Employment opening up a world of opportunity for people with a disability

Sam MorrellHaving a job, despite the traditional Monday morning grumbles, is something the majority of the population takes for granted. Not so for people with a disability.

While we know that no job equals no income, it’s easy to overlook employment’s equally crucial role in fostering independence, self-esteem and social integration. For people like Sam Morrell, 24, working at Endeavour Foundation has opened up a wide world of opportunity.

“Working helps me to improve my communication and I like talking to people,” he said.

Sam first started working at Endeavour Foundation Industries in Burleigh in 2009 and then joined the Reedy Creek Recycle Centre when it opened in 2014 as part of the council’s City of Gold Coast Social Procurement initiative.

“My favourite thing about working at Reedy Creek is that I get to pull stuff apart, like taking the motors out of fans,” Sam said, of the organisation’s resource recovery efforts.

“I completed a Cert 1 in Warehousing Operations this year and learned lots of things I can use at work.”

Part of a large team, including volunteers, other supported employees and recycling attendants, Sam feels he has grown in ability and confidence, particularly with regard to safety, correct manual handling, customer service and working with colleagues.

While employment rates for people with a disability stand at around a disappointingly low 54 per cent, compared with 83 per cent for people without disabilities [i], Alyssa Gordon – Recycling Manager at Reedy Creek – said that people with a disability have a lot to offer in the workplace and the wider community.

“Our supported employees are highly motivated and eager to learn, doing real jobs in a real working environment,” Alyssa said.

“We know that work can provide people with a sense of purpose, an opportunity to contribute and gain skills, improve confidence and self-esteem, making it vital that we provide meaningful opportunities for people with a disability to be part of the workforce.

“We focus on what people can do – their strengths and capabilities – because we believe that it’s a critical part of an inclusive, empowering community.”

Since the opening of the Reedy Creek Recycling Drop-Off Area in March 2014, Endeavour Foundation has effectively diverted over 5,457 tonnes of recyclable materials from going to landfill. The recycle market, in turn, provides supported employment opportunities for 16 Gold Coast locals with a disability.

Describing the impact supported employment can have, Alyssa said that customers have a genuine interest in the local team and enjoy “seeing them and having a chat”.

“Customers can see, first-hand, what employment means to a person with a disability and it’s also an opportunity to change perceptions of intellectual disability. At Reedy Creek we have people of all ages and abilities, doing all different kinds of jobs and all wearing the same uniform.”

For Sam Morrell, there’s one extra reason why heading out to work puts a smile on his face.

“I’m saving up lots of money to go to New York in 2020 with my family. I’m going to see my favourite teams – the New York Knicks and the New York Jets – and I’m going to see a Broadway show. I can’t wait.”

The Recycle Markets recover good quality items which were destined to become landfill, salvaging, sorting and preparing them for sale. If you have items you no longer have a use for, you can do your bit by donating them in the drop off area, before browsing the shop to find a preloved bargain. Goods for sale include furniture, collectables, books, toys and sporting equipment and all proceeds are reinvested back into supporting people with a disability.

Reedy Creek Recycle Market is located on Hutchinson Street, at the Waste and Recycling Centre in Burleigh Heads. It opens from 8am to 4pm, Wednesday to Sunday.


[i] ABS, 4446.0 Disability (Labour Force), Australia, 2009 (May 2011).