• Breaking new ground in disability support

    One of Australia’s oldest rehabilitation providers has unveiled new disability support services for the modern age in New South Wales.

    Royal Rehab has reopened its upgraded Dubbo hub and launched the Central Coast region’s first fully inclusive and accessible café, both in partnership with its wholly-owned subsidiary breakthru.

    The Dubbo facility has been extensively renovated with modern and convenient features, while Royal Rehab has also invested heavily in its technology to help people with disability to develop their digital skills and find employment.  

    “These renovations demonstrate our commitment to improving the services and supports available to people with disability across Dubbo and the broader Western NSW region,” Royal Rehab CEO Matt Mackay said. 

    “Our goal has always been to empower people with disability to achieve higher levels of independence, and providing a space like this is designed to help members of our community feel comfortable and included, which goes a long way toward achieving that goal.”  

    Royal Rehab’s mission dates back to 1899 when founder Susan Schardt – who was blind from birth – helped a man with disabilities to find accommodation and care in Sydney’s Surrey Hills.

    It opened its first facility in nearby Redfern the following year and has since grown to become Australia’s largest provider of rehabilitation and disability support services.

    In 2021, Royal Rehab merged with breakthru, a leading disability support organisation, in order to offer a wider range of services across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

    Dubbo Region Mayor Mathew Dickerson praised breakthru for its work in the community.

    “The renovations to their office, including new accessible entrances, kitchen facilities, bathrooms and technology, have been designed to better support the people they work with every day,” he said. 

    “Having this service within the Local Government Area is an asset for our community.” 

    Royal Rehab CEO Matt Mackay with Uncle Ralph Naden, who delivered the Dubbo hub's traditional welcome to country and smoking ceremony

    The new Breaking Grounds café in Tuggerah was also designed to accommodate people with disability, featuring accessible entryways with wheelchair-friendly tables and benches integrated to create a welcoming environment.

    It also offers employment and training opportunities, providing hands-on experience in the hospitality industry for people with disability, including those facing challenges such as poor mental or physical health, long-term unemployment, unmet educational goals, or homelessness.

    “Breaking Grounds café is designed to look like any other ‘mainstream’ café, but with accessible and inclusive features seamlessly integrated to demonstrate what organisations should strive to achieve in the future,” Mr Mackay said. 

    “Every element of this café is designed to be accessible for everyone in our community – both as customers and employees.”

    Its March 2023 launch is a welcome response to the Central Coast Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2021-25, which revealed that 41 percent of survey respondents said they or the person they care for had recently been discriminated against due to their disability.  

    “We really encourage local businesses to open their minds to employing someone with a disability,” Mr Mackay said. 

    “People living with disability are a hugely untapped group that research shows are eager to work and are incredibly loyal. A diverse workforce is a strong workforce.” 

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