Story and photos Melissa Hargraves
The disability employment sector has received a major boost after Lismore City Council (LCC) awarded a tender for sorting operations at its Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) to the House with No Steps (HWNS).
The organisation won the tender ahead of other locally based organisations Multitask and On Track Community Programs.
HWNS is based in Alstonville. It has more than 40 years’ experience operating businesses in the local area and employs more than 500 people with a disability.
Executive general manager businesses, Brett Lacey, told Echonetdaily that LCC should be commended for its commitment to employment of people with disabilities.
‘It is exciting that Lismore City Council have committed to a model that supports the employment of people with a disability,’ Mr Lacey said. ‘We are looking forward to partnering with them on this project.
‘More importantly though, it is what it means for those employed: security, purpose and genuine integration into a regular, respected work environment.’
Mr Lacey said HWNS was well placed to win the tender because of its diverse experience.
‘Experience in diverse businesses will support the establishment and ongoing operation of this project,’ he said.
Businesses include commercial grounds maintenance, macadamia and avocado orchards, hydroponic tomatoes, fruit packing, macadamia dehusking, retail nursery and grocer, and the cafe and function centre.
‘Experience in our other locations and businesses will add further expertise. These include our recycling, medical packaging, engineering, laundry and biscuit manufacturing enterprises,’ Mr Lacey said.
‘The tender will provide employment for eight people with a disability and one or two supervisors.’
Employment for someone with a disability is often underestimated, said Mr Lacey.
‘It provides a sense of purpose, an understanding that what they are doing is important to and valued by others, and that their business can compete to the same standards as any other in the marketplace,’ he said.
‘Employment also provides a fantastic social network, and is a conduit to many other community opportunities and in many cases independence.’
The two-year tender will provide much-needed security for HWNS as many of its businesses are seasonally based, which can cause challenges in providing ongoing employment.
‘Managing a labour force around this is difficult, and in our case expensive, as we continue to employ people with a disability and supervisors over the quiet times when we are not generating sales,’ Mr Lacey said.
‘Having a consistent and predictable work flow that is contract based will provide added surety for HWNS and also stability for the workforce.’
Mr Lacey said the organisation appreciated the support from the northern rivers community.
‘We also have a gift shop, mini-golf, water park, and farm-gate tractor tour. We attract more than 150,000 visitors to the site annually, and we certainly appreciate the community support we receive across the far north coast.’
LCC has almost completed the building of the MRF, which will process around 15,000 tonnes of recyclables each year.
The MRF will use state-of-the-art systems and equipment to recover recyclables from the yellow-topped bin and from recycling drop-off centres.
All plastics, glass, paper, cardboard, aluminium and steel products are separated and baled at the MRF.
The baled recycled materials are then used locally, interstate and overseas to make new products, consequently saving energy, resources and greenhouse gases.
The glass sand will be used locally in road projects. To find out more about HWNS go to http://www.summerlandhousefarm.com.au/. To find out more about the MRF go to http://www.northernriverswaste.com.au/.