Career Pathways Pilot

Career development gap

There is an over representation of people with disability in entry level roles and a lack of career advancement opportunities for people with disability into leadership positions, as well as a lack of representation of people with disability on company boards. Employees with disability face a range of barriers when trying to progress their careers including unconscious manager bias, soft bigotry of low expectations, inaccessible training providers, and lack of support/adjustments.

The Final Report issued by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability also identified career progression as one the key areas for employers to consider to make Australian workplaces more inclusive for people with disability. Read about our response to the Final Report. 

Inclusive and diverse workplaces are good for everyone. Making sure career development programs are inclusively designed and sustainable will ensure that employers are attracting and retaining employees from the widest possible talent pool.

Pilot overview

The Career Pathways Pilot 2023-2025 aims to support employers to build their capacity to develop the leadership potential of employees with disability.

Australian Disability Network is conducting the pilot in partnership with the Business Council of Australia (BCA) with four organisations participating in the 18-month program: Coles Group, Compass Group Australia, Kmart & Target Australia and Woolworths Group.

Australian Disability Network will support these organisations to progress the careers of employees with disability out of entry level roles and into leadership positions. A key goal is to have sustainable systems and processes in place to ensure that people with disability have the same opportunities for job fulfilment and career progression as people without disability.

The program is co-designed to be mutually beneficial for the employers and people with disability and will be scalable for other Australian employers to replicate.

Employer partners

Four members of the Business of the Council of Australia are participating in the pilot. Coles Group, Compass Group Australia, Kmart & Target Australia and Woolworths Group.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said the Business Council and its members are committed to helping ensure all Australians reach their full potential and share in the opportunities and prosperity of our nation.

“This initiative will lead to increased, sustainable, and measurable improvements in employment and career advancement outcomes for people with disability.

“We need a concerted effort to drive change from job design through to recruitment and move from entry level jobs to advanced and executive roles.

“If Australia moved into the top eight OECD countries for employing people with disability, we could see an additional $50 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2050.”

Coles Group

“Disability inclusion has been an integral part of the Coles Group strategy for a number of years, and we are delighted to have grown employment and workforce representation, with 7.6% of team members identifying as people with disability.

“Coles is proud to have many leaders in our team who live with disability. Often disability employment is stereotyped as an ‘entry level’ opportunity. We are committed to continuously supporting the development of our talent and providing them with tools to progress their careers at Coles.

“We are excited to join the Australian Disability Network, the Department of Social Services, and the Business Council of Australia to support this pilot program, which will significantly support and impact the lives and careers of Coles team members who live with disability.”

Martin Smithson, General Manager: Meat, Deli and Seafood, and Chair of Coles’ Accessibility Steering Committee.

Compass Group Australia 

“Compass Group Australia is committed to developing a dynamic and diverse workforce reflective of the communities that we serve. We are removing unintended barriers throughout the employment cycle and we’re passionate about providing a solid foundation and career pathway to support our people who identify as living with disability.

“With this co-design program we want to review and evaluate the best formula, approach and model to support our employees who identify as living with disability in progressing their career aspirations.

“Compass Group Australia’s collaboration with DSS, BCA and Australian Disability Network will help us expand our ability and empower our workforce. We’re passionate about partnering with like-minded organisations to bring more employment opportunities to our people who identify as living with disability.”

Vanessa Martin, General Manager of Diversity & Inclusion, Compass Group Australia

Kmart & Target Australia

“Meaningful inclusivity is a business imperative for Australian retailers. Ensuring our team members represent the communities in which we operate is key to Kmart and Target’s workforce strategy, and a huge part of our success as two of Australia’s most iconic retail brands. Inclusivity needs to be about more than just a job.

“We know that with our size and scale of operations we have an opportunity to lead in this area.”

“To do that, we need to have strong and productive partnerships in place to ensure we have the right foundations to deliver meaningful employment opportunities, leading to real careers and leadership pathways.”

Tristram Gray – Chief People & Capability Officer – Kmart & Target Australia


“Our project will work to empower operations managers to make decisions with the true potential of our team members in mind. It’s our responsibility to ensure leaders have the right insights and tools at their disposal to identify these opportunities to foster and promote talent.

“By creating pathways for career progression for people with disabilities, our business can not only benefit from their professional strengths, but also from their insights into how we can create better experiences for our team and customers.

“It’s going to be a fantastic project and we’re very excited by it.”

Woolworths Group Disability Inclusion Lead, Geoff Trappett OAM

Objectives of the pilot

  • Ensure employees with disability feel valued and safe to identify as a person with a disability.
  • Provide people with disability with opportunities for job fulfilment and career progression.
  • Ensure managers can identify, support and motivate people with disability who aspire to career progression.
  • Increase the visibility of people with disability as role models in leadership positions.
  • Remove structural barriers to career progression for people with disability.


The intended outcomes of the pilot are to improve the:

  • extent to which barriers to career advancement experienced by employees with disability are understood, and encourage co-designed initiatives to address these barriers between employees with disability and their employers.
  • capacity of participating businesses to generate baseline data and effectively track and report on employment and career progression outcomes for staff with disability.
  • capability, confidence and connection of people with disability employed by participating businesses.
  • capability, confidence and connection of middle managers and supervisors in participating businesses to employ people with disability.
  • Capability, confidence and commitment of senior leadership and boards of participating businesses to employ people with disability.
  • organisational capability of participating businesses to employ people with disability.

The overall aim will be to embed access and inclusion into business-as-usual practice.


The entire pilot is co-designed with employers as well as their respective employees with disability. It has six key components:

  1. Needs analysis to understand the experiences of people with disability and barriers experienced with career development;
  2. Building employer capability;
  3. Building employee capability;
  4. Building mid-level manager capability;
  5. Building senior management/board capability; and
  6. Leadership development materials that are audited and/or created for employers.


Australian Disability Network is funding the pilot through a grant received from the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

The grant contributes to the achievement of Australia’s Disability Strategy and Outcome 3.1 of the Department of Social Services (the department) Portfolio Budget Statement to support people with disability and carers to actively participate in community and economic life.

Contact us

Project enquiries

Nerida Sleaman, Project Manager


Australian Disability Network 
Clara Pirani, Media and Policy  Manager

Business Council of Australia
Business Council media team
phone: (02) 8224 9214

Coles Group  
Coles Media Relations
phone: (03) 9829 5250

Compass Group Australia 
PJ Brooks
National Manager – Communications
mobile: 0428 782 318 

Kmart & Target Australia 
Grace Kerr
Corporate Affairs Manager
phone: 0429 924 627 

Woolworths Group
phone: (02) 8885 1033 

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