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January 2001

Employers making a difference

John Little,
EMAD Board Member.

A unique Australian concept in developing jobs for people with disabilities

The greatest barrier to equal participation in our community for people with disabilities is poverty. Poverty that is too often caused by the lack of opportunity to work. But there is a solution. The most effective weapon against poverty for people with disabilities is employment. Employment offering real jobs with real wages.

Group photo at Benbro (from left) Steve Bennett, Simon Reynolds, Arthur Szeto and John Bennett

Getting started

In 1998 Benbro Electronics, a small Sydney based hi-tech engineering company, was nominated for both the state and national divisions of the Prime Minister's Employer of the Year Award for its excellence in leadership in the employment of people with a disability. Benbro won both!

Owners of Benbro, Steve and John Bennett, forever innovative, dynamic and let's not forget caring human beings, wondered what else they could now do. It would be easy to put their trophy on the dresser, feel good about themselves and simply polish it every year.

The Bennett's approached Suzanne Colbert, then General Manager and founder of Shore Personnel, a leading employment agency in Sydney specialising in assisting people with intellectual disabilities into work. Suzanne was known for her leadership and innovation in the disability employment sector across Australia having also been responsible for the formation of ACE (Association for Competitive Employment) an industry peak body representing the interests of more than 260 employment agencies nationally to the Federal Government.

Suzanne suggested to Steve and John Bennett that she knew of other employers who would be interested in helping formulate ideas for a future strategy. And that is where EMAD, Employers Making A Difference, was born. This group of business people who between them already employed (in real jobs with real wages) a number of people with disabilities, would form an association to promote the multiple benefits of employing a person with a disability. The unique difference here was that this was a business-to-business strategy, not the traditional employment agency to employer one.

Making a commitment

A corporate vision was developed which became " EMAD will lead the change to a positive employment environment for people with a disability by changing the perceptions of employers and encouraging their good corporate citizenship". 

A goal was also formed, over the next 2 years, EMAD will encourage 500 companies to each employ one person with a disability in a real job for not less than award wages.

To achieve these EMAD would pursue every opportunity to talk to other employers on a peer to peer basis. And because EMAD is not an employment agency and is not actually selling anything, they would be able to explain in a non threatening way to other businesses, how they had been able to achieve high levels of success on many levels - focusing on significantly improved bottom-line results because of increased workplace morale and loyalty, higher productivity, improved efficiency and, externally, a significant lift in public relations and community awareness.

Engaging support

The highly successful and caring advertising industry leader Siimon Reynolds was approached to become the EMAD Patron. He accepted quickly, promising to be proactive and contributive.

EMAD tendered for and won an open disability employment industry contract through the Department of Family and Community Services and this provided funding, which as a not for profit association, it needed to be able to create an infrastructure from which to make a major impact in Australia.

Suzanne Colbert, CEO and John Little, EMAD Board Member.

Open for business

In October 2000 Suzanne Colbert was appointed as full-time Executive Officer. With the encouragement and support of her partner John Little also a foundation EMAD board member, a marketing consultant and operator of * Wheelchairs To Go and also permanently in a wheelchair himself, Suzanne established the EMAD administration headquarters in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains 120km west of Sydney, where she and John live.

Today, just 2 months after incorporation, EMAD is already gaining a strong reputation on many levels of Government and is making a positive impact in the business community, for its innovative strategies, vision and goals.

Steve and John Bennett are in increasing demand on the eastern seaboard of Australia to talk to businesses, individually and in groups about the multiple benefits of employing people with a disability. They also address employment and community associations and talk when required to the media. They do this enthusiastically and with significant and growing success.

Executive Officer Suzanne Colbert has begun to build some vital strategic relationships with EMAD partners, employers, employer groups and industry bodies. She has been successful in developing a cutting edge IT system from which to manage the already burgeoning database of contacts across Australia.

Finally EMAD is already well on target to meet its goals and has been directly responsible for several dozen people with a disability entering employment with both existing and new employers of people with a disability.

With the dynamic team involvement of the board and management, there is no doubt that EMAD is ready to push the existing disability employment boundaries to new and exciting levels across Australia.

Editor's note:  For more information about jobs and job listings go to the EMAD web page or visit their Jobs Vacancy site on and follow the Disability / Jobs Central links.  EMAD jobs can also be found on  Alternatively contact EMAD directly.

EMAD Administrative Office: 2, Third Street, Blackheath, NSW 2785, Australia.
Telephone: (02) 4787 9000
Fax: (02) 4787 7599

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