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Buy Social: A postal partnership with social outcomes

November 20, 2015

Since 1998, staff at Mambourin Enterprises have produced 25,000 mail sorting trays every month for Australia Post. In providing stability and a meaningful job, plus long-lasting friendships for so many people, Mambourin describes their corporate partnership as ‘the perfect fit’.

Mambourin’s slogan is ‘Empowering People’. This social enterprise offers employment, education and training to adults with a disability. It works to enhance people’s independence through a pipeline: developing basic skills with training, on-the-job support, and for some, on to open employment.

Comprising packaging and assembly warehouses in Hoppers Crossing and Melton, plus a gardening and maintenance business, Mambourin provides training and employment for 57 people with a disability.

The assembly work in their warehouses is straightforward and manual: every day of the year, staff assemble and pack the long cardboard trays used by Australia Post to sort mail.

“It’s very suited to our employees, we offer on the job training and all our employees are familiar with the processes involved,” says ADE Manager Lorraine Bartolo. “Everyone’s working at their own level, although we have deadlines to meet, we understand that people have different levels of productivity and skills so we match people to the right jobs for them.”

The backbone of Mambourin

In 1998, Mambourin secured the first Australia Post contract. This direct social procurement was the very first contract for Mambourin’s social enterprise.

“It is still a perfect fit for us,” says Lorraine. “Australia Post have that social conscience, and they value the partnership that they have with us to employ people with disabilities. The contract is renewed every year.” Australia Post is also happy with the partnership, and have publically acknowledged the great work produced by Mambourin, the quality, and the ease of turnaround. “It’s just been a really positive relationship, a real success story for us. It’s almost the backbone of what we do.”

While there have been a lot of changes at Australia Post throughout the period of the contract, Mambourin sees that Australia Post’s culture and support of social enterprise has endured over the years. “Whoever we deal with at Australia Post, they are always very supportive of us continuing to supply the product for them.”

Maintaining balance between business growth and staff

The challenges of progressing a social enterprise means Mambourin must balance the ability to take on more work with training the staff to do it. Despite an extensive waiting list, Mambourin is currently unable to take on any more than 57 people because government funding is capped at this level.

“Next year our main warehouse in Hopper’s Crossing is moving to a much larger facility in Derrimut. It’s a growing industrial area, so there will be a lot more opportunity for us to connect with new customers, and create more job opportunities for people with disability. Funding will increase under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) meaning that anyone who wants to work with us can get the funding to do so, provided they meet the NDIS eligibility criteria.”

At a leadership course held in early 2015, Mambourin trained their staff to have the tools to be able to speak up for themselves and develop their confidence. A number of team leaders have emerged from the course, and Lorraine observes that many staff have flourished in confidence since then.

Building friendship and community on the job

The benefits of Mambourin’s supported employment model are evident simply by walking through their workplace. “There’s a really great vibe here,” says Lorraine. “We ensure that we meet our customer’s deadlines, whilst everyone’s working at their own individual abilities, and everyone’s very happy. Over the years you can see so many people’s confidence develop, and they start to self-advocate.”

While Mambourin once organised social events like barbecues and movie nights, employees are now organising their own social get-togethers after work. That social connection is really important to Mambourin’s mission to support independence.

“If we didn’t have disability enterprises, I think most of our employees would be sitting at home with no social connection at all. Their work is where friendships are developed. A lot of them go out together on the weekend, which makes a massive difference to their lives. That’s what we want, for our employees to be empowered and independent; it’s fantastic.”

With Australia Post being such a recognisable brand, this only reinforces the importance of their work. “Australia Post is a very meaningful customer, and when we have a deadline, everyone knuckles down to work.

“Our employees love working on the Australia Post contract, and are so proud of what they do. They all cheer when the truck turns up!”

Based in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Mambourin Enterprises offers employment, education and training to adults with a disability.

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