Orana has been offering upskilling and career opportunities to people with disability since 1950 and will celebrate their 70th anniversary in August.
There are now more than 650 South Australians living with disability who are connected with the organisation at service centres in Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier and Loxton.
Brain Prescott and Katelyn Hartshorne are among the staff whose lives have been shaped as a result of the organisation.
A long-time Murray Bridge worker, Prescott said he joined Orana after finishing high school and struggled to find work.
He said over the years, his part-time job had transformed from merely an income source to a second family.
“I was 21 when I first came here and I’m 56 now. My manager says I’m a little goldmine of bits of information about the place,” Prescott said.
“Because of my disability I couldn’t find a job in the outside workforce, no-one was interested in hiring me. I’ve got cerebral palsy spastic dysplasia, which means … I have very poor mobility in my legs. I was told about Orana, went and had a look and it all started from there.
“The whole place is like one big family, or to me they are. They seem to help and look out for one another in everything and anything around work.”
Orana was originally formed by a group of parents seeking educational and training opportunities for young people with intellectual disabilities, who were shunned from mainstream pathways at the time.
It has since taken on a dual purpose: to support people living with disability, and to provide businesses and government organisations in regional South Australia with local services – such as food and wine packaging, manufacturing, waste collection, and citrus and tool bag assembly.
In his 35 years with Orana, Prescott’s favourite job has been in timber work.
“Taking a piece of timber and turning it into a coffee table or a bedside table, it’s just the enjoyment of making something from nothing, from start to finish,” he said.
“We got to make one for ourselves, because we did a furniture making course here. I still have it, it’s in my bedroom.”
In line with its original purpose, Orana provides training programs where employees are taught skills for work in sectors such as horticulture and manufacturing.
For Orana Loxton employee Katelyn Hartshorne the nature of the mixed training and employment opportunities have not only enabled her to gain new skills, but also helped her to build self-esteem.
Since beginning with the organisation, the 24-year old has discovered she possesses an uncanny knack for sewing.
So skilled is Hartshorne with an electric needle and thread that she is able to whip up more than 2000 citrus bags a day – a speed she quietly but gleefully said contributed to her being named runner up in the 2019 Orana awards.
“When I tried to use the sewing machine for the first time it was kind of scary because I didn’t know how fast it would be,” Hartshorne said.
“I kept making them and they weren’t in a straight line or the bag was crooked, which was the bad thing about it.
“Now it’s one of my favourite jobs.”
Regional Showcase is supporting South Australia’s rural communities by telling their stories and celebrating their successes. We will compile these stories and then later in the year we will celebrate the best of South Australia’s regions at a special showcase event.
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