A new cafe that has opened at a busy hub in the heart of Wollongong is serving up much more than a mean cup of coffee, it’s also delivering greater employment opportunities for people with disabilities and creating a more inclusive city.
Brewing Up A Storm Cafe is now caffeinating council workers, serving up sweets for library-goers and providing a bite for those seeking customer service at Wollongong City Council’s administration building.
The coffee shop supported by Greenacres Disability Services is the third of its kind in the Illawarra, helping workers living with disabilities to find meaningful employment and build their hospitality skills.
Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou said the different approach to supported work also helps employees connect with their local community.
“It’s yet another example of how we’re changing what we’ve done in the past and moving to other job settings, and particularly job settings where people with disabilities can engage with the public and develop their skills in a different work environment,” he said.
Brewing Up A Storm supported employee Luke Huska has worked at a number of cafes before and become a jack of all trades in the hospitality business.
“I take orders from customers and sometimes make coffee for them, cleaning up and also refilling the break rooms upstairs,” he said.
Luke’s favourite part of his job is speaking with friendly customers, so he’s excited to get started in such a bustling location.
“Just being busy and meeting friendly people and also getting some new experiences.”
But despite his skills, Luke’s not ready to be pigeonholed in the industry just yet.
“I’m hoping to try some other workplaces in the future like some graphic designing and also maybe working in retail and stuff.”
And different opportunities could be coming Luke’s way, as the cafe is designed to also be a springboard for future employment and help employers recognise the potential of these workers.
“This is one of the challenges that a lot of people with disabilities face, particularly people who might have some mild or moderate intellectual disabilities, there aren’t a lot of opportunities because a lot of mainstream employers never think about employing a person with a disability,” Mr Christodoulou said.
“We see this as a bit of a pathway, I have no problem whatsoever if a cafe saw one of our baristas and said ‘you know what, we’d like to offer you a job’, that’s probably even better than us being able to support them like this.”
Wollongong City Council Acting General Manager Kerry Hunt was thrilled to have activation and vibrancy back in the building’s foyer.
“The opportunity with Greenacres adds a whole additional value in terms of providing pathways to employment for people living with disability and it also demonstrates Council’s commitment to an inclusive and accessible community,” Ms Hunt said.
She said the partnership with Greenacres is another positive step towards Wollongong becoming more inclusive, which is set to improve even further with the Council’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan.
“Everything from participation in community life to ensuring that our infrastructure is accessible and appropriate for people with varying needs to be able to move around and participate in the community.”