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35 years, thousands of lives changed

35 years, thousands of lives changed

3min 10sec read

Thirty-five years ago this August (2021) our first participant was placed in a job when, on her 19th birthday, Jenny McDermott started work at Hanrahans Linen Services in Albury.

The Personnel Group is a regional business success story.

Since 1986 we’ve helped thousands of people with a disability or mental health condition find meaningful work.

Thirty-five years ago this August (2021) our first participant was placed in a job when, on her 19th birthday, Jenny McDermott started work at Hanrahans Linen Services in Albury.

In mid-1986 we started as Project Employment, a government-funded pilot scheme stemming from the Disability Services Act, with a staff of three and about 20 participants.

We were regional Australia’s first new Disability Employment Service provider.

“What makes this program unique is that on-the-job training and job support will be provided at no cost to the employer,” inaugural manager Liz Bradley said at our launch.

Initially a 15-month program, our goal was to help 12 people with an intellectual disability transfer from sheltered workshops to open employment.

It took us just six months.

Now we employ more than 250 people at 50 full or part time offices across Southern NSW, North East Victoria and the ACT delivering employment supports to more than 4000 vulnerable jobseekers each year.

Disability Employment Services is the foundation program that we provide across our footprint, but we also deliver Work Assist, Transition to Work, Career Transition Assistance, ParentsNext in a number of regions.

“We’re an organisation in an industry that you don’t need to know about until you need to know about us,” is how our chief executive officer Tracey Fraser puts it.

The Disability Services Act 1986 was a recommendation of the 1985 Handicapped Persons Review, the first national consultation with people with disability, their families and service providers.

The review highlighted a need for major changes in disability services, including a much greater expectation that “realistic employment options should be provided for all people with disabilities, with a major focus on open employment”.

“The Disability Services Act was a major decision by government, to be still here supporting people with a disability or a mental health condition to work 35 years since the government legislated that people have a right to work is significant,” Mrs Fraser says.

“Being able to see what a positive impact somebody working has on their local community is extremely rewarding.”

An estimated 10,000 people with a disability, mental health condition or long-term unemployment have found meaningful and sustained employment in the 25 years Mrs Fraser has been with us – the past five as CEO.

“It’s about a people first approach, always has been. The Personnel Group is a relationship business, and our success or failure can be directly attributed to the quality of our relationships. That means putting people first,” she says.

“Our core purpose is creating equality through employment, if we can support locals, and be part of their community alongside them, we have a greater opportunity to create change.

“Employment really is the primary conduit for improving the quality of life for people with a disability.

“There is still an incorrect perception that someone with a disability or mental illness can only be a cleaner, or stack supermarket shelves.

“Over the years we have had lawyers, teachers, nurses, engineers, town planners on our books, people from a diverse range of backgrounds that have had circumstances change their life and they have ended up needing a disability employment service.

“The Personnel Group has changed with the needs of the market since our inception in June 1986 but our focus has never changed, that is to help people achieve their career goals.”

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