Watch the Better Together Interview VIDEO PODCAST
Listen to the Better Together Interview PODCAST
A Caboolture based organisation that doesn’t employ people to make coffees, but rather makes coffees to employ people is looking for more room to build on its huge success.
Better Together Assoc Inc Manager, Amie Storer explained how the organisation takes people from being unemployable to employed and productive through its cafe.
“So, Lagoon Creek Cafe is deemed what they call a social enterprise,” Amie Storer said in the podcast interview.
“So, it’s a business that’s set up to provide employment for marginalised individuals.
“And our focus area for those marginalised are people with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues.
“So, they’re often people that have had real struggles over the years trying to gain employment, long-term mainstream employment.”
Ms Storer also recounted one of the many success stories to come out of the organisation.
“John is a man that joined the organisation back when the cafe first started in 2012 I think it was,” Ms Storer recounted.
“He was a man that openly acknowledges that he struggled to find employment for many years, had some jobs, has done a hundred different courses but was still unable to attain employment.
“He spent a lot of time in hospital struggling with issues and then once he was able to gain that employment with the organisation, he’s been able to maintain that employment.
“Since the last eight years, he has been able to get now private rentals.
“He is very proud of that ability for him to be able to afford a private rental.
“And he’s been able to maintain himself out of needing to be in hospital.”
Better Together is looking to expand its physical space and services to better serve the community in helping those struggle to become productive community contributors.
Read the Better Together Interview TRANSCRIPT
Scott: Hi, Scott [inaudible 00:00:06] for the Four, Five and OTV podcast series, episode nine today for our viewers and listeners. And we’re talking to Amie Storer from Better Together Association Incorporated. Good morning Amy.
Amie Storer : Good morning Scott. Thank you for having me.
Scott: No problems at all. We wanted to get you on the programme Four, Five and OTV and today on a couple of platforms video as well as our podcast for our audience. But let’s maybe start at the very beginning. What is Better Together?
Amie Storer : So Better Together is a local Morton Bay region based community organisation, primarily supporting people with disabilities with the reaching their goals and accessing the local community, helping them to build skills. We also have a funded programme where we support longterm unemployed individuals into employment through doing a certificate. One’s in retail and one is in individual support. So we’re supporting those individuals into employment as well.
Scott: Okay. Whereabouts are you based?
Amie Storer : We’re based in Caboolture. We’re based over… We’ve got an office in King street and we also have an office over at the PCYC with the Lagoon Creek Cafe. And we just primarily service in the Morton Bay region.
Scott: Okay. Where did Better Together start or how long has it been local?
Amie Storer : Local? It’s always been local. It was a grassroots founded organisation. Our home life association created the organisation back in, I think it’s just over 10 years ago now. It was originally just a project that went out into community and educated community members, groups, associations, businesses about how to better communicate with people with disabilities in the community.
Amie Storer : And from that inclusion kind of campaign stemmed the funding for social enterprise and a cafe venue that has been developed and been able to provide employment for people with disabilities.
Scott: Excellent. We might as well keep talking along that line. Now you mentioned Lagoon Creek Cafe, it is on the grounds of PCYC at Caboolture. Explain what the facility is.
Amie Storer : So Lagoon Creek Cafe is deemed what they call a social enterprise. So it’s a business that’s set up to provide employment for marginalised individuals. And our focus area for those marginalised are people with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues. So they’re often people that have had real struggles over the years trying to gain employment, longterm mainstream employment. And if they have been able to successfully get it and maintain it over a long period or the mental health has been impacted, which meant that they lost that job.
So it really is a business that is a cafe and function room first and foremost.
Amie Storer : We’re there to provide people with beautiful food, wonderful coffees. It’s a place to hold your function. They have catering services where they go out into the community and do some catering for everyone. But that’s not the goal. Yes, that’s what we do. But you know, we don’t employee people to make coffee. We make coffee to employ people.
Scott: Yep. Yep.
Amie Storer : And so that’s really the premise of that particular project and the fact that we work with.
Scott: Yeah. And yeah, as you say, people coming from all abilities, whether it’s disability or mental health or other, it’s a way that they can gain skills.
Is there, we’re probably going to chop and change about Better Together and the work that you do. But let’s talk quickly. Is there a story of an individual that has been through the process or is currently working at the cafe that you could tell us about?
Amie Storer : Yeah, definitely. So there’s a very common story and this man tells his stories, so he’s given permission for us to talk about it. John is a man that joined the organisation back when the cafe first started in 2012 I think it was. He was a man that openly acknowledges that he struggled to find employment for many years, had some jobs, has done a hundred different courses but was still unable to attain employment.
He spent a lot of time in hospital struggling with issues and then once he was able to gain that employment with the organisation, he’s been able to maintain that employment. Since the last eight years, he has been able to get now private rentals. He is very proud of that ability for him to be able to afford a private rental.
Amie Storer : And he’s been able to maintain himself out of needing to be in hospital. He’s only had couple of nights stays within the last eight years.
