Jobs boon in all-inclusive plan

CEO Ability Works Sue Boyce with Selba Gondoza-Luka founder of Afri-Aus Care.

by Sahar Foladi

Community organisations are striving to create Melbourne’s first all-inclusive workplace facility in Dandenong.

The project partnering Afri-Aus Care and Ability Works could create a $34 million economic benefit, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The benefit includes secure employment for Afri-Aus Care ‘Mamas’ who face many barriers.

Founder and chief executive officer of the organisations, Selba Gondoza-Luka said this facility would be a great pathway for employment.

“I’ve been looking for a facility like this. This will be fabulous.

“It’ll be closer to the mamas, they don’t have to travel far.

“The South-East is a growth corridor for marginalised people no matter where they come from.”

Ability Works is an organisation which supports people with disabilities into employment.

Its chief executive Sue Boyce said many factors contributed to the decision for an all-inclusive workplace especially in Dandenong.

“We wanted to move into more inclusive and diverse environment from just disability because the community attitudes are changing.

“Segregated workplaces for people with disability was okay in the past but the community are now giving messages that this is not okay,” she said.

“A more diverse workplace is more appropriate.”

As a result, the local social enterprise underwent an overhaul to meet its goal of being culturally appropriate.

If secured, the all-inclusive workplace facility will be open to employ anyone from marginalised communities from any background, language and race.

PwC conducted a cost-benefit analysis and found such a facility would create around 100 new jobs and lead to a whopping $34 million benefit over 15 years, far outweighing the $10 million it would cost to build it.

Ability Works is urgently seeking funds to carry this ground-breaking project.

Ms Gondoza-Luka is also hopeful that City of Greater Dandenong will support this project.

“The City of Greater Dandenong Council is a very great city council.

“No matter if the mayor and councillors change, they have the community at heart.

“I know if we get this facility the council will be in full support.”

Rita Padang, one of the mamas at Afri-Aus Care, is a Dandenong resident and a single mother of seven who migrated to Australia 20 years ago.

Confronting a lack of employment pathways and barriers such as not speaking English, Ms Padang is one example out of many who struggle to find employment despite trying their best to “fit-in.”

“It’s hard for me as a single mother of seven children.

“I struggled to maintain my life.

“In 2006 I worked as teacher aide. I’ve been trying my best to fit in but it’s hard with the children.”

With a seven-month-old baby in her arm when she first arrived from a refugee camp in Kenya to Australia, she pushed herself to English classes and has done well.

She worked as a teacher in her country but sadly could not continue her career here.

She has completed her diploma in children’s services and a Certificate IV in Ageing support through the help of organisations like Afri-Aus Care.

“I’m very supported because now we work with Selba, she gives us a lot of opportunities and short courses,” Ms Padang said.

“It’s good for us to unite as a community in our centre as a multicultural organisation. We have Australians, Vietnamese, Afghans, Somalian, Sudanese and much more.”

Ms Padang now works at Ability Works, part-time on call.

The partnership came about when Ability Works invited the Mamas to work at its manufacturing facility in Kew.

Despite the distance, the Mamas found it a great experience. It also allowed Ability Works to work closely with Afri-Aus Care and better understand the CALD communities in Greater Dandenong.

A research paper launched last year in partnership with RMIT looked at the ways that the social enterprise could breakdown barriers to employment in the highly multicultural area, as reported previously by Star Journal.