Working to Live

Kara Clare and James.jpgStaff from Flourish Australia Business Services: Kara Lyons, Clare Evans and James Herbertson

By James Herbertson, Senior Manager of Flourish Australia’s community businesses. 

JAMES: Flourish Australia runs community business operations at four Sydney metropolitan sites: Marrickville, Harris Park, Warrick Farm and St Marys. We also operate a number of outreach businesses that go out to places like Menangle, south of Campbelltown, and in the last year we’ve expanded with new sites in Wagga Wagga and Leeton. Our packing plants perform a number of warehousing and factory jobs from packing and processing to shrinkwrapping and shipping. We’ve packed for some of our larger clients on a regular basis for many, many years. We have also developed a courier business that operates out of these plants, transporting paperwork for the Department of Family and Community Services. In addition to that, our lawn mowing crews have a few big contracts, including as the catchment dams south of Sydney for Water NSW, but they are also happy to come and mow your front lawn. Our cleaning services travel a fair way out on a regular basis, too. 

Potential employees need to have NDIS employment funding, but if somebody hasn’t received an NDIS package yet then we can support them in getting the right one. You also need to have a lived experience of mental health issues, and have “getting back to work” as one of your goals. 

New employees are taught everything they need to know, and there’s certainly room for advancement. A survey found that 50% of our supervisors started off in a supported employment role. We are also offering more advanced training programs: 33 people from our packaging plants recently graduated from a Certificate III in Warehousing (the full story is in Panorama 65 September 2017 – Ed). We also provide a Certificate III in Horticulture. Beyond that, we run recovery groups at our sites once per week where participants hold discussions about topics such as gaining non-specific “soft skills” that are useful in many fields (like learning how to be organised, how to deal with social situations, how to manage your finances, and so on). This means we can help people develop more than just their employment goals. 

I see our workplaces as “transitional employment”, so the ultimate goal is to support people further into community participation. If somebody says that staying with a community business is a good support for them and they’re enjoying it, that’s fine. But we would like to support as many people back into the community and into open employment as possible. 

Overall, people who engage in supported employment while they’re on the DSP will end up better off financially. If someone wants to get off the DSP (a great goal to have), we can support them in that. It can be an achievable goal. 

While we get some assistance from the government to help us support our workers, the businesses *are* businesses: that means they need to provide clients with what they paid for and make a profit while doing so. We’ve taken steps to ensure our long-term viability, and it looks like we’re in a stable position. Our long-term strategies will provide more opportunity for our workers.

Meaningful activities (like employment) have great benefits. Getting out of the house, seeing new people and just being in a different environment are all beneficial. We’ve found that people are happier when they’re busy, and working will add extra levels to your life. Having some extra money is always nice, too. 

As told to Grant J Everett

Want to know more?

Call Clare Evans on (02) 9393 9035, or email her at clare.evans@richmondpra.org.au

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