House debates

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Constituency Statements

Cunningham Electorate: Big Heart Enterprise

9:52 am

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to report to the House a visit that I made to an excellent new initiative in my electorate. It was very sad for the whole community when Pacific Brands announced that they were closing their operation at Bellambi in my electorate, which was a King Gee site. It was a significant employment focus for that particular suburb and there are a range of suburbs around there that have particular issues around unemployment and disadvantage. Overall, it was a very disheartening outcome and a disheartening message.

Very happily, under the federal government’s Get Communities Working stream of the Jobs Fund initiative, Mission Australia have been funded to provide one of their Big Heart enterprises at that site. I went out to visit and meet with them only a few weeks ago and it is a tremendous initiative. What they do at this particular site is recycle mattresses. I met 14 trainees who were there and who were the target of the employment component of the funding stream. Five of them were Indigenous trainees, there was a trainee with a disability—he was quite profoundly deaf—and there were some mature age people being retrained. All of them were just thrilled to have the opportunity that they had at this facility. I want to acknowledge the manager there, who I met, Andrew Douglas, who is very committed to a broad range of recycling. They do recycling of computers and provide very cheap and reliable computers for struggling families through the shop there. There is also the mattress-recycling facility, and they are looking at expanding into other options. So it is a good environmental message, it is a good employment message and it is a good social enterprise. It was a real thrill to join them for the day.

They are being led in this particular project at the site by Lyn Watkins, who has been known to me for a long time as a tremendous and enthusiastic champion for the long-term unemployed. She introduced me to the trainees and the trainers and showed me around the site, and it was very, very encouraging. They use the foam and sell that to Dunlop, who produce carpet underlay with it. The material wadding in it is used to stuff punching bags, so that becomes a useful side product, and the steel heads go to a local steel fabrication company that uses them. So they are taking what can be a cumbersome, problematic piece of waste—the mattresses—and making some tremendously useful products, giving great training and employment opportunities to some of our most disadvantaged job seekers, getting them into the job market and doing it, as these organisations always do, with great professionalism and enthusiasm. I wish them a long and prosperous corporate life in that area. (Time expired)