Since 1962 Macleay Options has been supporting people throughout the Macleay Valley who are living with a disability. The not-for-profit organisation was started by a group of parents who saw a need for opportunities in the community for their children with an intellectual disability.
Throughout the years the organisation has grown and now employs 46 locals with an intellectual disability while also providing services through the NDIS to the wider community.
Macleay Options has a range of areas within the organisation where employees can pursue a career doing something that they are interested in and enjoy.
One of the main sectors within the organisation is their move into the macadamia industry, this has lead to providing more opportunities of employment for workers and a boom for the local macadamia industry.
Operations manager James Milicevic said their process is unique due to the guarantee that the supplier will receive their own produce back.
“The supplier delivers their produce, we give it a batch number and keep it separate from other suppliers nuts. Then we process it down the conveyor belt and they get sorted. We do one suppliers produce at a time so there’s no mixing,” he said.
The nuts are then bagged and returned to the supplier.
There is also the option for suppliers to get their produce turned into macadamia butter or have the sorted nuts salted or sprinkled with spice mixes before being returned.
“We do a lot of roasting and flavoured nuts as well, that suppliers can then sell at markets,” sales and marketing manager Fiona Welsh said.
Nuts are also purchased by Macleay Options, which they then roast and spice, before selling them in their two local stores on Elbow and Smith Street in Kempsey.
“A lot of growers don’t have an industrial size kitchen because they’re small suppliers on small farms, so getting it done here can save them money and it allows us to show what we’re able to do here,” Ms Welsh said.
As well as the macadamia production at Macleay Options, a long-running sector they have been involved with is their woodwork section called Woodies.
Workers use recycled timber to produce furniture sold in the Macleay Options outlets as well as producing surveyors pegs.
“We use a lot of recycled timber that otherwise would have gone to landfill. We collect old pallets and make furniture from the recycled timber,” Ms Welsh said.
“The men who work in here have a real sense of contribution to the community,” she said.
Another popular section of the organisation is Treads where hessian and calico bags are re-purposed for companies and where many local and state-wide school library book bags are made.
“We do all of the printing here as well as sowing and re-purposing bags for different companies.”
“There is a real sense of friendship within the areas of Macleay Options. Building friendships in a social environment where our employees are also gaining skills is what makes it so unique,” Ms Welsh said.
“We want our employees to be happy and seeing them come into work and enjoy what they’re doing and reaching their goals is incredible.”
“We really want to give back to the community and help support those in our community that need it.”
“Giving people a chance who have been long-term unemployed and who are living with an intellectual disability is something we are able to provide for the community of the Macleay Valley,” Ms Welsh said.
“Our employees really get a sense of self worth and are able to form strong friendships and improve social skills in an environment providing them with rich employment opportunities.”
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