Walk into Nuriootpa’s Barossa Community Options on any given day of the week and you’ll see smiles, hear laughter and witness a wealth of learning as participants go about their lives.
These joyful faces belong to the individuals supported by Barossa Enterprises, an organisation that has made its presence felt in the Valley for more than four decades by creating opportunities for people needing extra support to lead their best lives.
Starting in a small shed near the original Tanunda Rec Centre, Barossa Enterprises began after a group of local parents decided they wanted more for their sons and daughters who needed to find the tools to navigate their unique world and engage in the local community.
Those humble beginnings as a group activity centre for people living with a disability grew to the point where it was necessary to move to larger premises at Basedow Road, then to a purpose built site at Nuriootpa’s Samuel Road where the organisation thrives today.
Barossa Community Options was added to the Barossa Enterprises’ family in 2017 to create an holistic hub that not only provides supported employment through the manufacturing of premium timber products and packaging for the wine industry, but also accommodation and a whole host of other programmes.
Home and Community Support Manager, Catherine Baylis admits she could be a little biased when she says she’s proud of how Barossa Community Options has evolved.
For her, it was the final piece of a multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle working together to give participants a wide range of experiences.
“You have to have more than just work in your life,” says Catherine.
“The skills-based programmes are a lot of fun, but the underlying premise is always about increasing personal growth and independence.
“Whether it be swimming, men’s group, women’s group, bowling or cooking, there are always things we focus on during that time – social relationships, friendships, health and wellbeing. Personal safety is always a really big thing that we look at all the time.
“Our knowledge and history around skills development is wrapped into everything we do.”
Art group is a popular programme where participants work with a range of mediums to not only produce great works of art, but also research the methodology and history behind what they are working on.
A fun-filled “Bra and Bubbles” evening for women isn’t solely about getting the right fitting underwear, it’s also about being in control of your body and knowing your personal rights. Cooking classes always result in a tasty meal, but portion control, shopping lists, kitchen safety and choosing healthy options are underlying themes.
And whilst making poppies for ANZAC Day isn’t unusual, there’s a journey of discovering the bigger picture in the process.
“It’s not earth-shatteringly new, but we try and link things back to what is happening in the community. Like baking ANZAC bickies, it’s something they can enjoy in their family life too.
“There are lots of layers.”
Many friendships are made and kept, another pleasing result achieved by offering such a full schedule of activities.
“Some of our participants, I swear, they get to Friday night and they are absolutely exhausted!” laughs Catherine.
“Friendships are really quite hard to maintain. There are a lot of nuanced and subtle cues that we all use that just may not be available to people with intellectual disability or acquired brain injury. But we have an astonishing number of really great friends here, it’s lovely to see what support can achieve.”
Catherine describes Barossa Community Options as being “about the community you are in”.
Whether it is taking part in the Barossa Vintage Festival parade or learning to hold a pool cue during a game of 8-ball at The Greenock, growth and development is always the goal.
“Yes, here are the programmes, but this is the impact in real life – independence, friendships and confidence,” says Catherine.
“Those basic life skills are just so important in your employment, your personal life. Self-regulation for instance, get that one right and you are halfway home! Half the issues you face in the world are because people can’t self-regulate and control their emotions when they need to.
“None of our services are contingent on the other. Some people will just go to Barossa Community Options and others will go to employment. Others might be in accommodation but the fact is, a lot of the clients share a lot of the programmes.
“There’s always that linking back to the community, to home or linking back to friendship groups.”
Whilst Barossa Community Options has never been about big ‘break-throughs’, Catherine lights up when she describes the many beautiful outcomes she has seen.
“Oh my goodness! There have been some amazing changes and I get quite emotional thinking about the people who have come to
us,” she says.
“I don’t want to suggest it is all about improvement, some are perfect as they are. But, it’s about creating an opportunity to challenge people for personal growth and personal skill levels. It’s always about increasing independence, giving them choice and control over their lives.
“There are so many skills and not having them will impact on your level of independence. If you can’t count money, if you can’t tell the time, these small things we think are fairly low level can knock you out of a lot of mainstream activities and that’s where Community Options can really help.
“It’s not easy to put the whole thing together, but I really feel with Barossa Community Options we’ve really hit the sweet spot of having stacks of fun but always feeling that you are achieving something.”