Keen to find a real job
AS A legally blind man, Peter Christensen would be within his rights to sit back and collect the pension for the rest of his life.
After applying for more than 30 jobs in the past two years – without success – few would blame the 49-year-old for downing the tools for a permanent smoko.
But giving up on finding a job is simply not an option for the father of three, who said he was looking for an employer to look past his disability and put some faith in him.
Before he suffered heart problems in 2008, Mr Christensen was a proud, hard-working man, holding down several long-term jobs over the years including furniture factory worker, meat worker, electrical earthing labourer and drilling rig labourer.
His heart problems triggered a lengthy stint off work, in which he took a caravanning trip around the country with his wife of 27 years, Tarina.
“I have applied for countless jobs since coming back from my heart problems,” he said.
“I have been through an employment agency which is meant to be tailored for people with disabilities, but they have only been able to offer jobs that are completely unsuitable.”
It’s not that Mr Christensen is fussy, but his blindness, which has left him with only about 30 per cent vision since birth, means that he is unable to drive so he is looking for work close to public transport or close to his Purga home.
He recently completed a six-month stint working on Ipswich City Council’s Green Army – with the hope of landing a permanent labouring job with council at the end – but is yet to have any luck.
He even had to endure the insulting comments of a job agency employee who, instead of helping him find work, told him: “Go home and stay on the pension – you are too much of a liability”.
“That was a real kick in the guts,” Mr Christensen said.
“Normal labouring work is not a problem – I think I have adapted to overcome my lack of vision.
“I just want an opportunity to show people that I am capable of working as well as anyone else – as good or better than a person without a disability.”
In Australia, employers have no obligation to employ people with disabilities, however, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) states they must not discriminate against a prospective employee with a disability in recruitment or promotion.
Under the DDA, employers must make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, so they can carry out their work.
People with disabilities can access Disability Employment Services through Centrelink or directly through a Disability Employment Services provider.