Working as a former chef for sixteen years, including in a high-end Italian restaurant, Robert’s career took a downward turn when he started a battle with drug addiction. Not wanting to return to chef-work, and still struggling with his drug addiction, Robert sought employment assistance through BUSY Ability, a Disability Employment Services provider.
Robert was completely unsure of what to do next and during one of his appointments with his Employment Consultant, Martha, a suggestion was made regarding farming. Robert grew up in a farming community in Northern Rivers, part of a fifth-generation family of banana and passionfruit farmers. He had also formerly grown food for restaurants, passionate about providing local quality ingredients.
Robert embraced that idea, as it resonated with his love for sustainability, a way to help his community with access to high quality, nutritious food.
By his next appointment Robert shared that he had approached a local sweet potato farm and they had offered him work. BUSY Ability were then able to support Robert and his employer by providing a wage subsidy to the employer, purchasing some work clothes for Robert and assisting with fuel cards to help him in the initial weeks of his employment.
“I’ve been to all the other providers, they didn’t seem to care. There’s no involvement or individual connection. BUSY Ability really care about what is going on with you, they were really helpful.
“When I was coming out of my drug thing, we’re not used to people being so nice. You think, they must be after something, you know? So, it was like a breath of fresh air when I realised that all these people want to do is help as much as possible, to get me on the right track!
“Work gives me exercise and I’m meeting people. I’m out of my comfort zone but you need to get outside of your little bubble to evolve!”
This December, Robert is celebrating four months of sobriety and four months of continuous work. He also has a 50-metre plot at a local community farm where he lives and he is growing local produce for a farm stall, and to supply local restaurants.
“We’re just trying to be self-sustainable. We’re trying not to go to the shops. Australia’s going through a crisis of homelessness and high cost of living, yet corporations and banks are making their biggest profits ever.”
This Christmas Robert will be cooking up a feast for his local community – with fresh, home grown produce!
Learn more about how BUSY Ability support people living with mental or physical disability to find and maintain meaningful employment.
Martha, Employment Consultant with BUSY Ability, with Robert who is now employed as a farmer.