Ability Cafe gives new opportunities to people living with disability

Opening a cafe has been the latest step in the meteoric growth of Murray Bridge NDIS provider Genuine Support Services Australia.

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It’s Roslyn Pilmore’s first day in a new job, and she’s loving it.

She’s serving drinks and clearing tables at a cafe on Seventh Street, Murray Bridge, chatting with customers and grinning while she does it.

“I like it,” she said.

“It gets me out of the house instead of being stuck at home.

“(People reading this story) should all come down and have a nice coffee and see some smiling faces.”

The cafe is new, too – and there’s something different about it.

The Ability Cafe is staffed by clients from Genuine Support Services Australia, the NDIS provider next door, and their support workers.

At the moment only a couple of workers who live with disability are on at any given time, but as routines develop, they will have the opportunity to take charge more and more.

This had been a dream of Gabrielle Mackenzie’s for a while: creating a space where her clients could pick up new skills in a positive, supportive environment.

“Murray Bridge is a small community,” she said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for people with disabilities.

“Mental health can become quite present – depression, isolation – because the social inclusion isn’t there.

“I wanted to give (people) something that helps alleviate some of those contributing factors to mental health problems for people with disabilities: skills, training.”

If clients developed a passion for hospitality, she hoped they would progress on to work in other local cafes and pubs.

‘I’ve seen what support means to people’

The cafe’s opening is one of many achievements Ms Mackenzie’s company, Genuine Support Services Australia, has made during its meteoric rise.

In just 21 months it has grown from a home-based start-up, with two support workers and a handful of clients, into a substantial operation with an office on one side of the cafe and an activity centre on the other side.

GSSA now has almost 100 employees and 160 clients on its books.

“I never expected it to be what it is,” Ms Mackenzie said.

“I had a vision and I’ve been rolling with it, each stage as it comes.

“It has been amazing to see the difference our guys are making in people’s lives.”

She had been passionate about disability support since her childhood, the result of years spent watching the positive impact support workers had on her mother’s life and the lives of everyone around her.

“I’ve seen what it means to people and their lives from an insider’s perspective,” she said.

“There hasn’t been enough credit given to support workers for the impact that (support) can have on people with disability.”

Now, though, an appreciation for what people with disability and their supporters could achieve was growing in Murray Bridge, she said.

Even on day one, locals had rallied behind the cafe concept: “it has been amazing to see Murray Bridge (respond) as a community and what people are willing to do to support us”.

The Ability Cafe is open from 8am to 4pm on weekdays at 4 Seventh Street, Murray Bridge, the space formerly occupied by The Davery Establishment.

Disclosure: The author enjoyed a coffee courtesy of the cafe.