Scott: Wow. Wow. So, as someone involved in the organisation, it must be so rewarding to see the journey and growth of an individual getting to that stage in public life I guess.
Amie Storer : Yeah. I think the best… His confidence and self worth and value and the status that he has to be able to say to people in community, I have a paid job, this is my job. I am a worker at the Lagoon Creek Cafe, you can see it in his face whenever you talk to him and the pride that he has in his role.
Amie Storer : He makes a main coffee and he’s really, really good at it. He remembers people’s orders but not just that. I think the best part about getting to do what we do and seeing him do his role is that people in society can come and see that there are people with disabilities who can work and work really well and he’s a great advocate to promote people with disabilities in employment roles. And I think he’s a great person to visually see that, yes, it is possible. He’s quite capable. And maybe if someone had a myth or an assumption about peoples with disabilities capacities.
Amie Storer : He eliminates them straight away.
Scott: Yeah, no. Great. A great advocate and an example of the work that you’re supporting and in turn through Lagoon Creek Cafe.
The Better Together Association, you’ve been around… Keeps on coming up. I think at the end of 2019 we talk about the last decade, it seems so familiar the last 10 years but for Better Together being around for the last 10 years. I see sometimes there’s an annual event. [crosstalk 00:06:12].
It’s an inclusive field day, let’s say, where you’ve got displays and other resources available in the community. That’s something you’ve always supported.
Amie Storer : Yes. So that’s another organisation that we work with. Caboolture Disability Support Network and that organization’s run by Matt McCracken.
Amie Storer : And he holds most years a community event called Is Everybody Here? And the idea was that Matt is a very prominent member of community. He’s constantly being asked by people, where do I find this service? Where do I go to find that? Can you help me source this? And so he thought our really good opportunity was to bring all community together, groups, services, providers and even businesses to have a day where they can display what they do so the community can come down and find out what is available in their local community.
Amie Storer : So they can have access to things that, because so many people will say, “oh, I didn’t know that existed. I didn’t know I could go there.”
Amie Storer : And so yeah, it’s a really good inclusion.
Scott: So Better Together Association Incorporated, but let’s just call it Better Together.
Amie Storer : Sounds good.
Scott: I love the word better together because I think, obviously it’s bringing together the community to support people with all abilities. There is some government funding to your organisation. Can you talk about what that funding is or what that has relayed into our community?
Amie Storer : Yes. So Better Together was previously funded by state government under the Department of Communities. And now, in the last 12 months, we’ve transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Federally funded funding to support people with disabilities to really achieve their goals. That funding is, I guess the organization’s probably interjected about $6.6 million worth of funding since 2014 anyway. We became incorporated in 2014 and then since 2016 we have also received another programme, which I talk boldly about Skilling Queenslanders For Work Programme, that’s interjected another million dollars into our community since 2016.
We’ve supported over 295, I think, individuals into employment, well, to get employment and 80% of those have gained employment through that process.
Scott: Wow. You must have a big team working under the umbrella of Better Together to service that many people?
Amie Storer : Surprisingly, no.
Amie Storer : I’m sill only apart timer. My [inaudible 00:08:42]is a part timer. I’ve got a two day a week admin person and then most of it is support workers. We have two coordinators who run the two projects, most casual workers. We’ve got a staff pool of about 35 I think. Yeah. And then we have the 45 people that we support with people with disabilities at this stage in this local region.
Scott: Wow. So yeah, often the case, it comes down to a few individuals making big differences in, in the wider community. The way you’re talking, I thought you may have had 40 or 50 people…
Amie Storer : I wish!
Scott: …working and supporting these people. Along that line, why did you get involved in Better Together?
Amie Storer : Oh, that’s a little bit of a personal issue, not issues sorry, it’s a journey that I’m happy to share. I recently… I moved to Brisbane in 2010. My son was going to school, he was in prep first year. It was almost serendipitous. He finally got into school full time, he has autism himself.
Literally like a week after he’s finally in school full time. I get a phone call from my mother’s best friend who worked for the organisation. She said, “oh, would you be interested in doing this sort of work, we’ve got someone who’s moved down your way, which I was in Coalinga and would you be interested in doing it?” And I just happened to fall into the line of work and with my son and his journey in my journey, it’s been beautiful.
I’ve been very blessed and lucky to have… We worked in nearly every role in the organisation. I’ve got to see the changes and progress over the years from where Better Together started to where it’s come to. Had some great mentors along the way and had beautiful people that we got to support along the way. But yet it was kind of an accident, but almost like a fateful one.
Scott: Yeah. Well thank you for sharing. I wasn’t aware of that. So, obviously very personal as to your involvement in the association and yeah, thank you for sharing. How’s your son going now?
Amie Storer : I feel terrible. I’m that mechanic that never fixes his car. I’m the mother that hasn’t gotten the NDIS funding yet.
