The Victorian water sector is leading the way on diversity and inclusion, with VicWater set to launch WaterAble this week – a network for people with disability and their allies.
The network aims to help raise awareness of people with disabilities in the state’s water sector, while also providing the opportunity to share stories, promote inclusion and increase advocacy.
VicWater CEO Peter Morison said creating a network for disability inclusivity and support was a vital component of the water sector, considering the industry’s fundamental role in servicing and supporting diverse communities across Victoria.
“Our sector is deeply committed to being representative of its community. We are committed to growing the diversity of its representation so that it is reflective of the community it serves and works with,” he said.
“WaterAble is an initiative aiming to take inclusion to the next level by identifying the value of working with people with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to share their skills and talents, and enabling participation in the water sector.
“WaterAble is a platform for support and also a platform to promote people with special needs to be able to operate effectively across the industry.”
Western Water Director Llewellyn Prain, the founder of WaterAble, said the network also encourages water sector businesses to increase their focus on disability inclusion, and to collaborate and share successful approaches across the industry.
“The ultimate aim is to make sure that our industry, which provides an essential service, is inclusive for not only its employees but also all of our customers,” she said.
“A lot of people have never worked with someone with a visible disability, and there is a real lack of awareness regarding what people with disability can do, what they can contribute, and how to change systems to enable people with disabilities to participate in workplaces.
“In many ways, disability is often the diversity type that gets left out of the diversity and inclusion conversation. Each individual is different, but organisations that embrace disability are among the most successful. It brings diverse thinking and diverse perspectives to how we do our work.”
While WaterAble has only just begun, Prain said she hopes the initiative will help to support the participation of people with disabilities in the workplace and their careers.
“There are many barriers to employment for people with disabilities. I’d love to see the industry get better at employing more people with disabilities and progressing their careers. We do pretty well as an industry but there’s still more to do,” she said.
“We are really lucky in Victoria that we have a water industry embracing diversity and inclusion. A network like WaterAble could not exist, nor have an impact, without an industry willing to embrace it.”
Peter Morison said he hopes the VicWater initiative is replicated in other states and territories around Australia.
“WaterAble is a way to lift the veil; we want to expose the unique skills and abilities that people with special needs can offer,” he said.
“While the network has been set up in Victoria, I don’t see why it can’t extend further. It would be fantastic to see the approach adopted at a national level.”
Visit WaterAble to learn more.