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Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Newcastle residents with a disability will soon have access to Avenue, an innovative day program which empowers people with a disability to make meaningful contributions through tailored work activities such as letterbox distributions, animal care, mail-outs and online order fulfilment.

Brought to the region by funding from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, Avenue is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Laura O’Reilly.

“Avenue is redefining work in a way that includes everybody. My brother Shane, who lived with cerebral palsy, saw himself as leaving school and, like his older siblings, going out and working. But for our family it was a shock to discover that when he got to Year 12, society didn’t see him the same way.”

“At Avenue, our passionate staff redesign traditional workflows so that our program participants can contribute according to their abilities and regardless of their support needs. Revenue is then shared amongst the participants,” Laura said.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation’s $160,000 grant is supporting the set-up of a brand new purpose-built site for Avenue at Warabrook.

“Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation is thrilled to bring Avenue to Newcastle. We know that being able to make a meaningful contribution is so empowering and that the Avenue program will provide a rewarding alternative to recreational or therapeutic day programs for people living with a disability in the area,” said Jennifer Leslie, Chair of Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

Avenue supports nearly 400 people with disability to contribute to thriving microbusinesses, socialise with team-mates and develop their individual skills. The program is already attracting local participants, including Julie Clifton.

“There is nothing like Avenue in my area. I love challenges and the idea of work so I put my name down to join. I am excited to build my self-confidence and put my skills to use at Avenue in Newcastle,” Julie shared.

Warren Bevan is also counting down to the program starting. A former floor and wall tiler and mine employee, Warren has been missing contributing to the workforce since being diagnosed with a rare illness resulting in his disability.

“I’ve done nothing for the last year as I can’t go somewhere without someone with me, so I sit in front of the telly and sometimes go to the men’s shed. I’m hoping to walk the dogs at Avenue, that’s what I’m most excited about,” Warren said.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting some new people, making new friends and earning some money to go on a holiday.”

CEO Laura O’Reilly and the Charitable Foundation recently visited the future Avenue co-working site to see its progress.

“The Avenue team is so excited to see it taking shape. When complete it will have a central kitchen area to prepare food and socialise in over morning tea and lunch, as well as quiet spaces, sensory rooms and fully accessible bathrooms,” Laura said.

Avenue Newcastle is now taking registrations for participants and expressions of interest for partnerships from the local business community.

“Avenue looks forward to welcoming people with disability, and its first business partners, to its brand new co-working space from Spring 2021,” Laura said.

Group shot out the front of new Avenue space
Avenue workspace for all abilities coming to Newcastle.

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