Westpac Group’s DEN advocates for all people with hidden and visible disability and their carers

Members of Westpac Group’s ABLE (Assisting Better Lives for Everyone) standing together. They are smiling.

Westpac Group’s ABLE (Assisting Better Lives for Everyone) EAG launched in 2010 and has been running continuously since.

At its core its mission is to advocate for all people with visible and invisible disability, carers, neurodivergent people and those impacted by mental health. ABLE is an employee-led volunteer group with representation from across the business. Westpac’s Chief Transformation Officer, Yianna Papanikolaou, is the Executive Sponsor for ABLE, showing senior commitment to the EAG from the organisation.

Ruth Bonser, Chair of ABLE said, “We are a group of active and influential advocates who create a safe space for our community and allies at work.  We celebrate our identity and educate the wider workforce about the key issues impacting us. Our vision is to connect by building trust through storytelling; ensuring all employees have the support needed to thrive, and to stand up so everyone feels safe, welcome and included at work.”

The Westpac EAG Chairs meet with the CEO, Peter King, quarterly to update him on activities and provide insight into issues impacting the communities represented. In May 2023, the Westpac Group Board joined the CEO meeting. In this session, Ruth had the opportunity to share experiences of ABLE members in the workplace, such as accessing flexible working arrangements and the value this brings so many employees with different requirements including neurodivergence.

ABLE focused on two main priorities in 2023, enriching community engagement and organising a key event, National Carers Week.  The engagement strategy focuses on authentic and personal storytelling to build inclusion and understanding.  ABLE launched monthly “Sharing Our Stories” campaign, which spotlights employees and shares their story using multi-modal communication including an audio podcast called The ABLE Poddy, an edited transcript article, a shorter newsroom article and social media posts. The goal is to reduce the sense of isolation that many people experience, to build awareness and understanding from sharing lived experience and create an inclusive and safe environment to nurture the community. ABLE plan a year-long schedule to ensure variety in topics and align some stories with other relevant internal and external events.

ABLE is also proud of the work is does in collaboration with the DEI team in identify opportunities to provide feedback on people policies.  As the representative voice of employees with disabilities, who are neurodivergent and who are carers, it shares expertise and feedback received from its community.  The goal is to highlight opportunities or confusion in current policy, not to dictate how it should be solved. The process that has been implemented includes sending ABLE an update on what the agreed outcome is, which can then share with its members. It represents a wonderful opportunity for employees to be heard and to advocate for change in our workplace.