Open for business
The organisation formerly known as PRA launched Enterpraise over at Warwick Farm in 1993. This program was based on a work-crew model as a bridge to self-employment and rehabilitation for people who have mental health issues. Through this first initiative many people were eased back into the workforce with commercial contracts in gardening, maintenance and home improvement services in South West Sydney.
In 1996, PRA purchased a building at West Ryde for the purposes of running a supported packaging workshop. Later branded as Prestige Packing, our first ever production line soon won a lucrative deal with Optus that ensured it would be viable. That same year PRA also launched Re-Employ, a specialist labour market employment agency in Liverpool, and also opened Prestige Binding, a small book-binding business in Harris Park that produced calendars, diaries, albums, technical handbooks and other related products.
In addition to its service-based programs and projects, PRA went on to develop its role as an employer for a rapidly growing workforce. Adopting a sound business model has allowed us to be competitive within the open market to this day. Prestige Packing and Enterpraise have both become increasingly lucrative businesses, and together they provide a valuable service both to the community and corporate sector.
What’s in a name?
The term “sheltered workshop” had been acceptable to use during the early years of PRA in the 1950s, but that was a very different era. Gradually, this particular term came to be considered patronising and stigmatising, especially now that modern concepts like psychosocial rehabilitation philosophy had taken root. Today’s accepted description is tomorrow’s offensive slur, it seems. For a time, PRA simply dropped the “sheltered” part of “sheltered workshop,” and that tided people over for a while.
Later on, after consultation with our paying clients and the employees who do all the work on the factory lines, PRA decided to use the new name “PRA Industries.” This rebranding was soon eclipsed by “Prestige Packing Co.,” and our “rehabilitees” were soon known as “employees,” as they deserve.
For those of you who’ve been around longer than five minutes, you’ll know that our organisation has been called RichmondPRA for some time now. More importantly, the people we employ will always be known as “employees,” rather than a synonym for “mentally ill” like in the past. Panorama magazine knows the dark power of stigma and discrimination, and the last thing people with mental health issues need is to have more unhelpful labels pinned to their chests.
But does something as small as a name really matter? To all the people concerned with our business services, both employees and business customers, the answer is a resounding YES.
In order to re-educate the public and counter the common stigma faced by those of us with mental health issues, as well as to remain consistent with future changes in philosophy and business practices, RichmondPRA will continue to adapt and innovate how we play our part in the lives of the employees.
RichmondPRA receives government funding to help with our mission, but the proceeds from our business services (such as the factory lines and other supported programs) is a second essential source of income that helps to run our drop-in centres, provide subsidised accommodation and to support families and carers when things get tough.