Working-age people with a disability are more likely to be unemployed than those without a disability.1 They are also more likely to be unemployed for longer. This is something that Matthew, BAE Systems Australia’s Head of Tax and Shared Services knows all too well.

As a person with a disability, Matthew didn’t anticipate the discrimination he experienced when he began looking for his first professional role. Our Chief Financial Officer Andy Cornfield talks to Matthew to find out more.
Matthew's story
“When I got to the end of university, I applied for jobs with the large accounting firms,” Matthew says.

“Many were willing to interview me, but when I actually sat down to speak with them in person, I discovered that most were not really interested. In fact, some would even look out the window while I answered their questions.”

It was during an interview with a ‘second tier’ accounting firm that a partner from one of the firms called Matthew back for what he imagined would be a second-round interview. Matthew explains that this was unfortunately not the case – it was actually so that the accounting firm partner could offer Matthew some ‘advice’.

“Look,” the partner said. “Nobody is going to employ you because you don’t have any hands… We don’t have to take the chance that you won’t work out. So we won’t take it. As long as we don’t tell you that your disability is the reason that we’re not employing you, we won’t have a problem.”

Obviously, this response surprised Matthew.

The partner went on to suggest that he apply directly with the ATO, as they might be more interested. As it happened, Matthew was already in discussions with the ATO, and within a month he had secured a job there.

More than a decade later, when Matthew was still at the ATO and had begun reaching senior ranks, several of those accounting firms got back in touch, to see if he was interested in working with them. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t.

Eventually, Matthew came to be interviewed by Andy Cornfield for a role at BAE Systems Australia.

Now, four years on, Andy asks what steps BAE Systems Australia can take to remove the barriers to entry for people with a disability.

“I think the most important thing is that we get them in the door – then we solve the problems with ramps, braille on the doors and so on. We’re an engineering company, we can solve problems,” Matthew says.

Matthew’s story is a compelling tale that demonstrates the bias and discrimination he faced in obtaining employment.

Unfortunately his story is not unique – and according to the statistics, just 54 per cent of the nearly 4.5 million people living with disability in Australia are in the workforce – a participation rate that has not changed in 28 years.1

Once in the workforce, it’s just as important that people with disabilities are treated like anyone else.

Since it’s up to each of us to create an inclusive culture, we’re taking an active role in improving our awareness and acceptance of difference in the workplace.
If you’re looking for a career change to an employer who values diversity and inclusion, consider joining us at BAE Systems Australia.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics


Communications Advisor