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Self Help Workplace at Youngtown

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I wish to speak today about an organisation in my electorate which has been making a positive difference in our community for more than a half a century, the SelfHelp Workplace at Youngtown.

In 1962 a group of parents wanted to ensure that there were work opportunities for their children when they became adults. From that one idea and a group of loving parents, SelfHelp Workplace was born. In those days it was operated from a house in Amy Road, Newstead. In 2015 it is a big enterprise providing 52 adults with disabilities with work and contributing directly to Tasmania's economic and social wellbeing.

SelfHelp Workplace has several business units: Prime Timber Production, Plenty Catering, Bus Hire, Encore Clothing and Merit Commercial Solutions. Prime Timber Production makes items such as pallets, survey pegs, garden stakes, produce bins and customised packing crates.

Merit Commercial Solutions provides services such as mail-outs, photocopying, printing, stapling, spiral binding, paper shredding and guillotining, assembly of items including boxes and folders, needlework, sewing and data entry.

Plenty Catering and Hire operates out of the organisation's fully-licensed commercial kitchen and offers delicious morning and afternoon teas and lunches. This service is used by many corporate business clients across greater Launceston.

SelfHelp also has a 24-seat bus available for casual hire to not-for-profit groups and community organisations.

Encore Clothing sells top quality preloved clothing at affordable prices. Before sale the clothes go through a strict cleaning process and each item is later ironed and put on the rack to be sold. It is a testament to the professionalism of SelfHelp that they have innovated this part of the business by adding Encore Evenings, where customers can shop outside normal hours and enjoy some nibbles and treats while they do. A shoppers' loyalty program is connected to this to encourage repeat business. Op shops have become a major feature of retail across greater Launceston. I congratulate SelfHelp for the hard work they are putting in to make the retail experience joyful, particularly affordable, and comfortable for clients.

More than half of SelfHelp Workplace's income is derived from the sale of commercial goods and services, making them an important contributor to our Tasmanian economy.

One of the other important features of the organisation is its focus on helping employees develop independent living skills. The organisation's life skills program covers areas including cooking, literacy, gardening, and both personal and work hygiene. The program is well supported by a number of philanthropic organisations.

In 2012 SelfHelp Workplace gave eight employees life membership. At the time, that group had accumulated 308 hours of service between them. Donna Bain , who has been the general manager since 2009, says the employees are the heart and soul of the organisation. She describes them as highly valued, loyal and extremely hardworking. She loves her job because of the incredible qualities those employees show her every day.

SelfHelp Workplace is regularly fundraising to support its operations. It has a biennial fundraiser dinner and the next one is in 2016. Donations and requests are welcome. It also applies for a range of grants to enable it to do its important work. In the next year SelfHelp Workplace will seek funding for a pilot employee assistance program which aims to support the mental wellbeing of employees, including their immediate family. This service will be free, and will enable staff to receive up to six one-hour counselling sessions in a 12-month period. Sessions will be confidential and meet the ethical standards of Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australasia counsellors. It will also aim to further develop the commercial side of the business, to employ more people with a disability, and also move across to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In closing, I refer to the SelfHelp Workplace vision and mission statements, which talk about empowering and celebrating the work of people with disabilities. It is about putting the focus back on ability, and celebrating the individual's contribution and their potential. Empowering others is one of the most important things we can do in our lives. I warmly congratulate SelfHelp Workplace at Youngtown for more than half a century of serving the Launceston community with great distinction.

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