Having a job provides people with a sense of purpose, hope and dignity, writes Jessica Mewburn. For over 40 years the wmbMailpaQ printing, packaging and mailing warehouse has offered thousands of people living with disability this opportunity.
“To get here I leave home at 6.30 am and catch two buses and push my wheelchair to the warehouse and to get home I catch a bus and a train and push more than a kilometre,” says longtime employee David Diehm, “I do a lot of packing, mailing, envelopes—labelling is my favourite,” he adds.
“You’d think after 34 years I could be put on that station every day—but it doesn’t work like that! We’re all equal here; we don’t talk about our personal problems or health issues. We take our work seriously and then have fun during our breaks and down times.”
As part of Wesley Mission Brisbane’s Employment and Training Services, wmbMailpaQ operates in Rocklea as an Australian Disability Enterprise with the core mission to provide a supported workplace for people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to gain employment in the mainstream workforce.
“Employment not only provides a means of additional income for many of our employees, it promotes self-esteem, confidence and importantly provides an extended social network. Many of these guys meet up for tenpin bowling and parties outside of work,” says warehouse manager Greg Ryan.
“While you and I might be able to decide to have a career change tomorrow, for this group of people that’s not an option. They need a bit of support in the workplace which is why this model is so successful.”
Working like a well-oiled machine, everyone on the warehouse floor knows their roles for the day—their individual goals—and together they form a cohesive and capable production line, busily meeting the needs of their growing corporate clientele.
With them since the program’s conception, warehouse worker Terry Lennon’s mother recalls the limited supported employment opportunities available to him after finishing school and before finding his place in the mailing and packing warehouse.
“That he has been able to engage in meaningful work and to have a degree of independence has meant such a great deal to him and his family,” she says. “We are extremely grateful to Wesley Mission Brisbane and its management for the care, concern and the opportunities that have been afforded Terry to enable him to have a working life.”
Manager Greg Ryan concurs, “It’s rewarding to know that we are part of a workplace that fosters difference and acceptance.”
For more information visit wmb.org.au