Updating Results

Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Jessica Kartawihardja

If comfortable, make sure people you connect with are aware of your disability. It helps if you trust a good colleague/friend that understands disability and can help you out when you need.

We want to know about you, where are you from and what's your story.

My name is Jess, and I was born and raised in Australia. My family is from Indonesia, so when at home, I converse in mixed English and Bahasa Indonesia.

I was born with severe hearing loss and wear hearing aids on both ears. My family didn’t find out about my hearing loss until I was around seven years old. Consequently, I grew up as a very reserved and quiet person and have used lip-reading as my primary method of communicating.

I studied at the University of Western Australia, starting off with Biochemistry before switching to Commerce. I realised I wanted to be in a role that revolves around teamwork and interacting with people, rather than in a solitude role.

After a bit of work experience and internships during my studies, I was fortunate to be offered a place in the Graduate Program at the Australian Tax Office, where I could put my university knowledge into practice.

What are your hobbies?

Most of my hobbies are sports-based – I regularly train and compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and frequently cycle and swim. When I am not doing sport, I find myself either at the beach going for a swim, playing the violin, reading a good book or cooking!

What is your disability?

Hearing impairment – severe hearing loss on both ears.

Does it impact your everyday work life and if so, how?

Being hard of hearing impacts everyday work-life where communication in the workplae is integral.

Although I wear hearing aids, it only amplifies the volume of the sound but not its clarity. Therefore, my primary ‘survival’ method of communication is by way of lipreading. With telecommunications now being the major source of internal and external communication, not being able to lip-read in person fully makes it extremely difficult for me to understand what is being said. This means I need to fill in the gaps to gauge the complete context, and this can be inaccurate and very tiresome.

With modern workplaces now being less direct face-to-face and more ‘open-spaced’, being able to participate in conversations around my workstation is also difficult as my hearing aids reduce background noises which overlap each other. As a result, I miss out on the information that is being shared between people leading me to withdraw from such interactions.

In a sentence or two, who is your employer and what do they do?

I work for the Australian Taxation Office. Their primary role is to collect revenue for the government and to manage and shape the tax, excise and superannuation-related systems.

What is your job role and what does a typical day look like for you?

Currently, I am part of the graduate program as a law interpretation junior. I assist senior law interpretation officers by providing legal research that helps support or formulate their advice or opinion on cases relating to nebulous areas of tax law.

Usually, we are given one or two tasks to complete within a week or two. The bulk of our tasks are autonomous and involve research, reading and analysis. For example, we are required to do research on certain law concepts or rulings, finding relevant case laws and summarising them. Sometimes we are tasked with formulating our own independent advice or opinion based on our findings and analysis.

Brief meetings (varies from in-person, video or phone conferencing depending on whether working from home or in office) are generally held at the beginning of each task to understand the context and issues better. Smaller meetings are also held sporadically throughout the week for progress updates, feedback, or to seek more clarification. Sometimes, we might be lucky and participate in an internal meeting with other senior officers across the nation to discuss the issue in much more depth.

When and how did you tell your employer about your disability?

I always make sure to tell my managers about my hearing disability as soon as I am assigned to their team – whether it is in person or via email. This ensures that my managers are aware of the limitations that may hinder my ability to perform my role fully.

Prior to commencing employment, when notified of my position with my employer, I also notified my HR manager about my disability.

I think it is extremely important to continuously communicate to employers about any disability before beginning employment/a new role. This prevents complications, misunderstandings and unnecessary stress from arising during employment.

How has your disability impacted on your work?

The biggest obstacle is dealing with telephony roles or communication.

During the graduate program, we were placed in a short-term ‘service delivery’ rotation which involves taking calls made to the ATO. I was given special ‘noise-cancelling’ headsets to help me hear better. Despite the headsets, I still had a lot of trouble trying to comprehend what the client was saying due to the inability to lipread over the phone and its low-clarity noise.

I communicated my troubles to my employer/HR and was fortunate enough to be placed back into my former business rotation as a case officer. Despite not making it through the entire service delivery role placement, I was proud that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and rose to the challenge.

Other adjustments include requesting to do video calls when meeting with my team. When not feasible, and call conference is used, I usually follow up with my managers or supervisors on any details I might have missed. These ‘adjustments’ include taking the initiative and communicating my concerns to my managers beforehand.

What three pieces of advice would you give other students with disabilities?

  1. Inform your employer as soon as you can about your disability and continuously do so.
  2. If comfortable, make sure people you connect with are aware of your disability. It helps if you trust a good colleague/friend that understands disability and can help you out when you need.
  3. Don’t let your disability stop you from challenging yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Be proud of who you are and what you can do.