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Thursday, June 24, 2021

A new Avenue for Newcastle residents with a disability

Newcastle residents with a disability will soon have access to a new Avenue.

The innovative day program empowers people with a disability to make meaningful contributions through tailored work activities such as letterbox distributions, animal care, mail-outs and online order fulfilment.

Brought to the region by funding from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, Avenue is the brainchild of founder and CEO Laura O’Reilly.

“It is redefining work in a way that includes everybody,” she said.

“My brother Shane, who lived with cerebral palsy, saw himself as leaving school and, like his older siblings, going out and working.

“But, for our family it was a shock to discover that when he got to Year 12, society didn’t see him the same way.

“At Avenue, our passionate staff redesigns traditional workflows so that our program participants can contribute according to their abilities and regardless of their support needs.

“Revenue is then shared among the participants.”

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s $160,000 grant is supporting the set-up of the purpose-built site for Avenue at Warabrook.

“We’re thrilled to bring Avenue to Newcastle,” chair Jennifer Leslie said.

“We know that being able to make a meaningful contribution is so empowering and that the Avenue program will provide a rewarding alternative to recreational or therapeutic day programs for people living with a disability in the area.”

Avenue supports nearly 400 people with disability to contribute to thriving microbusinesses, socialise with team-mates and develop their individual skills.

The program is already attracting local participants, including Julie Clifton.
“There is nothing like Avenue in my area,” she said.

“I love challenges and the idea of work, so I put my name down to join.

“I am excited to build my self-confidence and put my skills to use at Avenue in Newcastle.”

Warren Bevan is also counting down to the program starting.

A former floor and wall tiler and mine employee, he’s been missing contributing to the workforce since being diagnosed with a rare illness resulting in his disability.

“I’ve done nothing for the past year as I can’t go somewhere without someone with me,” he said.

“So, I sit in front of the telly and sometimes go to the men’s shed.

“I am hoping to walk the dogs at Avenue, that’s what I’m most excited about.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting some new people, making new friends and earning some money to go on a holiday.”

Ms O’Reilly and the Charitable Foundation recently visited the future Avenue co-working site to witness its progress.

“The Avenue team is so excited to see it taking shape,” she said.

“When complete it will have a central kitchen area to prepare food and socialise in over morning tea and lunch, as well as quiet spaces, sensory rooms and fully accessible bathrooms.”

Avenue Newcastle is now taking registrations for participants and expressions of interest for partnerships from the local business community.

“We look forward to welcoming people with disability, and its first business partners, to its brand new co-working space from spring 2021,” Ms O’Reilly said.

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