People with mental illnesses face employment discrimination

Woman's hands unravelling tangled red threads in a white head to symbolise the brain and psychological problems
Image: Ildar Abulkhanov, iStock

In New South Wales, people with disabilities are (supposedly) protected under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Employers are forbidden to explicitly deny a candidate’s application due to disability.

Despite this, people with disabilities face barriers to employment. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities (10% vs 4.6%)

People with mental illnesses struggle to find work

It’s not just people with physical or neurological developmental disorders that face an uphill battle. According to Lauren Ahwan in the Herald Sun, people with mental illnesses face barriers to employment.

People with mental illnesses, including major depressive disorder, anxiety and post – traumatic stress disorder are twice as likely to be unemployed than the general population.

During the pandemic, there was an increased awareness of mental illnesses, especially depression. However, according to Australian College of Applied Professions senior lecturer, Timothy Hsi:

Mental illness is still seen as a weakness.

Most people are trying to be very optimistic and accepting, but in the back of minds of employers, they still think ‘Is this mental health condition going to affect (an employee’s ability to work)?

Timothy Tsi to Herald Sun,

Tsi argues that people with mental conditions can be just as productive as anyone else.

Employers could be making their candidate pool small

Woman employer smiling while interviewing a man while holding his job application
Image: SDI Productions, iStock

Every now and then, you hear employers who are crying out for more workers. Vacancies aren’t being filled.

Yet, they are making their candidate pool smaller. Last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported:

  • More than 40% (43.7%) of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced a mental illness in their lifetime
  • More than one in five (21.4%) had a 12-month mental illness
  • Anxiety disorders were the most common
  • Almost two fifths (39.6%) of 16 to 24 had a 12 – month mental disorder.

Few things: these statistics only reflect people who admit they have a condition. The ABS data can’t include those who aren’t diagnosed or are in denial.

These statistics don’t predict the future. Anyone’s mental health can go south at any point. In 2019, journalistand author, Allastair Campbell made an eye – opening point:

We use these figures ‘1 in 4 will be mentally ill at some point in their lives’. 1 in 1 of us has got mental health and it’s never perfect

Allastair Campbell on Q and A, 22 July 2019

How to find an employer if you have a mental illness

If you do suffer a mental illness and are looking for work, Hsi advises:

  • Choose an employer who is supportive of people with mental illnesses
  • Present yourself at your best. It may be a good idea to practice relaxation techniques to avoid stumbling in interviews
  • If you need to, appoint a friend or support person nearby or to be in the room with you.

People are assets, not liabilities

In Australia, employers are expected to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate for people with disablities. I think we should change this mentality.

Employers should consider what candidates with disabilities and/ or mental illnesses can add to their company. I think we emphasise too much on what employers need to do to accommodate people. This probably employers hesitant.

So what can people with mental illnesses/ disabilities add to a workplace?

  • People with mental illnesses can be very empathetic. This is great for the employer, colleagues and customers/ clients
  • People with mental illnesses are very resilient. For example, according to Mimdful Meggie, people who have been treated for obsessive compulsive disorder can be more resilient and face adversity head-on

When we talk about employment and people with mental illnesses, strength, not liabilities should be the focus. Imagine a workplace that fosters more empathy and resilience. If that doesn’t make a better business, I don’t know what does.

What do you think? What can be done to decrease employment discrimination against people with disabilities or mental illnesses? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Barnaby Joyce calls for raise in Newstart in a bad way

Centrelink/ Medicare building
Image: iStock

Former Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce has become more “sympathetic” to those on Newstart. He “knows what it’s like to struggle”.

He is now calling for the Coalition to raise Newstart.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has rejected the idea.

The kicker? He currently gets over A$211,000 salary per year.  His ‘struggles’ that he has are nowhere near those on Newstart.


It’s good that Joyce has had a change of heart over Newstart (six years too late, but still). But cry me a river. Joyce made his bed, now he has to sleep in it! It’s insulting to those struggling to survive on Newstart to have Joyce compare them to himself on over A$211,000.

Current Newstart rates

According to the Department of Human Services website, single people on Newstart get A$511.70 a fortnight.

Other recipients and the eligible  andidates and amounts are:

  • Single parents with one or mor dependent child: A$601.10
  • With partner (also receiving Newstart): A$501.70 per person
  • Single 60+ who has been unemployed who has for nine months: A$601.10
  • Principal carer of a foster child, looking after a child granted by the court, has large family, has children who are homeschooled or receiving distance education: A$776.10


The amounts hasn’t changed since 1994.Newstart hasn’t kept up with inflation or to reflect cost of living.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has admitted it was “modest“.


The irony of Newstart rate

A number of politicians argue that Newstart is only meant to be a temporary safety net between jobs.

The tragic irony is they’ve made the Newstart payment so low that many recipients can barely afford to live, let alone pay for transport, clothing for work, or fees for further training. Surely this defeats the purpose, unless locking people in poverty is the goal.

Joyce’s ‘struggles’ vs the struggles of someone on Newstart

Over the past few days, media outlets have been awash with reports and opinion pieces on realities of living on Newstart.

Mamamia posted an article yesterday by student, Shelley Cheng about trying to survive on Newstart. Unlike Joyce’s choice on whether or not to use a dishwasher, Cheng has had to make really tough choices.

Cheng claimed after rent, bills, transport and a number of medical expenses, she is left with less than A$10 for food and other expenses. did an article suggesting some Newstart actually skip meals in order to make their budget stretch. This is beyond apalling.

The tragic irony of the jobs defense

People who protest a rise in Newstart often give one of two arguments: one, that the Coalition Government can’t afford to raise it. The second argument is that Newstart was, and is only meant to be temporary for those in between jobs. It isn’t meant to be a comfortable alternative to working.

The irony to the second argument is that the government has made Newstart payments so low that many recipients can’t afford to look or prepare for work.


By many accounts, Barnaby Joyce should be praised for his change of heart. Unfortunately, he has turned the debate into a farce due to his narcissism. Hopefully someone else can make a slightly more convincing argument that will win over the government soon.

What do you think about the Newstart? Feel free t9 comment below?