OUR COVID STORY: The Caboolture Co-op
The Caboolture Community Work Cooperative, modelled off the legendary Nundah Co-op, is a grass-roots social enterprise which employs people with disabilities in the Moreton Bay region through a small lawn mowing enterprise, and the Lagoon Creek Café and Function Room.
The speed at which the COVID-19 crisis completely shut down the operations of the Lagoon Creek Café on 24th March, was quite shocking for all connected to the Co-op and most particularly the 15 people with disabilities employed by the café, who were stood down overnight with little warning.
The cafe had proudly increased its catering and function room turn-over by 50% in the previous nine months leading up to the crisis and was providing up to 80hours per week employment to its members with disabilities. So, to see this hard-won success disappear overnight was devastating for all concerned.
Because of its out-of-the way location, with no drive-by or walk-in traffic, it was not viable to offer a take-away service or to try to remain open serving coffee with minimal staff.
During the shutdown period of two months, management and support staff worked hard to stay connected to our members to try to minimise the negative impact of social isolation on their mental health. It was a very difficult time, and people responded in varying ways to the isolation. Through video calls and positive conversations about the future, members were prepared and trained for the eventual re-opening of the café and how to implement new procedures and routines to comply with government requirements specific to the restaurant industry.
During this time, management and the board also applied for small hardship grants and received the ATO cash boost. The Co-op was also eligible for Job Keeper which enabled the café to open doors again on 26th May, providing 30-50 hours of employment weekly to date.
Since re-opening, there has been an increased amount of café foot traffic as people gladly start getting out and about again. One of the regular users of the function room has returned three days per week but the main income, being the catering for meetings and workshops from large corporates and the university, is not likely to return in the foreseeable future.
Yes, we are open, and we are grateful for the government grants and specifically the Job Keeper which allowed the café to open and pay its staff. We remain hopeful that if the catering contracts do not return by the end of September, and the hospitality sector is still suffering, the government will implement a further period of Job Keeper to prevent the inevitable loss of jobs and/or closure of small businesses like ours.
Deb Griesheimer, Chairperson of the Board
Caboolture Community Work Cooperative