Thursday, 26 June 2008
Bass Electorate: CHOOSE Cafe
I had the absolute pleasure of opening a new cafe in Launceston on 11 June called CHOOSE Cafe. Let me first say how delighted I am that the partnership that exists between Choice Employment and the Queen Victorian Museum and Art Gallery has been allowed to blossom in Launceston. I would like to acknowledge the O Group, the Launceston City Council and of course Choice Employment. And blossom it has, from humble beginnings with seed funding from the Tasmanian Community Fund and a relatively small operation at Royal Park to what is now CHOOSE Cafe.
The CHOOSE Cafe that we celebrate today is a seven-day-a-week operation. It employs people with support needs and disabilities; but more than that it actively promotes that fact. The enthusiasm and passion of those at Choice Employment is evident. I would like to acknowledge the support of their general manager, Grant Coker-Williams, and also Scott Robson and Joy. Not only have their efforts, supported by the community and the museum and art gallery, seen two people employed under award wages, but they allow for the training and facilitation of work experience for others.
There is much to be said for any organisation in our community which seeks to break down barriers and which is open and honest and celebrates the contribution which people can make. All too often when we talk about disability services we can forget that we are talking about people who have an enormous number of abilities. CHOOSE Cafe celebrates these abilities. It highlights them, utilises them and offers them to the world to see, and that is magnificent. The Rudd government is keen to support disability service providers and organisations which celebrate those abilities to which I referred earlier.
Choice Employment is contracted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to deliver vocational rehabilitation services to job seekers in the north-east. The range of services provided is many and varied, from assisting people who, through injury, disability or illness are finding it difficult to find employment to assessing the kind of work which would be most suitable. Choice offers assistance to employers and employees alike. I am proud to be associated with this wonderful organisation and will give my support to them at any time.
The recent federal budget allocated almost $8 million for the development of a National Disability Strategy. It will provide the framework for the development of policy, legislation and service provision for people with disabilities. In order to improve access to the internet for people on low incomes, the telephone allowance will be increased for those people who receive the disability support pension. The utilities allowance will also be extended to disability support pensioners. The Rudd government has also spoken at length about social inclusion, and I am pleased to report that this is being borne out in the restructuring of employment services. We have committed almost $4 billion to improve employment services and assist people to enter employment. This will mean increased assistance for people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work, dedication and commitment of the manager of CHOOSE Cafe, Lisa Nichols, and her fantastic staff. I first met Lisa a few years ago when visiting the museum at Royal Park with my daughter. It did not take me too long to realise the passion that Lisa has for the young people in our community. Lisa has been able to pass on to these young people her incredible skills and knowledge so that they can gain the skills necessary for their life’s journey. A true success story for Lisa would have to be Matthew Viney. I first met Matt while he was working at the cafe. He was so extremely shy that he would not even look at you whilst taking your order. Now I have had the opportunity of opening two of Matt’s art exhibitions. He is a truly amazing artist. He has gained full-time employment and he is certainly not shy anymore. Matt is a remarkable young man. Having mentors like Lisa Nichols in a community is just so vitally important and I thank her for her constant commitment to these wonderful young men and women. The tapestry of our lives here in Launceston and also in Northern Tasmania is richer for the work of Choice Employment and the addition of the CHOOSE Cafe.