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Jobs drive by a not-for-profit company transforms a community

April 18, 2014

Jim Dunne works for Ability Enterprises at a waste management site at Toowoomba. Source: News Corp Australia

Jim Dunne works for Ability Enterprises at a waste management site at Toowoomba. Source: News Corp Australia


A TOOWOOMBA community push to create jobs for people on disability pensions has seen a business that is just a year old provide employment and renewed hope for its 34-strong workforce.

Ability Enterprises is a 12-month-old labour hire company responsible for operating 13 waste management sites in the Toowoomba area.

The not-for-profit business, formed after a decision by Toowoomba council to recognise social impact in a waste procurement tender, was formed with the backing of a $163,000 four-year loan from Sydney-based Social Ventures Australia which has a $9 million social impact fund.

Jim Dunne said his employment with Ability, after a period of being unemployed and homeless, meant he was no longer receiving Centrelink payments and had a renewed sense of confidence.

“I had a rough patch and lived out of my car for 12 months. The Ability team helped me get back the confidence that I can survive in the workforce again. They’re a great team.”

Sarah Bregonje, Ability’s receptionist, said her employment with Ability had allowed her to set new goals.

“It’s allowed me to set dreams that would be unreasonable if I wasn’t working. Now part of my goal is to save for a house.

“I also really value that if I’m having a bad day, I’ve got two fantastic managers to talk to and there’s great support there,” Ms Bregonje said.

SVA associate director Mark Peacock said Ability Enterprises was a terrific example of how governments could leverage their supply chains for a greater social impact.

It is estimated that Ability Enterprises in a year has generated savings for the federal government, through reduced pension claims, of close to $540,000, with additional savings to the Queensland Government from reduced healthcare and housing costs.

“With all the talk around the federal government budget being squeezed and reviewing the disability support pension, this is a nice model for how to address those challenges,” Mr Peacock said.

“It moves the dial on the conversation so it’s no longer focused on people on disabilities being a burden on the budget and instead it focuses on the opportunity for job creation.”

Mr Peacock said the Federal Government could itself look at driving more such job creation through scaling up social procurement clauses within its contracts or by encouraging state and local governments to encourage businesses such as Ability Enterprises.


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