A new partnership between two Canberra businesses is leading to meaningful employment for people with disabilities.
The initiative is part of disability employment services company LEAD’s mission to connect people with a disability with employment.
Initially, LEAD’s resource team operations manager, Jeff Thompson, came up with the idea for workers to be employed as couriers for Farrah’s Liquor Collective. After approaching owner Matt Farrah, the program was kick-started.
Jeff says it’s not about charity, but rather about creating a mutually beneficial partnership with business.
“At the end of the day, Matt from Farrah’s had a problem that needed a solution, and we were able to provide that solution,” he says.
Jeff says his team members have felt thoroughly supported in their new roles, and have been warmly welcomed.
“Matt is really engaged with our guys and they are a very active, small team, much like us,” he says.
“Sure, we have had a couple of funny moments like at the beginning when a bottle of $300 whiskey had to be delivered to a customer. While Matt wasn’t overly concerned about the delivery, we were a little bit stressed about that bottle ending up in the right hands.”
Matt says since the beginning of the partnership with the LEAD team, the initiative has been going fantastically well.
“It was Jeff who came in and approached me with his idea to employ his team of workers with disabilities,” he says. “While it wasn’t something I’d even been considering, the more he talked me through his plan, the more I thought it sounded like a good idea.
“As our business grows, we will be able to offer increased employment opportunities as well.”
The Farrah’s Liquor Collective team is quite particular about ensuring deliveries are done with a friendly face and personal contact, a key criteria as it moved to outsourcing deliveries.
“All of our clients were really responsive and happy to hear about what we’re doing, which was heartwarming to hear,” says Matt.
Jeff says the biggest barrier facing people with a disability is a lack of education and understanding, usually from both sides.
“People with disabilities are always interested in work, and employers are, for the most part, willing to take someone on,” he says. “Then it’s just a bit of training for both sides, which is where we come in.”
LEAD will sometimes help a business adjust its model to make it more accessible to people with a disability, and the company also provides workplace training – such as customer service or how to work on a jobsite – for those who are seeking employment with them.
Jeff says the workers he has helped place with Farrah’s Liquor Collective are often those who might have high-level autism or something similar, and for who full-time everyday employment may not be an option. With a courier role, they get to go out with a driver and support worker to assist.
Now there’s a group of four people who split the work across five days.
“A couple are school leavers who hadn’t previously been employed so it’s been very exciting for them,” says Jeff.
LEAD has been in operation in Canberra for more than 30 years, and has come from humble beginnings – a kitchen in Belconnen with six parents and their sons with disabilities who wanted to get jobs out in the community.
“It was the 1980s and lots of changes were happening in the sector,” says Jeff. “Since then, we’ve continued to grow the program and we now have around 100 people employed with us, while we support another 400 in jobs out in the community.”
For Jeff, it’s often been a case of knocking on the right doors and asking the right people at the right time for a chance to partner with them.
Now the partnership with Farrah’s Liquor Collective is looking like it will be a long one.
Farrah’s Liquor Collective turns two at the end of July, and is having a three-day sale to celebrate. Keep an eye on the Farrah’s Liquor Collective Facebook page for more details, and check out the online store, which offers free delivery to Canberra, Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra.