Avenue is a social enterprise of Fighting Chance, which was created in 2011 in direct response to the experiences so many young people with a disability face coming out of the school system and into their adult lives, who struggle to find quality opportunities for work and continued skill development beyond the classroom.
This was certainly the experience of my own brother, Shane O’Reilly, who left school in 2009. Despite Shane’s many skills and talents, the world he graduated into in his late teens saw him only in the context of his profound physical disability. As a consequence, the opportunities Shane was afforded as a young adult were limited to a handful of recreational pursuits, with no meaningful opportunity to work or to grow his talents, particularly around his computer skills.
For Shane, a life without contribution was a life without purpose.
Avenue was launched back in 2011, as an antidote to this lack of opportunity in the post-school lives of young people with a significant disability. Originally conceived as a retail business selling a range of ethical products through community markets and e-commerce, the goal of Avenue was to give people with a disability the opportunity to work, build skills in an experiential setting, and foster social relationships in the context of a professional environment.
While this narrow retail model worked well in Avenue’s first few years, the rollout of the NDIS from late 2016 caused our community to grow rapidly, with participant numbers more than tripling in recent years. As more and more people joined us, the retail model came under increased scrutiny, as people interested to pursue different kinds of work in the economy looked to get involved.
Based on the feedback of our community, the Fighting Chance team has been working hard over recent months to evolve Avenue’s approach, to maintain key aspects of the original vision – and particularly the emphasis on meaningful work and skill development – while broadening the types of opportunities the enterprise can offer to the team.
That evolution is now complete, and I am pleased to announce the new Avenue model today.
Avenue is a co-working space, which makes work accessible to all.
At Avenue, we focus on creating the environment – a “co-working space” – to enable people with disability to come together, to work, and to thrive in collaboration with peers. The key features of the Avenue co-working space include:
- Each Avenue co-working space is made up of a number of working teams, which participants can join based on skills and interests, creating opportunities to work in a variety of micro-enterprises or via online platforms such as AirTasker.
- Business guidance available to assist entrepreneurs to get their own ideas up and running.
Experienced support workers on hand to meet the needs of all Avenue participants while they are at work – including with personal care, behavior support, mealtime assistance, learning and work participation support so that anyone can be supported to reach their potential.
- A working environment harnessing accessibility features and design to make the space accessible to all.
To further support Avenue participants to participate fully in the economy and the community, Avenue co-working spaces also offer:
Avenue Skills Program: An individualised skill development plan for every participant, overseen by the Avenue Learning Manager and Skills Coordinator, to ensure everyone is getting the most learning and development from their work.
Avenue Social Program: Working is not just about work – it is also about building relationships and connection to the community. Avenue’s social program supports participants to enjoy their downtime away from the office and get into social life in the community.
We are extremely excited about the new Avenue model, and believe it is a game changer for many tens of thousands of adults with a disability in Australia who want to fully participate in the working world.
We look forward to moving forward from here, and to rolling out our vision for Avenue in coming years.