Ausnew Home Care | When employment opportunities for her daughter were slim, Lisa found a way

When employment opportunities for her daughter were slim, Lisa found a way

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Lisa Bawden's cafe was up for sale when her daughter Reegan took an unexpected interest in working there.

Until then, the plan had been to sell the business and move to Adelaide, where Reegan would finish school.

The decision to move away from the regional town of Kingston in south-east South Australia, where they live, was a practical one.

"[Reegan] enjoys playing netball here in town but if that wasn't her interest, there's not a lot of other opportunities in town," Lisa says.

Lisa describes Reegan as a happy, laughing 14-year-old who thrives on social connection.

"And that's so polar opposite to what is stereotypical of someone with autism, which Reegan has," she says. 

A young woman wearing glasses and a black top holds open a cafe door, smiling. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Reegan started helping at the cafe over the summer break.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

Reegan also has an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy.

When she first started to take an interest in the cafe, Lisa admits she was a little protective.

"I knew she could do it but I didn't want to put her in a position where she might not," Lisa says.

But even from the beginning, Lisa says Reegan "really enjoyed the customer and staff relationships".

A woman wearing a green jumper and glasses leans against a painted mural of an ice cream cone, smiling.
Lisa Bawden knows she's where she needs to be.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

"Every little bit that we gave her, she flourished. And it has just been this natural growth for her and she loves it."

Seeing Reegan's growth spurred Lisa to take the business off the market in February 2022.

"I had this epiphany like, 'Why am I thinking about selling when this is something she clearly enjoys doing and something she's indicated she would like to do post school?'

"Then I thought if I can do this for my own daughter, then I can offer it for others in our community as well."

Changing focus

With a small team of support staff around her, Lisa now employs three local people living with intellectual disabilities.

"I know what that means, as a parent with a child with a disability to have those opportunities presented to someone that you really love. It touches you deeply," Lisa says.

A woman wearing a green jumper and glasses, standing on a jetty, smiles at a younger woman.
Lisa Bawden wants more opportunities for people with disability, like her daughter Reegan.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

"It's not making big adjustments [as a business]. It's just making things easier for the person that you're supporting."

Communication is the big thing.

"I talk too much so the message gets lost, it needs to be clear and it needs to be concise," Lisa says.

A woman holding a milk frothing jug, the word 'family' tattooed on her wrist.
Lisa Bawden's 'family' tattoo. She also has a 10-year-old son with her husband.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

"Visuals can work really well [too]. Just understanding that reading text might be challenging. So it might be a picture and the word.

"But the biggest thing is being clear. And really making them know that they are valued, they are important, and the job that they're doing is a good job." 

These messages have meant a lot to 18-year-old Jade, one of Reegan's coworkers and now friends.

Her first job, Jade's enjoyed serving customers, making smoothies and ice shakes, and cooking. She didn't think she'd enjoy it.

"It's grown on me," Jade says.

"And I've learnt to save. Before I couldn't."

While she would normally stay at home, working at the shop has helped Jade get out of her shell and meet new people.

"I can no longer hide in Kingston," Jade says with a laugh.

A young woman in a black jacket stands behind a cash register, sorting cash and smiling.
Jade has lived in Kingston since she was 13. The cafe is her first job.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

The impact isn't lost on Lisa.

"I've seen massive growth in all of them from being quite shy to actually quite outspoken and bringing forth opinions and ideas," Lisa says.

"And they feel empowered, like these young people are telling us what they need.

"Before we sort of had to say, 'do you understand that?' 'Can we help?' Now they're like, 'I need to know this' or 'that doesn't work for me'. Which is huge."

A woman in a black zipped jacket sits at a bench by a window, smiling.
A lover of animals, Jade is saving up for a horse. She's getting close.(ABC: Bec Whetham)

Employing people like Jade is for the customers as well.

"If we can help educate people through a coffee and a piece of cake, then that's what we'll do," Lisa says.

"Even when people come through the door, we take things slower because that enables everyone to be successful … and therefore the whole atmosphere is different."

Looking ahead

Lisa wants more employers to consider employing people with disabilities.

"I don't think people should look past employing someone with a disability because that scares them. We need to be open to new experiences, and change the way that we think about things," Lisa says.

"There is a whole group of people within our community that do want to work and we've just got to make it easy for them to be able to work with us."

But Lisa doesn't expect them to stay forever.

"We want to continue to grow and offer more people the opportunity to come here in a safe and supportive environment to learn new skills," Lisa says.

An aerial photo shows a township with large green areas and a river running towards the coastline.
Lisa's original plan was to move to Adelaide from Kingston, the town pictured here. (ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

"With the hope that they will then go out and find full time employment, or part time, whatever suits their need.

"If they show an interest in the administrative side of the business, we'd like to show them that. And then post that they might get a traineeship somewhere."

On top of the shop, Lisa launched a disability support agency for Kingston and surrounds in July 2022.

"I don't sit idle for very long, there's always a plan or something ticking away in my brain," Lisa says.


Source: ABC

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