During the 1950’s, parents of people with disabilities wanted education, employment and accommodation opportunities for their children at a time when institutionalised care in Adelaide was their only alternative.
Consequently, they began setting up ‘sheltered workshops’ in order to provide employment and training for their children. The term ‘sheltered’ implied sheltering people with disabilities from the challenges of competition in open employment.
1960’s – 1970’s
In 1967, the Commonwealth government passed the Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act providing grants to non-profit organisations to establish and equip sheltered employment and supported accommodation. This Act enabled the Phoenix Society to access 2-for-1 funding for Capital works and purchase a new site in Torrensville, where it still operates today.
The Commonwealth government also introduced a Sheltered Employment Allowance (SEA) in 1967 for individuals working in sheltered workshops. They were paid at the same rate as those on an Invalid Pension but a means test was structured to allow for their earnings. If they earned more than $10 per week (Single) or $17 per week (Married) their SEA was reduced by one dollar for every two they earned.
Commonwealth funding was further increased as a result of The Handicapped Persons Assistance Act in 1974. Subsidies were given to eligible organisations that provided training, therapy and rehabilitation. The Act gave official status to activity therapy centres. These centres promoted personal development for people with a disability that enabled them to achieve maximum independence and self-sufficiency. As a result some sheltered workshops sought reclassification as activity therapy centres.
From 1983 to 1985, the Commonwealth Government undertook a review of funding programs for people with disabilities, which resulted in the Disability Services Act in 1986. The Act encouraged more open employment of people with disabilities, as opposed to employment in sheltered workshops. As a result of the Disability Services Act, sheltered workshops were progressively closed down across Australia.
The following organisations began as sheltered workshops but over time have changed and adapted to government and societies expectations of what people with a disability need in the area of employment.
Bedford Industries is a not-for-profit organisation and provides training, employment and accommodation services for more than 700 people with disabilities across Adelaide. Bedford began in 1920 as the Civilian Tuberculosis and Cancer Comfort Fund to bring relief to sufferers of tuberculosis (TB). In 1945 it changed its name to Bedford Industries and started a woodworking shop at Glenelg for eight men recovering from TB.
On Goodwood Road, at Panorama the Cowan Building was built with 10,000 square feet of factory floor space. It was officially opened in 1950 and a sewing business started. In 1960 Bedford Industries opened its doors to people with all types of disabilities. A fleet of 28 buses was purchased to transport employees to and from work each day.
In 1962 training commenced in book-binding, boot and shoe repair, office procedures, food preparation and service and packaging.
In 1976 the Katuni Adult Training Centre was opened at Edwardstown. Over the years Bedford established engineering and printing departments, grounds maintenance, commercial cleaning, packaging and furniture manufacturing divisions.
In 1974 Balyana, a residential centre was opened by the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. Bedford has become a recognised leader in the provision of disability services nationally. In 2003 it was named SA Training Awards ‘Employer of the Year’.
Orana is a not-for-profit organisation that provides employment, accommodation and respite services to over 500 people with an intellectual disability. Orana began in 1950 as the Mentally Retarded Children’s Society of SA Inc. It was formed by parents who were seeking educational, vocational and training opportunities for children with intellectual disabilities.
The society’s aims were:
1. To seek education or training facilities for people with intellectual disabilities
2. To establish “sheltered workshops
3. To establish residential hostels
Over the next few years a number of sheltered workshops were set up and in 1980 the name was changed to Orana, which is an Aboriginal word for ‘Welcome’. Today, after more than 50 years Orana has continued to grow. It provides accommodation and respite services, an extensive range of services to local and interstate businesses and offers a variety of employment and training options to people with disabilities.
In 1959 the Phoenix Society commenced with the aim ‘to help the physically handicapped to help themselves’. The first building the Society owned was an old cottage in Carrington Street, Adelaide. Its first contract was with the SA Brewing Company for the repair of 40 crates, at a total cost of 17 cents each. Additional contracts were found for their 16 physically disabled employees.
Within a couple of years, the Society had 45 employees, mainly physically disabled people. The Society continued to grow and, with the assistance of Government they moved to larger premises on Glen Osmond Road where they did different types of work including woodworking and assembly functions.
In 1967 the Society purchased a new site in Torrensville. By the end of the sixties, they had a workforce of 85. By the early eighties the Society had the number of employees increase to as many as 324. A site was established at Gepps Cross to provide employment opportunities for people living in the Northern suburbs. The Society’s original aim ‘to help the physically handicapped to help themselves’ changed to assist mostly people with an intellectual disability.
The Society experienced its most dramatic growth during the 1990’s and operated as a business service, rather than a traditional sheltered workshop. It became a genuine place of employment for people with disabilities who chose not to move to Open Employment. It has opened new commercial factories in Elizabeth and Whyalla and streamlined its operations at Torrensville and Gepps Cross. Over the years the Society has changed but it continues to help and support people with disabilities.
Barkuma began in 1964 as a branch of the Mentally Retarded Children’s Society. It was incorporated in 1967 and provided a sheltered workshop, training and accommodation services for people with an intellectual or other disability.
Today, Barkuma offers a range of services to people with an intellectual disability. It provides supported employment in a range of business enterprises including furniture manufacturing and contract work. It also offers an employment service, provides individualised support and specialised support in the areas of counselling, training, community access and advocacy.
Barkuma. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.barkuma.com.au/
Bedford Industries. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.bedfordindustries.com.au/about_history.htm
Life to live. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dsa.org.au/life_site/text/employment/index.html
Lindsay, M. 2004. ‘Background Paper 2′ 1995-96: Commonwealth Disability Policy 1983-1995 [online]. [Accessed 22nd May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bp/1995-96/96bp06.htm
Orana. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.oranaonline.com.au/services.html
Phoenix Society. 2007. [online]. [Accessed 15th May 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.phoenixsoc.org.au/about-history-phoenix-society.htm
Westhorp, G., Sebastian, A., Morrell, D. & Mayne, M. 1997. Advocacy and people with a disability: A learning package. Mile End, South Australia: Disability Action Inc