What sets the CoAct network of employment services providers apart is our focus on community. We are a network of locally-embedded providers, with a shared, genuine desire to give back to the communities in which we are based. Social enterprise is just one way our members can engage directly with the people in their local area, and as this example from Queensland-based member, IMPACT, shows it can also be a way to directly address unemployment and social disadvantage…
IMPACT Community Services has been delivering support services in Bundaberg since 1978. When the not-for-profit organisation decided to invest in a social enterprise, the project was undertaken with a clear focus on IMPACT’s vision: ‘To lead the community in pioneering improved life opportunities’.
“Bundaberg is a labour market with higher than average unemployment, and in this environment, people with a disability or mental illness face an uphill struggle to find and sustain employment"
“Bundaberg is a labour market with higher than average unemployment, and in this environment, people with a disability or mental illness face an uphill struggle to find and sustain employment in a supportive environment that is responsive to their individual needs,” explains Chief Executive,Tanya O’Shea. “We wanted to lead by example by creating employment opportunities for people with disability and mental illness and assist them live, grow and prosper.”
“We wanted to lead by example by creating employment opportunities for people with disability and mental illness and assist them live, grow and prosper.”
After piloting a number of social enterprise opportunities, in 2014 IMPACT’s Board elected to invest in a domestic, commercial and industrial laundry service. IMPACT purchased an existing business premises (Peg & Iron) in Bundaberg, and took over operations, rebranding the enterprise as New Image Laundry (NIL).
Since that time, NIL has grown from processing 1.5 tons of laundry per month, to 11 tons per month. With the help of the initiative, 19 former job seekers have progressed along their employment pathway and currently 7 of the 9 staff working at NIL are people with a disability or mental illness. The Laundry project has also attracted community-in-kind donations of nearly $100,000.
As Cody, a current NIL employee, explains, the initiative is helping to provide jobs in an area where they can be hard to come by. “I was working seasonal shifts on a farm and when that stopped I needed to find a job,” recalls Cody. “Everyone at IMPACT has been really helpful and I love my job here at the laundry.”
NIL has now outgrown its existing premises and has purchased a block of land upon which a new laundry will be built. “Our vision of creating a new laundry is now a reality; one with significantly more employment pathways for people with disability and mental illness, with state of the art machinery and a Career Development Centre dedicated to empowering and supporting our workers to be the best they can be and wash away the stigma of disability and mental illness,” says Tanya.
"A Career Development Centre dedicated to empowering and supporting our workers to be the best they can be and wash away the stigma of disability and mental illness”
Over the next five years, by increasing NIL’s production volumes and upgrading its equipment, IMPACT will create an estimated 25 full-time equivalent positions for people with a disability and mental illness. The new facility will create multiple opportunities for workers to gain a range of skills across a variety of positions, including: delivery driver, laundry worker, administration, purchasing, maintenance and sanitation/cleaning. Career progression advice and personal development plans for staff will also be provided through an integrated onsite Career Development Centre.
The Career Development Centre will be a welcoming space where workers can study, meet with mentors, take part in courses and meet with a Career Development Officer (CDO). The CDO will work with the employees to assess their current needs and supports, and help them to create a My Future Plan. The Plan will document the employee’s goals and aspirations, and set out a strategy to achieve these over a given time. Ultimately, the plans will concentrate on eliminating barriers to employment and developing a range of transferable skills applicable for the local labour market.
The CDC will be an integral part of laundry life. It will be an environment that promotes learning and development and employees will also be allowed time to concentrate on their career and have a dedicated amount of time and space to work.
“We’re extremely proud of what we’ve achieved to date, and the response from the wider Bundaberg community,” says Tanya. “We’ve now enlisted a local design company to help finalise the design for our new building and to facilitate the construction negotiations. We are on track to open the new laundry in December, all while still maintaining operations at our existing location. It’s a very exciting time.”
“By offering meaningful work, fair conditions and supporting individuals to achieve their goals, we genuinely believe we can go some way to improving the long-term economic participation for people with a disability and/or mental illness. We want to create a more socially inclusive region, in which people who have previously experienced significant disadvantage can become independent, healthier and re-engage with their community.”
"We want to create a more socially inclusive region, in which people who have previously experienced significant disadvantage can become independent, healthier and re-engage with their community.”