SUPPORT: Refelec's Kurt Renwick and Courtney Earl in the office.
SUPPORT: Refelec's Kurt Renwick and Courtney Earl in the office. Rebekah Yelland

Fair treatment for all

THE message of inclusion, as part of this year's National Disability Week, can be heard throughout the community by listening to people who are already doing their best to make sure others don't feel unsupported or misunderstood.

Emerald business Refelec has employed people with disabilities for the past three to four years, with a focus ensuring their staff - of all abilities - are treated the same.

Owner Kurt Renwick said he employed 16 staff, including Courtney Earl, who finished at Emerald State High School in 2015 and now works two, five-hour days a week at the refrigeration, electrical, and air-conditioning specialists business.

Mr Renwick said Courtney had Williams syndrome, or a developmental disorder that affects different parts of the body, with symptoms including a mild to moderate intellectual disability or learning problems.

He said she worked as an office administrator and her duties included filing, organisation and archiving of paper work, disposal of confidential information, and help for anyone else in the office who might need it.

"We've had disability employees for the last three to four years and we've sponsored Yumba Bimbi for the last five years when they've had golf charity days, and we just wanted to go one step further.

"Courtney is a fully paid employee. We treat her as an employee like anybody else.”

Mr Renwick said Courtney, who completed a Cert 2 in hospitality and business while at school, had made the transition from education "where they are looked after”, to the workforce where she was expected to stand on her own two feet, "which is hard enough for anyone”.

He said he aimed to keep her work environment as a normal day, just as it would be for anybody else.

Mr Renwick said he had seen improvement in Courtney's confidence, verbal communication skills and comprehension since she had been working with the Refelec team.

"The benefits have been amazing and you can definitely notice a difference,” he said.

"She's very outgoing and will ask if she needs help, and she's happy to jump in and help as well.

"Team-wise, she's very polite and if she doesn't know someone she'll take it upon herself to introduce herself.”

He said having Courtney on the team had also been vital in helping others learn to understand the significance of "inclusion” for people with a disability.

"It gives everyone an idea that this is the world, there's lots of different people. It's about awareness.

"We need to understand that sometimes, people's thought sequence can be different, so you just need to be patient and try to understand it from their point of view.”

Mr Renwick said it was important to learn to be respectful of the needs of people with disability, but overall to include people "so they feel like they're part of the workforce and part of the community”.

"I think people with a disability love the community more than possibly other people would.”