The Australian Government has announced a pilot program to increase workforce participation in the tourism sector. BUSY Ability was selected as one of 12 organisations nationwide that will share $3 million to support small and medium tourism businesses in recruiting, retaining and promoting employees with disabilities.

BUSY Ability’s Tourism Opportunity Navigator (BATON) aims to provide 100 small tourism operators in the Moreton Bay North area with workforce planning services, diversity in recruitment training, strategies to recruit and retain the right people with disability and locally targeted business resource packs. BATON will act as a connector between tourism businesses and employment service providers, helping to reform workplace cultures and employment practices, and building the confidence of businesses to employ people with disabilities. The project seeks to address workplace and skills shortages and improve the resilience of Australia’s tourism industry.

Stacey Turnbull, CEO of BUSY Ability and a key player in the BATON project, said, “We’re excited for the opportunity to support Moreton Bay tourism operators with human resourcing, workplace diversity and skills needs for the sector and career opportunities for people living with disability.”

The BATON project commenced in early July 2023 and will continue for a period of 12 months. BATON is funded by the Department of Social Services.

BATON representative Nicole Tinney gives the thumbs up to inclusion and diversity in front of her BATONmobile.

Nicole Tinney, our dedicated BATON representative in Moreton Bay, is passionate about disability inclusion and recruitment. Her advocacy is rooted in her personal connection with a cousin with Multiple Sclerosis and another with Down Syndrome. With extensive experience in education, training, human resources, employment services and business, Nicole is well-equipped to drive positive change and inclusivity in Moreton Bay’s tourism workforce through the BATON initiative. Her previous role as Industry and Vocational Training Officer at Bray Park State High School resulted in successfully showcasing the neurodivergent talents of a local artist.

Keep your eyes peeled for Nicole while she’s out and about across Moreton Bay. Behind the wheel of the sleek BATONmobile, she’s looking forward to connecting with DES, NDIS and tourism and hospitality small business providers. Get ready for meaningful connections and great discussions as Nicole brings the BATON initiative to life on the road.

Edith Cuffe – Abbey CEO (far left), Michael Strong – Curator (Middle) and Paul Garcia – Sponsorship and Partnerships Manager (Far Right) stand outside the beautiful Abbey Museum.

In recognition of the Year of Accessible Tourism, the Abbey Museum has undertaken measures to enhance the accessibility of the Abbey Medieval Festival, which has been Australia’s largest Medieval Festival for over 32 years. As a primary fundraising endeavour for the Abbey Museum, our mission revolves around delivering an authentic Medieval experience, enabling the sharing of 1000 years of medieval history with an audience of more than 20,000 visitors. Our festival attracts a diverse array of demographics to the Moreton Bay Region. In setting our goal to improve the festival experience, we were conscious that this meant recognising and improving upon the accessibility of our event.

To embark on this journey, our staff and volunteers engaged in comprehensive awareness training provided by Brendan Somerville through the EnABLED Business Program. Commencing early in 2023, this training exposed us to the significance of addressing unconscious biases, laying the foundation for a shift in our perspective. We acknowledge that this process necessitates an ongoing commitment, marked by conscious and deliberate steps forward, as we earnestly strive to learn, adapt, and enhance our inclusivity. For the Abbey Medieval Festival, we set the task of providing clear communications with our visitors, and for us this was first prioritised with the creation of accessible guidelines and documents. We realised operationally we would not be able to be fully accessible while our event is hosted on a grassed field, but we could improve upon the information we supply to allow guests to make informed decisions. We engaged an Accessibility Coordinator, Josephine Mitchell, with a lived experience of disability who developed this information in partnership with the Abbey Museum and Medieval Festival.

This year we implemented a sensory tent to the festival, offering a space outside the festival, which saw amazing success and through feedback and advice we have opportunities to improve and grow this further. This facility wouldn’t have been possible without the support of another local organisation Early Start Australia to provide their professional services. With over 300 volunteers and nearly 1000 performers, this space also became a valuable location to offer a quiet respite for our volunteers and reenactors from the sensory stimulation of the festival. We learned through feedback from visitors that just having this area for families to rest and reset allowed visitors to make the most out of their day and return to the festivities where they may have otherwise had to leave.

As a tourism operator we recognise our limitations and own biases and are grateful for the community organisations and services such as BATON to help guide operators towards opportunities and requirements for employing and accommodating people with a disability. The Museum and Festival is only just at the beginning of our accessibility journey, but we recognise any step, no matter how small, is a step towards making our events and organisation more accessible, one that can only be achieved through valuable support from partnering organisations and services such as BATON.

Our aim as we grow and look to develop an accessibility plan is to ensure the Museum is a place disabled communities seek to actively participate in, as both visitors and employees.

A bus bound for Kippa Ring passes Margate Beach.

We take for granted just how easy our commute to work can be. The ability to drive ourselves, walk, ride a bike or catch public transport, is not always an option for those living with disability. In Australia, around 1 in 6 (17% of population or 650,000) people aged 15 and over living with disability, have difficulty using some or all forms of public transport.
This includes:

  • Using stairs or steps (45% or 294,000 people)
  • Getting to stops or stations (27% or 176,000 people)
  • Finding a seat or standing (22% or 145,000 people)
  • Facing fear or anxiety (21% or 140,000 people)

Even more concerning is that around 1 in 7 (14% or 518,000) people aged 15 and over living with disability, are unable to use public transport at all. With around 1% (36,000) not being able leave their home at all. Although there are many programs and supports in the community that aid in reducing the barriers surrounding public transport, there is still much more work needed to make improve accessibility to employment.

BATON is passionate about working with prospective employers who are willing to help individuals overcome these transportation barriers.

Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019

Demystifying Workforce planning challenges and untapping new talent pipelines Interested in learning how to find the right employees in a challenging jobs market? Join us for
1st November 2023
12.30 – 2.00pm
Oaks Redcliffe Mon Komo Suites
For more info, email Nicole at

Over 4.4 million people in Australia have some form of disability. That’s 1 in 5 people. 17.8% of females and 17.6% of males in Australia have disability.
Source: Australian Network on Disability

How many hidden disabilities are there?
Over 1000!!! 90% of the 4.4 million people living with disability in Australia are living with an invisible disability. Globally it is estimated that over 1 billion people are living with a hidden disability.

What does BATON stand for?
BUSY Ability’s Tourism Opportunity Navigator! BATON is free service for businesses in the Moreton Bay North Region.

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