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Disability Organisation Minda Transforms Commercial Enterprise Into Social Enterprise

13 June 2016 at 9:30 am
Wendy Williams
South Australia’s largest non-government disability services organisation is set to restructure its $30 million commercial enterprise operations and transform it into a social enterprise.

Wendy Williams | 13 June 2016 at 9:30 am


Disability Organisation Minda Transforms Commercial Enterprise Into Social Enterprise
13 June 2016 at 9:30 am

South Australia’s largest non-government disability services organisation is set to restructure its $30 million commercial enterprise operations and transform it into a social enterprise.

Minda Lifestyle Precinct

New lifestyle precinct to be built at Minda’s Brighton site in South Australia.

Minda’s Commercial Enterprises provide supported employment opportunities for people living with intellectual disability.

The restructure, which begins on 1 July, will create a separate division which Minda hopes will generate more opportunities for supported and open employees through the different businesses, and drive greater productivity.

Minda CEO Cathy Miller told Pro Bono Australia News they were very excited about the change.

“We’ve been working hard to build our enterprises in recent years with the acquisition of South Australian Group Enterprises in 2014, and the forthcoming expansion of the laundry,” Miller said.

“The aim of the restructure is to maximise each business and ensure our overarching social enterprise model is best placed to thrive going forward and respond to the dynamic NDIS environment.

“The staff are all very excited. We’ve been very good at going through on a one on one basis with all our staff in the existing laundry, most of them are looking forward to the change and those who feel it might be a little much for them and don’t want to try it, we have alternative opportunities for them in some of our other businesses.”

Minda’s commercial enterprises include Craigburn Nursery, Packaging Solutions, Laundry and Linen Services, Hospitality, Envirocare, TRAK Furniture and Horn Australia.  

South Australian Group Enterprises (SAGE) operations include Aspitech (SA’s largest e-waste business), Inprint Design and Wire Ware.

Miller said growing the commercial activity was a key strategic focus for Minda.

”We have to earn more to do more for the people we support,” Miller said.

To facilitate the restructure, a new position of General Manager (Commercial Enterprises) has been created to oversee the division and is currently being recruited.

“This new leadership role reflects our investment in the long-term future of social enterprise at Minda.  It’s pivotal to the success of our plans to increase commercial viability and sustainability across our business portfolio,”  Miller said.

“Minda already enjoys an outstanding reputation for disability employment, this restructure is the next major step in building our unique social enterprise model and creating a broader jobs platform for South Australians with disability.

“We also provide open employment services, so we place people in the Telstras, the Coles and the Woolworths of the world, what we are trying to create is right from school a pathway which will transition school students and give them opportunity for work experience and casual work, so that they don’t automatically go into what traditionally they have gone into, which is just a day program or limited employment in a supported environment, so we are creating a pathway where a person could go from school and eventually work in a career which they had chosen to do at school.”

Miller said the restructure was part of an evolution over many years.

“Minda was predominantly, in the early days, an accommodation service and we also had a school at our Brighton site, once the children of the day grew up it was decided they needed to become productive and so what emerged out of that space was the early Sheltered Workshops, and from that evolution we’ve evolved into what’s known as Australian Disability Enterprises where people are provided work. And really the main purposes of our enterprises have always been in the past about social purpose, to provide work for people with disability, and as a result of that there hasn’t been any focus on the ongoing viability, sustainability or commercial side of those businesses so what this change is all about, is we’ve restructured commercial enterprises with a commercial model, into social enterprise.

“So it’s purpose will be two-fold, both social purpose, so it will still provide employment for people with disability and hopefully for more people with disability in what is know as open employment, so on a standard wage, and it will also be commercially viable in its own right.

“I guess why we’ve done this, we took one of our small businesses, known as the laundry, and we have relocated it, so in terms of the way it works at the moment it is pretty traditional, very large washing machines, very large dryer, lots of labour and it does about 23 ton a week of linen, basically customer owned garments, that’s going and being relocated into a commercial laundry that will do at the end of 12 months about 150 ton a week and it will be a combination,it is not a fully automated laundry that you would normally see because we’ve incorporated into the design aspects of manual handling of laundry and linen so that people with disability can work in laundry.

“It is a basic human right to have economic participation and employment and it gives you a sense of worth and contribution as well as satisfaction, it also  it saves the Australian economy quite a significant amount of money because if people are working a lot of them will not be getting a Disability Support Pension, they will be requiring support to work alongside them on a daily basis, so they save the economy and contribute to economic growth.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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