Amie Storer : But he’s doing wonderful. He actually is… He’s made it to nationals for athletics next year. He’s competing in the 800 and he just qualified for the 400 hurdles as well last week. So he’s very excited about that. Yeah, that’s his valued role.
Amie Storer : Is he’s great at athletics.
Amie Storer : And that’s something that I think has really helped him. Has sustained some status within his peer group.
Amie Storer : As much as he might not talk too much to people, he definitely gets a bit of clout because he’s a really sporty type of individual.
Scott: `Yeah. For our listeners and viewers, the Four, Five and OTV podcast series, episode nine we’re talking to Amy Storer from Better Together. We hear a lot about the NDIS, so the National Disability Insurance Scheme. How does Better Together… Do you help people with applying for those grants or how does that connection work with NDIS?
Amie Storer : Yes, so we assisted all of the people through the state funding to transition across over to the NDIS. We do support people to find and give them a bit of information around their applications to access the funding, if they’ve never received funding before. That’s not exactly something we’re funded for but we will still help an individual to help seek them and put them on the right path to get access to the funding that’s out there. Yeah.
Scott: Yeah. Excellent. Any final things you’d like to add about the organisation? Or, here we go with my famous line, what does 2020 vision look like? What does a year ahead look like for Better Together?
Amie Storer : Well, one of the things that we really want to accomplish in the next 12 months is… So we have this social enterprise as I talked about Lagoon Creek Cafe. It has a lot of people who work there and it currently is at capacity. It’s got 18 people working there. The cafe venue is booked out consistently. The catering gigs are coming in all the time, which is amazing and fantastic. But unfortunately we’re at that tipping point now where we need to grow but we’ve got nowhere to grow to.
Amie Storer : And so we’re really seeking to try and find some other locations and other opportunities too because I’m constantly getting calls all the time about people with disabilities wanting employment and we have no way, we have no jobs for them. So we’d really love to expand what we’re doing and create different ventures.
Amie Storer : So we can offer more employment opportunities to people with disabilities.
Scott: Because you mentioned in the beginning, you’ve got the cafe offering, but then you mentioned retail. So I guess part education is hospitality. Part of the hospitality is retail of serving clients.
Amie Storer : Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott: What would be the ideal next subject for someone?
Amie Storer : Okay, so we also… So the cafe being its own entity and Better Together its own entity. The cafe is called Caboolture Community Work Co-op and it has the cafe. It also has lawn mowing services.
Amie Storer : They also have office cleaning services. They deliver some newspapers. And so what is that next thing we’d love to kind of, we’ve been doing some research into some different things. Nothing’s set in stone yet. We’d love to do an online secondhand bookstore.
Amie Storer : Not everyone wants to work in hospitality. Not everyone wants to mow a lawn. We’ve got a few different other ideas of recyclable materials to be made into a landscaping equipment but purely we need some space to do that.
Amie Storer : And just some… Yeah, that would be ideal for us to have, to start those kind of ventures for us.
Scott: Okay. Stay tuned for that. We’ll put the shout out as well across our platforms. If there’s warehouse facility available, if there’s some retail space available, anything locally to Caboolture, get in touch with Better Together. I’m sure Amy would be more than happy to meet up and talk about a joint venture of utilising the space and growing the organisation. But thank you for being on the Four, Five and OTV platform, Better Together and doing great things. And as the word says, things are better together if the community can help in the disabilities, all abilities, space. Anything else you’d like to add?
Amie Storer : Well, I do love the word, like the fact that we’re called Better Together. It really is a selling point on any grant application.
Amie Storer : That we are really better when we work together.
Scott: Most definitely.
Amie Storer : It’s a cliche but it is so true and it stands true to the organization’s values, but yeah, no. That’s about it. Thank you very much, Scott.
Scott: Can I ask? I know always wrap up, but I like the final question. Have you noticed a shift in our community of being more aware and more supportive of disability?
Amie Storer : Yes, absolutely. We have definitely been having… One thing with the NDIS is that people now have more funding and actually people who’ve never had the fore funding have it, to be more present and get into the community more frequently. And so community is having to have a presence of people with disabilities at a level that’s probably never been experienced before but so far this year, the stories have been positive.
And one of our great programmes with the Skilling Queenslanders For Work, which we won a state training award for.
Amie Storer : I’ll just mention that.
Amie Storer : Thank you. Is that I train those students in the original programme of you’ve got to be working in retail. How are you going to best serve our vulnerable people? People with a disability. Are you making sure that you have physical access to your store in your access? Do you make sure that their needs are being met? That you aren’t just communicating with the support worker, that the person with the disability is the one who is your customer, you should be communicating with them.
So hopefully through that programme we’re educating some retail workers in best practise in… And not being afraid. I think a lot of miseducation is around. So yeah. I think the community stance is is getting better, yeah.
Scott: All right, good to hear. Good way to wrap up. Four, Five and OTV, episode nine, Better Together doing great things in the community for people with all abilities. And thanks for your time, Amy.
Amie Storer : Thank you very much. Scott.