It’s not quite Oil Dump Lane where rag and bone men Albert and Harold lived in that fabulous BBC comedy Steptoe and Son which ended almost 40 years ago, but the Goolwa Salvage and Save shed does offer nostalgia – at times, a laugh – through its old wares.
Here, most of the junk has been an integral part of a family’s life and become another man’s treasure. The most absurd things are picked up by photographers and filmmakers for props, old furniture is restored to its glory, and if surprisingly you cannot find what you’re looking for simply add it to a list through social media and rest assured one day it will turn up.
However, like that television series, not everything is as it seems. Wilfred Brambell, who played the role of Albert, was only 13 years older than Harry H. Corbett (Harold) in real life, and this place at Goolwa that we may see as a dump is actually one of the most innovative places in South Australia. It is where some members of Finding Work Solutions, a not-for-profit employment services company, have become genuine contributors. They just happen to have a disability.
Basically, these guys sort out the gear we drop there, put the salvageable goods to one side, use their new skills – some self-taught – to fix the things, and re-sell them as goods. Jobs are created for people based on their ability and application rather than charity, and we don’t have to bury what was deemed as junk. Hooray; win all around.
And then we can go on to the workers who have also earned respect not pity while maintaining parks/properties and gathering/
selling firewood and suddenly Finding Workable Solutions is playing a huge role in helping our employment issues. Again, for people who just happen to have a disability.
The concept was the brainchild of general manager business development Anita Saunders seven years ago, and the Goolwa operation was launched in conjunction with the Mount Barker site. Since then FWS has expanded this initiative to the Elizabeth and Murray Bridge regions where job opportunities have been created for people with a disability. FWS is partially funded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs via Australian Disability Enterprises and provides employment services support via Disability Employment Services and Job Services Australia which allows them to use these ventures for much needed work experience opportunities.
Importantly, the success of the Goolwa-based Salvage and Save outlet has led to other successful ventures that also embrace opportunities for those with a disability, including South Coast Firewood and Fleurieu Lawns and Gardens Services, plus enterprises outside of the region relating to sewing products, car cleaning, document destruction, promotional packaging and a brilliant Kangaroo Island Youth Services program.
Finding Workable Solutions employs almost 40 people who have a disability across the Fleurieu, including 17 at its Goolwa operation, who otherwise might not have gained meaningful employment.
Ros Rohde, general manager corporate services, says the jobs are not contrived; they are real. “These people may not have got a job if the program didn’t exist, and it is also providing an environmental solution,” she adds.
“The workers with a disability feel so proud to work; they appreciate that our organisation is there to provide a supported work environment for them. We also put a fair bit of effort into their skills and training to make sure they are comfortable in their roles.
“Some have learned things like tag and testing with electrical goods. There is rotation of duties, which again broadens their skills. Whether it is retail, straight recycling, the pulling apart of goods and breaking down to components, they focus well.
“We are also an organisation that is looking at taking recycled materials and making another product from that.
“We are a genuine business, and the only way to be judged on that is asking if we did not exist, whether there would be a problem. The community has a land fill problem that needs a solution. If we did not exist then these goods would have to go to land fill.”
It also seems that we have progressed well since the fictional Oil Dump Lane site. Few could have imagined in Steptoe’s day that we could get on to a website like www.fws.org.au and be able to list the “junk” items we are looking for, or use forms of social media like Facebook to get updates on products that have just arrived.
And we can say with authority Steptoe and Son were never recognised for their outstanding service, like Goolwa Salvage and Save manager Michelle Muldowney, who recently earned a customer service award presented by the local Southern Alexandrina Business Association.
As Salvage and Save operations manager Michael Berndt, who heads a brilliant team across all sites, said, come every Friday night the staff go home feeling good about their week’s work. “The feeling that you have helped wonderful people and the community, and dealt with a land fill problem is rewarding.”
If you are planning to dump items that may be useful to others, contact Finding Workable Solutions at its Goolwa Salvage and Save site on 8555 1188 and staff will gladly collect them.