Social Good

The gift of a brother’s legacy

Positive Influence - April 2015

Sue Jeffery shares her personal story about her brother who triumphed over his disability and challenged the status quo.

For Sue Jeffery, General Manager of ANZ Direct and the chair of ANZ’s Accessibility and Inclusion Plan Steering Committee, creating a disability-confident workplace isn’t just about ticking all the right boxes. It’s personal. The legacy of her brother Cameron is proof that inclusive workplaces are both achievable and of vital importance.

In 1962, when Sue was just three years old, her baby brother Cameron became seriously ill and slipped into a coma. After six months in hospital, Cameron was sent home with a diagnosis of severe brain damage and seemingly crippling physical and intellectual disabilities.

“My parents were told he would not walk or talk and had no meaningful future,” Sue recalls. “They were told to take Cameron home, with an expectation that his future was very bleak.”

Sue’s parents thought otherwise. They taught Cameron to walk and talk. He was educated, lived independently and Sue’s mum ‘pounded the pavements’ to find Cameron employment. He started two jobs, one tidying yards and running errands for a local engineering company, and another working in the canteen of a local newspaper. Cameron was also a member of the local cycling club, tenpin bowling club, gymnasium and Rotary club.

“My parents were relentless in helping Cameron be the best he could be,” Sue says. When he died at the age of 28, his funeral was one of the biggest I have seen, a reminder of the number of lives that Cameron had personally touched.”

“Watching Cameron go to work not only showed me, but also motivated me around how much can come from working and participating in the community. As a result of Cameron’s experience I am very passionate about helping others see the person and their abilities, rather than focusing on the disability.”Sue has now been with ANZ for 33 years and she takes enormous pride in her role as chair of the committee charged with delivering the ANZ Accessibility and Inclusion Plan – an ongoing program of work that directly impacts the lives of ANZ’s 48,000 staff and eight million customers across a 32-country footprint.

Sue and Cameron in the early years
Sue and Cameron in the early years

With more than 2.1 million Australians of working age having a disability, and another 2.6 million providing unpaid care to family members and friends, Sue says it’s encouraging to see more companies aspiring to become disability-confident workplaces.

Providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities is a cornerstone of ANZ’s Accessibility and Inclusion Plan. Since launching its ‘Abilities’ employment program in 2007, ANZ has employed 199 people with a self-disclosed disability, with a retention rate of 73 per cent. In the 2013 financial year alone, ANZ has employed 68 people with a disability across Australia, New Zealand, India and the Philippines.

Just like her brother Cameron, Sue says many employees with a disability are fiercely independent, committed and high performers. They just need to be given the opportunity to use their abilities, and be welcomed in an inclusive environment.

Along with her committee role, Sue is also general manager of ANZ Direct and is able to draw upon many everyday stories, such as two top performing employees who excel at customer service in ANZ’s contact center – and happen to be vision impaired.

ANZ’s work has recently been recognised with a nomination for the National Disability Awards.  “Our nomination proves the progress we are making in mainstreaming disability and making disability just another dimension of our diverse workforce.”

Did you know?

Need to get up to speed with the landscape in Australia? Here’s some compelling figures provided by the Australian Network on Disability:

Around 3.4 million Australians (15%) have a physical disability such as respiratory disorders (asthma), neurological disorders (MS, cerebral palsy or epilepsy), musculoskeletal disorders (arthritis or spinal injuries), immunological disorders (HIV/AIDS), diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.

• Almost 90 per cent of disabilities are not visible.

• 10% of the population has dyslexia – that’s more than two million Australians.

• 78% of people with disability acquire their disability aged 16 years or older.

• Two-thirds of people with disability earn less than $320 per week, compared with one-third of the general population.

• 15% or 2.1 million Australians of working age (15-64 years) have a disability.

Understanding disability

According to the Australian Network on Disability, a disability is any condition that restricts a person’s mental, sensory or mobility functions. It could be caused by accident, trauma, genetics or disease. A disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, lifelong or acquired, visible or invisible.

Figures about the number of Australians with a disability are from Australian Network on Disability and Carers Australia: