By Sue O’Rourke
Pictured: Nancy, one of our hard-working Conference Centre Assistants
Figtree Conference Centre provides employment for people living with mental health issues. Panorama asked Sue O’Rourke to tell us about how they manage to keep recovery front and centre while remaining competitive and allowing employees to become the best they can be.
SUE: I get so excited about social enterprise because it is a win/win for everyone. From the perspective of the public, when people buy a product or a service, more and more they want a social impact with their purchase.
From the perspective of our employees, there is nothing like a job to give you an authentic experience of social inclusion and community participation.
When we recruit, we consider everyone who puts their name forward. Our main selection criteria is that working with Figtree will make a real difference to the employee. It will enable them to be the best they can be.
For some employees, it means stepping up to take on a new role in employment that is more challenging than where they are now. For other employees, that means having open employment as their goal. When new employees identify this as their goal, working at Figtree gives them something that is really authentic to put on their resumes!
Figtree conference centre assistants (from left): Nancy, Sandra, Liza, Mark, Deonny
Recovery is the most important thing we do at Figtree – it is a vehicle, if you like, for allowing people to develop confidence in themselves. It is a strengths based workplace.
I like to give employees the freedom to support one another with their mental health issues, and that is exactly what they do. Even during their breaks, employees will share their own life experience in ways that help their colleagues. That is the basis of all peer work.
Figtree Conference Centre operates slightly differently to other venues behind the scenes. Really, though it really just boils down to an extra investment in staff.
For example, we are able to take into account the individual needs of employees who are living with mental health issues. This can relate to medication, their need to attend appointments, their need for particular shift times, and so forth.
One of the things that has made it easier for me to coordinate is that we have recently taken on Fiona Thistlethwaite, which has been a really good step. Fiona’s role is to take care of the day to day supervision, working side by side with our food and beverage attendants, and overseeing their work in the kitchen. Fiona has a background in teaching, which is handy. It means we can have the benefit of more intensive, measurable training, linked to learning outcomes for all the employees.
Above: Sue O’Rourke in front, flanked by Linda, Sandra and Deonny
We are able to make it fair and balanced while allowing for employees to rotate between different aspects of the business. With the support we provide we know we can have high expectations.
The continuation of Figtree relies on us being a competitive business. Physically, we have such a versatile space that can accommodate many different types of events, but we all know our service has to be exceptional and that we can’t compromise.
Commercially, the sign of success is repeat business, and repeat business is what we get. We already have some big events booked into 2018.
Figtree Conference Centre is located at 5 Figtree Drive, Sydney Olympic Park, 2127
You can call them on (02) 9393 9000