Ausnew Home Care | Yeppoon cafe employs people with disability | NDIS

Yeppoon cafe trains and employs people with disability, Emily urges others to give it a go

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When many people are hitting snooze on their alarms, Emily Slotosch jumps out of bed to prepare for her shift at the local cafe.

The 27-year-old never thought she would work two hospitality jobs.

"I am so proud of myself," she said.

Ms Slotosch has a disability, which she describes as ability.

"It makes me shine, it makes me happy … it makes me proud.

Emily Slotosch in kitchen wearing a black t-shirt, blue and purple glasses, holding a large kitchen knife and slicing a tomato. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Emily Slotosch says she enjoys coming to work and being treated well.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


Kris Hargrave owns and manages the Yeppoon cafe where Ms Slotosch works one day a week.

"Emily is an absolute whiz in the kitchen, so we know that's where she's comfortable — we want to build those skills and build that confidence," Ms Hargrave said.

"We want her to feel like she's extremely confident just to come and do whatever she wants to do in the cafe."

Ms Hargrave started selling coffee from a tin shed-type storefront in 2016 to create stable and flexible employment for herself and her son, Robert.

Emily Slotosch, dark shirt, colourful glasses smiling next to Kris Hargrave, dark shirt smiling next to coffee machine.
Emily Slotosch works one day a week at Kris Hargrave's cafe in Yeppoon.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


"Some days it actually makes me cry," she said.

"Everyone is just treated as equal and it warms my heart."

A disability and labour force report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last year found 53.4 per cent of people with disability were employed, compared with 84.1 per cent of people without disability.

Earning while caring

When the demand for coffee, food and a place to sit grew overwhelming, Ms Hargrave renovated a house and relaunched the business as a full-scale cafe.

"There were many days where I had to bring Robert to work or I had to leave work early, shut the cafe and go home and be with Robert," she said.

"I thought to myself, this is the easiest way that I can work and Robert also can be happy spending time with us, and it's taught him skills as well."

Ms Hargrave did not always intend to employ more staff.

"Everyone just welcomed my son, everyone took him under their wing and he was part of the cafe," she said.

"I thought, well, if everyone is going to be like that with Robert, why wouldn't they be able to do that with everybody?"

Robert, red shirt, hand under chin, smiling, arm around support worker Greg Browne, also smiling, blue shirt.
Robert Wake with Greg Browne, owner of support service Zoe – Life My Way.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


'The best job in the world'

About six months after opening, the cafe teamed up with Zoe – Life My Way, a small disability support service, to offer training and employment.

Sara Rowley started at the cafe more than a year ago before becoming a support worker.

The 27-year-old takes pride in helping her clients work and live in the community.

"You find out all their different personalities, and they just blow your mind with the things that they can do that people think they can't because they're special needs."

Sara Rowley, dark shirt, dark overalls, dark hair in a top knot, frothing milk in a jug at a coffee machine.
Sara Rowley says being a disability support worker is the best job in the world.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


Ms Rowley has watched her clients transform and become confident in themselves during their time at the cafe.

"Being able to get a job where they have a sense of responsibility is just something that opens their eyes to the world and opens the world to people with special needs," she said.

"People think, 'They're working here, they've done this, they took my order, they've made my food, they actually are working in the community', rather than, 'Oh no, they can't do that'.

"I feel proud of myself doing this job. It's the best job in the world pretty much."

Young man, Isaac delivers two coffees to two women who have their backs to the camera.
Ms Hargrave hopes to provide employment opportunities for more people.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


Growing a more welcoming community

While there had been challenges, Ms Hargrave said the community response had been mostly positive.

"Not a lot of people can understand and accept and be comfortable with people with special needs, and that's OK — everyone is different," she said.

"I've found the customers just slowly adapted and they were very welcoming, so I think we all grew together."

Kris Hargrave, dark shirt, redish brown hair, glasses on head, hand reaching for coffee cups on top of machine.
Kris Hargrave wants everyone to feel safe and confident while working at her cafe.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler


Ms Hargrave has recently started a support group for parents and carers to connect with each other.

"If you want somewhere to bring your special ones or just to come on your own and have a coffee, just let me know.

"It's just home and I want people to come here and feel comfortable.

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