Old home hosts new opportunities for job seekers and people with disability

Tuesday 8 December 2015

A community project in Mount Gambier, South Australia, is transforming an historic property into a future respite holiday home for people with disabilities and their families, while also providing work experience for ten local Work for the Dole participants.

The restoration work is undertaken by a group of enthusiastic job seekers, who are assisted by local volunteers and a trained supervisor. The participants are learning a range of new skills and contributing to their community along the way.

The run-down, 100 year old house was owned but unused by Bedford Phoenix, a not-for-profit community organisation which provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  Bedford approached local jobactive providers Job Prospects to establish the maintenance and restoration project as a Work for the Dole activity.

The historic house in Mt Gambier, owned by Bedford Phoenix is being restored by the Work for the Dole participants.
The historic house in Mt Gambier, owned by Bedford Phoenix is being restored by the Work for the Dole participants.

Job seekers are learning specific trade skills and transferable workplace abilities such as problem solving, working independently, communication skills and team work. As they complete each stage of the renovation and learn new skills their confidence and motivation grows.

A young job seeker, Chris Fletcher, was not able to find work straight after completing his Certificate II in construction so Job Prospects suggested the building restoration programme. ‘The project was right up my alley. Once I started I got straight into it,’ Chris says. 

Six weeks later Chris found a job at the local timber mill and credits the Work for the Dole experience saying, ‘The work at Bedford House gave me an idea of what the workforce was actually like. Work hard, don’t complain and just get on with it.’

Chris is still keen to find work in the construction industry but at the moment is happy to be working. ‘I’m just concentrating on saving up, and hopefully moving to a place of my own.’

Bedford Work for the Dole Supervisor Shane Constable understands what the participants are going through — he himself was looking for work with help from Job Prospects in 2014. A change of career from a physically demanding job in the mines saw Shane undertake an employment pathway and further study that led to a career as a supervisor on Work for the Dole activities.

Shane has built an excellent rapport with the participants and praised the work attendance, enthusiasm, and cooperation of the group. He said the participants are resourceful, and achieve great work on a daily basis. ‘Working as part of a team and having consideration for their work mates has been the main stand out,’ said Shane.

Transformation of the house is expected to take a year to complete and should be ready for the first visitors to move into in late 2016.

Photo of plaster stripped back around a fire place
The walls being restored

Photo of some men replacing timber supports
The floor being replaced