Dwayne Fernandes from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment, is a passionate advocate for disability inclusion and diversity. He is also a devoted family man, double amputee, and self-made entrepreneur. While Dwayne is financially independent and successfully employed, he does not see many people like himself in the same position.
For people with disabilities, barriers in education and employment can be more frequent and have a greater impact. In fact, around 50% of working-aged Australians living with disability are under or unemployed, which exceeds the country's overall unemployment rate of 5.32%.
With a strong desire to change this statistic, Dwayne was appointed the first chair of the Enable Network. This network grew to be an award-winning Disability Employee Network that aims to ensure the public sector is accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities, in Transport for NSW.
Now as a Diversity and Inclusion Partner at NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Dwayne plays an important role in closing the gap in both his own organisation and across the public sector.
"I'm in the strategy side of this of this organisation, so my job is to engage with senior leadership and get them to commit to the variety of programs that we have available and the targets that they need to hit to achieve diversity," says Dwayne.
Dwayne is naturally very data-driven, with his previous experience as a business analyst. So, the first thing he did when he started his new role was to engage with the data team and present the diversity stats in an equal way. "The way that they had presented the diversity data before was that they have a massive section for women, and a massive section for Aboriginal staff, and then this tiny little section for people with disability," expresses Dwayne.
This data-driven activity not only revealed that there's a huge gap for people with disabilities, but how much work that needs still needs to be done.
Dwayne also plays a significant role in helping agencies across the public sector to build strong Diversity Inclusion Action Plans, which are essential roadmaps for creating safe and inclusive places to work. And so far, some great outcomes have been met.
"The outcomes have been brilliant, because when you help an executive realise what their gap is, they realise that they need to put some tactical resources behind it. We've seen an increase in take up of programs, as well as an increase in targeted recruitment across many of the divisions."
While there's a lot more work to be done, Dwayne truly believes if agencies and businesses across the public sector can get Disability Inclusion Action Plans correct with the right metrics and KPI, a more accessible and inclusive society is possible.
"May your mind be resilient; may your heart be inclusive and may you forge the accessible future."
- Dwayne Fernandes