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Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) play a valuable role in providing employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities across Australia. It is important to understand that ADEs operate within a commercial context. Currently, ADEs provide employee assistance to approximately 20,000 people with moderate to severe disabilities.
Lasercraft was founded in 1987 with the aim of providing long term supported employment for individuals with disabilities. At a time disability services were not readily available, Lasercraft developed a program to provide training and support to employees.
Today, Lasercraft is proud to have trained and supported hundreds of individuals with disabilities, making a genuine difference in their lives, but also of their carers. Many companies have no real understanding of the social impact doing business with an ADE has in the community.
To try to answer the most asked questions we interviewed Lauren Richardson, Program Coodinator at Lasercraft.
Lauren’s credentials are very impressive. She has 21 years experience in the disability sector and worked for 5 years in Community Participation programs while she was completing a double degree in Teaching and Social Science. She worked in Special Education for 8 years before being appointed as the Lasercraft Program Coordinator 8 years ago. Lauren’s knowledge of the supported employment sector combined with her experience in working with people with disabilities enables her to view the benefit to the community from a special position.
Why should I use an Australian Disability Enterprise?
When buying from Australian Disability Enterprises people are buying products that are handmade in Australia. This makes a positive impact on the Australian economy and the lives of workers.
What benefit do the employees get from working there?
Australian Disability Enterprises provide some of our most vulnerable people a safe place where they can gain a sense of self-worth by completing productive work each day. Supported Employees at Lasercraft have a heightened sense of self-worth which we see through comments like “I work 5 days just like my brother and Dad”.
They have access to community and social events including:
- Morning tea outing to local cafes
- Celebration day morning tea e.g Easter and Melbourne Cup
- Employee lunches where the efforts of individuals are publicly recognised
- An annual social day out
- End of year celebrations and award presentations
What would supported employees be doing if they didn’t work there?
Without a safe workplace, individuals with disabilities would rely completely on community outing experiences. Other work options include working in factories and production lines where their efforts may not be recognised. Individuals could also face bullying if there are in an environment which does not encourage protection. Those who do not qualify for funding for community activities would stay at home and have their abilities limited, which would lead to stagnation of their development skills.
What about the quality of the products? After all, your supported employees have disabilities.
Our products are made by individuals with disabilities who are supported by a skilled and qualified professional who ensure products are of the highest standard for all customers. All supported employees are given skills training and in most cases, they become competent tradespeople in their own right.
Is it just the supported employees that benefit?
The whole community benefits from purchasing products which have been made by people who work at Lasercraft or any ADE. It increases manufacturing locally and strengthens local business structures.
Carers and the community
Carers of individuals with disabilities are a special group of professionals. Their job of being full-time carers is made more rewarding by supporting people who have goals and are motivated for life. By providing meaningful employment to those with a disability, mental health and motivation for life is increased. Thus, generating a flow-on effect for all others in contact with them.
Where does the profit go?
As Lasercraft is a not-for-profit organisation, all profits generated go back into supporting individuals with disabilities, allowing us to increase work opportunities and expanding our workforce.
Are my taxes paying for this?
Taxes are not paying for this. We are a not-for-profit disability employment service and are funded through sales made from product purchases. People with disabilities have their individual funding packages through the NDIS which provides them with personalised support, allowing them to live their lives and achieve set goals. Certain funding comes from individuals to provide them with the support they require to maintain their jobs.
Shah has been working at Lasercraft for over 2 years. He discovered Lasercraft after not being able to maintain his previous job even with a supportive manager and employment provider.
His Coordinator of Support heard of Lasercraft then brought our service to the attention of Shah and his family. Shah has been able to receive many benefits of working here at Lasercraft; personal value, friendships, continuous learning, social skills, and a sense of purpose.
Shah and his family appreciate Lasercraft’s open, accessible, caring, and professional staff.
Thank you to Shah and his family for giving us information on their experience with Lasercraft Australia.
Lasercraft Australia is a Not for Profit, Australian Disability Enterprise that specialises in high quality, Australian made recognition awards and recognition programs.