We’ve certainly come a long way since people with disabilities were shunned from society and put to work in sheltered workshops, and more and more we are seeing the principles of accessibility and inclusivity embraced by the wider community. Nowhere is this more evident than in Hamilton, a small town in rural Victoria. You may never have heard of it, but this forward-thinking community is leading the way when it comes to inclusiveness for people with disabilities.
One place, many possibilities
Tucked away in gorgeous western Victoria, Hamilton is located in the South Grampians. It used to be known as “The Wool Capital of the World”, but these days the town uses the tagline “Hamilton: one place, many possibilities”. With that in mind, it’s no surprise they have embraced their local disabled community, with 23 local employers partnering with disability provider Mulleraterong Centre to provide work for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Hamilton employers embrace inclusivity
Over the past eight years the program has placed over 100 people in employment, and by all accounts it has been a smashing success. Candidates include Jason Huf, a young man who has been employed by the local nursery, where he is responsible for the sorting and disposing of dead plants. Jason has been so fantastic in the role that he won the “Inclusive Employee Award” across the Southern Grampians Shire.
Local success stories lift the community
Veronica works at Glen Howell Optometrist, taking pride in her tasks and relishing the relationships she has formed with her colleagues. She is responsible for keeping all of the glasses on display clean – no easy task given the numbers of people who come into the store to try them on. Cameron works downtown at Beatties Newsagency, and his job is to keep the place tidy by dusting displays, sweeping and stacking shelves. He loves earning money and the independence it brings.
Hamilton offers a way forward
The program continues to pair compatible employers with people with a disability from the community. The participants tend to undertake short shifts once or twice a week, and are paid $8-10 an hour on average. Offering more than just a wage, the program provides people with new skills, allowing them to work independently and valuing them as contributing members of society. Already at least one family has moved to Hamilton from Melbourne on the strength of the town’s inclusive reputation alone.
The smiles on the faces of their employees says it all – Hamilton’s efforts to promote work for people with a disability from have been a resounding success. In a perfect world this humble little town will inspire others to embrace the principles of inclusivity, because the happiness and strength of a community truly lies in its diversity.