Disability royal commission hears about barriers to finding employment faced by people like Yuri
Yuri Sianski has spent the last 25 years trying to find a job — and his father has told the disability royal commission the situation is a “shameful cul-de-sac of neglect”.
Yuri, 47, from Hobart, lives with schizophrenia and has trained as a bartender and a cleaner but has only ever managed to find unskilled work.
Mr Sianski and his father gave evidence together via video link from Hobart to the disability royal commission hearing into the barriers faced by people with disability to find and maintain employment.
Edward Sianski, Yuri’s father, told the inquiry he became angry when he saw his son was being “exploited” whilst doing a plastering job — one of the small number of casual jobs he had been able to find over the past 25 years.
“People who employed Yuri realised he was on a Disability Support Pension [DSP] and that he couldn’t earn more than a certain amount,” he said.
“They didn’t pay him anywhere near the work he was doing.
“I knew Yuri was being exploited but I thought to myself it’s better for Yuri to go out and do something rather than stay in his flat all day.”
He said structures were not available for his son and others like him to get a job and they should be.
“Twenty-five years of Yuri trying to get a job, it has convinced me it is a cul-de-sac of neglect and it is shameful,” he said.
Yuri Sianski told the hearing he was about 20 years old when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He had to stop his apprenticeship studying mechanical engineering at TAFE.
After a period of ill health, he was put on a DSP and while his father tried to help him find work, he said that “the whole thing was futile”.
“It was just a big effort but there was no mechanism in place to help him,” Edward Sianski said.
“I felt bereft of any support from outside. I was just beavering away and getting nowhere.”
Senior counsel assisting Kate Eastman told the royal commission earlier this week that Australians with disability were less likely to be in paid work — relative to those without a disability — and more likely to be over-educated for their jobs, have lower earnings and poor job satisfaction.
She said almost half of the discrimination complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission were from people with a disability and many of those complaints were about employment.
The royal commission will hear from more than 20 witnesses this week.
Mr Sianski told the hearing he was pleased when an employment agency stepped in for his son, because he did not have the “expertise” to find him a job.
The agency organised for Yuri to do a bartending course and he looked for hospitality work for two years.
“I sent so many resumes to all the bars around Hobart,” Mr Sianski said. “I tried hard. Unfortunately [there wasn’t] even a phone call or a letter or anything.”
He told the royal commission he worried about the prospects for both his son and his 22-year-old grandson Kayden, who also lives with schizophrenia.
“The whole system is really up against people like Yuri with a mental illness,” he said.
“A mental illness is a condition that ebbs and flows.
“Yuri represents many, many people in this situation, they have a mental illness, they are put on a DSP and then they’re forgotten about.”
Mr Sianski said his grandson was receiving a DSP and an NDIS package that provided job-seeking support but he had been unable to find work.
“I’m just worried that down the track he will lose that support and end up on his own trying to scrounge jobs,” he said.
“I don’t know what his future will be, I just don’t know.”