Cody Skinner, a First Nations gay man with disabilities, told a Royal Commission about facing job rejections, discrimination and bullying at the workplace and finding out that he was being paid half the minimum wage. 

Skinner was amongst 17 witnesses providing evidence to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The inquiry that is currently being held in Brisbane till December 11, is hearing from witnesses about the ‘pathways and barriers to open employment to people with disability.’

During the hearing, Mr Skinner reflected on his experiences as a gay man living with deafness, autism spectrum disorder and who has had some mental health challenges. He stated that coming out was “the best thing that has happened to me” and that “before I came out, I knew I was gay but I was waiting to see if the workplace would accept it. I was worried about the way I dressed and the way I did my hair and all of that… I think the world is becoming more understanding and more accepting. I want to encourage other people with disability to come out and that it’ll be okay.”

Mr Skinner provided evidence about the discrimination he has encountered in jobs, including incidences where he had been rejected after disclosing his disability, as well as a job where his supervisor would “clap at me in my face to try to get my attention and yell at me.” At this same job Mr Skinner also stated that he was being paid around half the minimum wage at $11 an hour.

Mr Skinner told Star Observer that since coming out he has “had lots of positive responses” and that he feels particularly connected with staff in businesses who wear pride colours.

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 Mr Skinner said that in providing evidence to the Royal Commission he hopes “for change for those who live with disability.” Mr Skinner also stated that “it is important for people with disability to have a voice and our story is being heard. Human Rights is an important value for us.”

He hopes that because of this Royal Commission “there will be job protection for people with disability and laws to protect equality, income, wages and workplace[s] to create more diversity and inclusive[ity].

Today, Mr Skinner, a self-employed advocate, is involved in several campaigns within the community, in addition to teaching Auslan and raising deaf awareness. Mr Skinner also works with the Queensland Disability Network and The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disability Network of Queensland (ATSIDNQ), in addition to many conferences and forums as a guest speaker, to continue raising awareness for people living with disability.

The National LGBTI Health Alliance also spoke on Wednesday afternoon, telling the inquiry about its EmployableQ Inclusion Toolkit, which provides resources to help workplaces foster an inclusive and welcoming space for LGBTQI people with disability.

Over the next year, a number of public hearings will take place as part of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

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