I thank the member for Gilmore for this motion, acknowledging those with a disability and those who care for a person or people with a disability.
When it comes to the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, Australia is a caring nation and that fact is reflected in the work of this parliament in its efforts to improve the lives of those with a disability.
I have tremendous respect and admiration for those who either volunteer or choose a career to care for and support people with a disability. There are many examples of this around the country, including in my own electorate of McPherson on the Gold Coast.
I have been privileged in my capacity as the federal member to support organisations, such as Disabled Surfers Association. In a part of the country where the beach is such a significant part of everyday life, the association members are making sure that those with a disability get to enjoy a day in the water, just like everyone else.
I would like to thank the Disabled Surfers Association and its volunteers. It means a lot to those with a disability to get to surf, as well as those in their families who are there supporting them. I would particularly like to acknowledge two of the disabled-arm surfers whom I have got to know over the last couple of years, and that is TJ and Ernie. TJ and Ernie, I thank you for allowing me to grow as a person. I certainly have done that since I had the enormous privilege of getting to know you.
With over four million Australians living with a disability and 2.7 million people caring for those who need assistance, we know that there is a lot that needs to be done. One of the coalition's election commitments was the establishment of the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council.
The council plays an important role in assisting the government to deliver key reforms to improve the lives of people with a disability and assist carers. Council members have been selected from organisations with skills and experience in the disability sector, both government and non-government.
Its first meeting group created three working groups in key areas of employment reform, carer reform and the National Disability Strategy reinvigoration. A priority of any policy reform is to improve the lives of people with a disability, and that is to ensure that they are given every chance to gain employment.
We all know how important having a job is to self-esteem, not to mention the ability to support yourself and, in some cases, your family. Sadly, statistics show that workforce participation among people with a disability is just 53.4 per cent, with an unemployment rate of 10 per cent, which is well above the national rate.
The Turnbull government knows Australia can do better, and this is a focus of the reform agenda, particularly with our changing economy and innovations leading to new jobs being created that have not existed before.
As Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, I know that many of these opportunities will come from training and qualifications achieved through this sector of education. I am hopeful that vocational education and training can play an important role in delivering on this commitment.
As I mentioned, there are thousands of Australians who are doing extraordinary work every year to improve the lives of those living with a disability and, in doing so, have contributed to recognition of equality and human rights for all Australians.
I, too, pay tribute to those who received special recognition for their efforts at the 10th National Disability Awards, with the winners announced at Parliament House late last year.
All are very worthy recipients and, for some, the recognition has been the result of many years of dedication in this area. Australia is making important steps in ensuring that people with a disability are included as valued and contributing members of our community.
This is something we should recognise and look to improve every day, but I look forward to Sunday, 3 December this year, when we celebrate International Day of People with a Disability. It will be the 25th time this day has been acknowledged.
I join with all members to fulfil the government's aim to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with a disability, and celebrate their achievements in our community.
I would like to finish with a quote from Robert M Hensel, who has spina bifida but has never been held back by that disability.
He said: There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.