Meet the Challenge Southern Highlands team behind the Welby Garden Centre

The Welby Garden Centre is more than just your average nursery.

Challenge Southern Highlands operates the centre as an Australian Disability Enterprise.

The group of 46 employees assist with nursery sales, and learn many other practical skills including construction, gardening, office work and delivering newspapers.

The Welby Garden Centre provides employment opportunities in retail nursery, wholesale nursery, garden maintenance and work crews.

Challenge Southern Highlands manager Tony McElhinney said it was the largest employer in the Southern Highlands as far as nurseries were concerned.

“We assist them [employees] to learn new skills and enable them to overcome their work-related fears such as operating machinery,” Mr McElhinney said.

Challenge Southern Highlands commercial services manager Kym Partridge said he wanted to break the stereotype that the Welby Garden Centre was run on “slave labour.”

“What people don’t understand is that it’s so much more to our employees than work,” Mr Partridge said.

“It’s not a monetary thing for them. On their disability pension, they make between $3 to $15 an hour.

“It provides them with socialisation and a greater sense of self-worth.”

The team delivers two million newspapers a year on average.

The team members add the inserts into the newspaper, roll it and wrap it in weatherproof plastic.

Fun is added to the task where the employees treat it as a mini olympics to see who can throw the newspaper the furthest. 

On top of the work they do at the nursery, the employees attend TAFE every Monday where they work towards the completion of a small engine maintenance course.

“They also have first-aid certificates,” Mr Partridge said.

“In fact, they out-qualify me. I can use a chainsaw, but I haven’t done the course like they have.”

Visit the friendly team at the Welby Garden Centre located on the Old Hume Highway, Welby.