Workforce participation rates for people with disability must be improved. Who is the expert to improve employment outcomes for people with disability? What factors impede better employment rates? Is it true that many employers do not really understand the value a person with disability can bring to their organisation? What strategies should be implemented to overcome this perception? This panel will confront these questions and more. The panel of experts includes a disability advocate, an employer, a DES provider, the NDIA and a person with disability. They will share their expertise on improving the rates of employment for people with disability into work. Topics this panel will explore include:
• Employer engagement strategies are one of the fundamentals to successful job placement and sustainable employment. How do DES providers better engage with employers and vice versa?
• DES providers have many years’ experience with placing people into employment, however sometimes innovative practices or projects are needed. What new ways can we engage employers?
• Most importantly, what does a participant see as the most important aspects of assistance into work? How does employment lead to greater social and economic independence?


Brett de Hoedt

Conference MC
Hootville Communications

Brett de Hoedt has once again finagled his way onto our stage. If the claims on his website are accurate he'll deliver his "signature blend of comedy and penetrating analysis alongside awe-inspiring displays of humility and humanity." You be the judge. When not inspiring awe the former tabloid hack and radio presenter helps people and companies communicate better in person, online and in the media via his agency Hootville Communications. Motto: Communications for good; not evil.

Brenda Odewahn

Chief Executive Officer, Olympus Solutions; Chief Operating Officer, Ability Options

Brenda is the Chief Operating Officer, Ability Options and the CEO of Olympus Solutions the Ability Options employment brand. She has worked in employment services for more than 20 years commencing in disability employment. She has had experience working with many different groups including ex-offenders, people experiencing mental health issues and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Jo Marshall

Executive Diversity Mentor
Culturise and the Difference Collective

Jo Marshall has over 20 years’ experience in leadership across a variety of sectors. A commitment to diversity has been core to her success as a line manager of teams of up to 200 people. Jo brings to our sector a strong and credible message that Diversity is NOT Charity and that diversity and inclusion is not only good for teams, but drives more successful commercial outcomes as well. She has proven practical tips for employers and providers on how to make disability employment really work in organisations and will share those insights as she participates with our expert panel to discuss this.

Ross Joyce

Chief Executive Officer
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)

Ross is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), a Disability Peak Organisation (DPO) advocating for the rights of people with disability in Australia.

Ross is an expert advisor on the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) Independent Advisory Council (IAC), a member of the Victorian Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Implementation Taskforce Working Group, and the Innovative Workforce Fund – Independent Advisory Group (IAG).

Currently, Ross is the Chair of the Ageing, Disability and Metal Health Collaborative Panel, and represents AFDO on the National Disability and Carer Alliance (Alliance). This Alliance consists of AFDO, National Disability Services (NDS), Carers Australia, and Mental Health Australia. The focus of the Alliance is public advocacy on behalf of the disability sector.

Prior to joining AFDO, Ross was the Executive Director of the charity UrCommunity and Executive Director of UrCommunity Initiatives, both aimed at alleviating poverty, providing food security and inclusion; Principal and Founder of Verve – Empowering Solutions providing management consultancy to not-for-profit, community service, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Ross holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management, a Bachelor of Business, and Certificates in ISO Standard Quality Assurance Implementation & Internal Auditing. He is a Fellow of Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Leadership Program, a Certified Professional of the Australian Human Resources Institute and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Scott McNaughton

General Manager Participant Pathway Design
National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)

Scott is currently the General Manager Participant Pathway Design, for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Scott’s role is to design and manage the planning pathway for participants entering the NDIS, as well as associated service delivery policy issues. Scott also has responsibility for the Mental Health portfolio within the NDIA. Scott has been with the NDIA for almost 4 years, and was previously the General Manager of Regional Operations, and the Branch Manager Full Scheme Implementation.
Scott joined the NDIA from the Commonwealth Department of Human Services (DHS) where he was previously the Service Zone Leader for West Victoria. Scott was responsible for the face-to-face services in the Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency offices for all of Western Victoria. Scott has previously headed up the Innovation and Digital Design Branch in DHS, as well various operations branches in DHS.
Scott has been in the Australian Public Service for around 20 years, spending time in various departments in both Canberra and Victoria - including FaHCSIA, the Department of Social Services, the Child Support Agency and the Department of Human Services. He has extensive experience in social policy, indigenous issues and service delivery environments. Scott was also a member of the Bali Bombings taskforce in 2001.
Scott has a Masters of Public Administration (Melbourne University) and a Master of Business (Victoria University). He enjoys surfing, swimming, trying to keep fit, and coaching the ‘nippers’ in surf lifesaving which his two daughters are both heavily involved in. Scott is on the Board of the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club. He is also a very keen supporter of Hawthorn in the AFL.

Ben Paior-Smith

Student, Lobbyist, Campaign Champion

Ben is finishing his Year 12 SACE this year and plans to move out of home as soon as he has a job that pays well enough to get him the best house. Ben has been working, every Saturday morning, as a retail assistant at JR’s Surf and Ski for more than three years, without paid support. Ben’s favourite part of the job is choosing the fashion and dressing the display mannikins. He also works for the Every Australian Counts as a Campaign Champion. This work takes him across the country, lobbying and informing media and politicians about the NDIS. Ben loves public speaking.


Back to all abstracts