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Blacktown man Greg Burke was born in an era when parents of a child with an intellectual disability had to fight tooth and nail for social inclusion.
But this month Greg has celebrated his 50th year of supported employment at Endeavour Foundation in Seven Hills. Not only that, but just last year he achieved the lifelong ambition of a pilgrimage to The Beatles UK heartland.
Greg’s brother, Dennis, says that the “enthusiastic support” of their late parents, Ed and Gwen, was key to giving the Western Sydney man the opportunities he continues to enjoy.
“Greg would be lost without the important supported employment opportunities provided by Endeavour Foundation.
“Times have changed - much for the better – but back when we were children there was very little available in respect of support for people with a disability,” Dennis said.
“Our parents became founding members of Cumberland Industries and my father a life member. They and Greg both worked hard to help in the establishment of the Leabons Lane facility at Seven Hills, where Greg continues to work to this day, now employed by Endeavour Foundation.
“Greg was always full of energy, in good health and had wide and varied interests, so it was obvious that he needed a meaningful day-time activity.
“Supported employment for Greg has meant that his individual skills have always been developing in that environment, leading to greater independence. He just loves the interaction with fellow workers and staff at Endeavour Foundation and always looks forward to the social activities that are also on offer.
“The simple act of travelling to and from work, usually in a taxi in the morning and by group mini bus in the afternoon, is an exciting activity for Greg, and he has developed a strong sense of independence. All the cab drivers know Greg and take good care of him.”
Supported employees at Endeavour Foundation Industries’ Seven Hills site are involved in a range of roles relating to pharmaceutical packaging, including tablet bottling, tablet blistering, shrink wrapping and assembly.
Greg’s role includes cleaning the tubs used in the ‘clean room’ area where pharmaceuticals are processed, as well as assembling and packing boxes.
“I have been here a very long time, but I like getting up for work. I have my breakfast and then I get a taxi here and a bus home. I like doing the tubs and the boxes – I think I have the best job,” Greg said.
“I have lots of friends and I like the social outings, Christmas parties and barbecues. It’s good to have a job.”
Welcoming an increasing drive towards social inclusion for people with a disability, Greg’s brother Dennis said that he has an excellent ‘balance’ between leisure and social activities, and his work.
“Greg shows no signs of wanting to ‘retire’ - he wouldn't know the meaning of that word - and he continues to energetically engage with work and reap all the benefits that the work provides for him,” Dennis said.
“An important part of Greg's employment history involves the hard working staff of Greg's group home in Merrylands, who have always had a strong and mutually cooperative relationship with his employers. Likewise, Endeavour Foundation has supported Greg in facilitating flexible work arrangements so that he can fit in all his other activities, like taking holidays.
“Greg was able to achieve one of his goals last year when he travelled to England to tour the many sites associated with his musical heroes - The Beatles. That was a dream come true for him and I know that it would have made our parents incredibly happy.”
Endeavour Foundation Executive General Manager of Employment Services, Stephen Mungomery, said that Greg is an ‘invaluable’ member of the Seven Hills team.
“We’re delighted to be able to celebrate this landmark anniversary, not only because of our high regard for Greg, but because it is a testament to the positive impact of supported employment,” Stephen said.
“Our excellent support staff aim to help each person reach their own goals for their working life, with an underpinning ambition to increase confidence and self-esteem.
“Some supported employees across our western Sydney sites are working to improve their communication skills and teamwork, gain a forklift licence for instance, or become a team leader. Social skills, healthy living, communication and personal management are also developed through specific training programs.
“We employ people with a disability because of their abilities and it’s our job to find out what those abilities are so they can excel in what they do.”
Disability services provider Endeavour Foundation is reaching out to the local community, offering information and support ahead of the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
With an information kiosk at Westfield Penrith from Thursday 28 until Saturday 30 July, the local Endeavour Foundation team is available to support anyone who wants to know more about the NDIS, or feels overwhelmed by the prospect of change.