A few months ago the Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative (NCEC), Espresso Train Cafe and Catering, won the Australian Small Social Enterprise of the Year Award.

It’s true – Nundah is well and truly out of the 4101 area. However, this is the kind of community story that we West Enders love, so if you are up and exploring Brisbane’s north side, make sure you pop in and grab a coffee at this wonderful cafe.

After establishing in 1998, Espresso Train has provided meaningful employment for people with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues. The Australian Social Enterprise of the Year Award is designed to recognise social enterprises at different stages of their business cycle. They must be employing less than 20 full-time people and have excellent vision and strategic direction among other qualifications.

The NCEC operates two branches, its Espresso Train Café and Catering Organisation and its Parks and Maintenance section. Employing around 20 people, they create on-going part-time employment.

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“There is potential for people with particular skills to fit into business, rather than having a role which you ask people to fit into,” says President Morrie O’Connor. “A lot of businesses exclude people with disabilities from general society. If you were creative you could actually look at how you design the work around the person.”

Steve Goodale is one of the main supervisors, a qualified chef, he teaches the employees how to cook, how to run the café and other life skills to build up their self-esteem. “I’ve been working here for the past three years, before that I was a health food chef, so we try to integrate that into here and make sure that the constituents are eating healthy and living a fun lifestyle.”

“The best thing about working here is that everybody likes to be here, we’re like a big family, we have fun and don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he said.

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Prior to joining the co-op the employees usually experience long-term unemployment or very short term jobs that have only lasted two or three weeks.

Coordinator for NCEC, Richard Warner said, “we are probably close to an optimum size for doing this type of thing, we could grow a little bit but our interest is in supporting other groups to create their own community businesses which involve and include marginalised people.”

After winning the Social Enterprise of the Year Award, “there has been a little bit more interest definitely, we’ve had a few more visitors down to the café and we’ve had other communities and groups of people interested in finding out about what we do so they can do it themselves,” he said.

Words by Emily Facoory