Teams of the Society’s supported workers helped make NSW safer during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. By May 2021 they had passed the one million mark in assembling testing kits to help NSW Health combat the coronavirus challenge.
Vinnies Ozanam Industries – named after the Society’s 19th century Parisian founder – runs work centres in the Sydney suburbs of Stanmore and West Ryde as well as in Coonamble, north-central NSW where a further 140,000 testing kits had been assembled.
In a community effort, the production line at Coonamble’s Castlereagh Industries received assistance from volunteers at the SES, the Lions and Quota clubs, and local Aboriginal kids involved with the Clontarf Foundation.
The testing kits comprise nasal and throat swabs, a storage vial and a sealable poly-bag. Boxes of assembled kits are despatched to NSW Health Pathology, Australia’s largest public pathology organisation, which commissioned Vinnies to undertake the work.
Along with vaccinating and contact tracing, testing is a key component in the fight against COVID-19 spread.
The Society’s centres employ people with disability who undertake tasks and training tailored to their individual circumstances. They also do assembly-line work for organisations such as HarperCollins, World Wildlife Fund, Caritas and Future Logistics.
‘We provide meaningful, sustainable and valuable employment to over 100 people with disability,’ said Rod Silber, Business Development Manager Disability and Inclusion at Stanmore.
‘This gives individuals a sense of worth, an opportunity to develop a variety of new skills and the chance to make new friends. The centres provide a professional, customer focused service to some of Australia’s most respected companies, State Government departments and community groups.’
One worker, Sue, who is vision impaired, had been at Stanmore for more than 21 years. She said she enjoyed the work because she could utilise her skill at ‘feeling the job’.
‘It’s like I’m contributing in a small way to ensuring that the NSW community can be kept safe during this pandemic,’ Sue said.
NSW Health Pathology’s COVID-19 Operations Lead, Michael Crowther said at the start of the pandemic NSW Health Pathology staff were packing the test kits at the end of a busy shift in the lab and in the Newcastle office.
‘As you can imagine our staff were exhausted doing this on top of the normal workload,’ he said.
‘Thanks to their help, we can get a steady supply of testing kits to frontline staff who need regular testing in hotel quarantine and airports, special health hospitals and to testing clinics around NSW.
‘I’d like to give a big shout out and thank you to everyone who has helped, from Sydney’s Inner West and all the way out to Coonamble in Western NSW. It’s a great opportunity to show that people with a disability are making a meaningful contribution to the community during the pandemic.
‘The demand for these kits has never been higher, and the staff have assembled and packed over 1.2 million COVID-19 test kits for NSW Health Pathology.
‘We couldn’t do it without their help.’ Michael said.
Rod Silber added, “This work was extremely exciting for our supported employees and the support staff at both of our facilities. Our priority is to ensure that each person has the opportunity to develop their full potential as a member of the Australian workforce through effective, relevant and ongoing training.
‘Our support staff work with each employee to achieve their personal and individual goals.’