March 13, 2018 was a proud day for Jack Knight, when he graduated with Certificate II in Horticulture.

Key points:

  • International Day for People with Disabilities is Friday, December 3
  • Christie Centre and Sunraysia Residential Services provide employment opportunities in horticulture and agriculture in north west Victoria
  • Almost half of Australians with a disability of working age were unemployed in 2018, Disability Royal Commission 

Disability service organisation the Christie Centre Inc teamed up with Sunraysia Institute of TAFE to run the course.

Mr Knight has since been employed by the Christie Centre’s GrowAbility nursery one day a week where he enjoyed weeding, propagating and moving plants into bigger pots if they outgrow the one they were in.

“My favourite job would probably be washing the tubes. On a day like today it doesn’t matter if you get wet,” Mr Knight said.

Jack Knight holds a tray of plants with red flowers

Supported employee Jack Knight says he enjoys all aspects of work at GrowAbility.(ABC Rural: Kellie Hollingworth)

The Christie Centre acquired the nursery in late 2019 and stocks mostly native species but there was also a small number of ornamental plants.

Backyard gardeners were the main customers, but the local council, and government agencies in Victoria and New South Wales have also made purchases.

Mr Knight has also helped deliver plants but he said some were so big they did not fit in the work ute.

On the other side of Mildura, Sunraysia Residential Services run Benetook Farm where more than 1,500 eggs are processed each day by people with a disability who are paid piece rates for their work.

Amanda Doolan works alongside a group of SRS participants collecting, cleaning, inspecting and grading the eggs before they are delivered to local cafes, restaurants, and stores.

Amanda Doolan holds a tray full of eggs that have just been cleaned

Amanda Doolan works at the Benetook Farm five days per week, which processes more than 1,500 eggs per day.(ABC Rural: Kellie Hollingworth)

“We candle the white eggs to look for air bubbles and cracks. If they have problems we can’t sell them,” Ms Doolan said.

Not enough work opportunities for people with disabilities 

Not everyone with a disability had these opportunities.

Australia’s Disability Royal Commission, established in April 2019, heard that 53.4 per cent of people with disabilities of working age were unemployed in 2018.

Benetook Farm has become a popular place for community members to visit, with school groups and families coming to pick strawberries, feed the chickens and play at the farm.

Chicken stares at camera.

SRS Benetook egg farm has free range hens.(ABC Rural: Emma Brown)

There were also plans for the farm to have its own cafe, which would provide more employment and training opportunities for adults with a disability.

ABC is partnering with International Day of People with Disability to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the 4.4 million Australians with disability.

Posted , updated 

Jack graduated in horticulture to work in GrowAbility, he is one of the lucky ones
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