilities.

In her presentation, Sharon used interactive and challenging methodologies to extract the lessons of each of these two companies and examined what inspires an employer to participate in successfully harnessing the talents of people with disabilities in the workplace.

“Delegates were very interested in the different political and legislative experiences of each country. There is constant debate around legislative targets in Australia and South Africa’s B-BBEE model was of interest and contributed to discussions,” Sharon said.

Through speaking at the conference, she hoped to provide the Disability Employment Sector with benchmarking approaches and principles in the pursuit of sustainability and excellence, thus contributing to on-going change and maturity.

The conference was a valuable experience for delegates and presenters alike. “For me, the conference exposed optimism for the changes the sector is experiencing nationally. The energy levels were high, fuelled with ideas, opinions and opportunities to take the sector to a new level of excellence,” Sharon explained. “This presentation was a great opportunity to engage in the sector, learn from Australia’s thought leaders and share Progression’s valued experience and knowledge.”

For more information about Progression Australia please visit

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