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Dial-A-Lunch, a million dollar success story -

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Dial-A-Lunch, a million dollar success story


MARIE KUCHENMEISTER, DIAL-A-LUNCH CAFE OWNER: It's a real business. People have real jobs. We just
wanted to prove that people with disabilities, given those opportunities, can do it.

NATASHA JOHNSON: In a busy shopping strip in the regional Victorian city of Geelong, Dial-A-Lunch,
or DAL Cafe as it's more commonly known, has built up a reputation for good food and great coffee.
While the cuisine is drawing customers through the door, the cafe isn't just interested in making a
dollar. It's more concerned with providing jobs for people with disabilities. The cafe was opened
16 years ago by Marie Kuchenmeister, whose daughter Prue suffered brain damage after contracting
measles as a child.

MARIE KUCHENMEISTER: We're all, I suppose, shattered as a family, as you would be when such a
tragedy hits you, but we also have all pulled together and moved on.

NATASHA JOHNSON: But when Prue finished school, Marie was frustrated by the lack of employment
options for her daughter.

MARIE KUCHENMEISTER: They were the very old-style sheltered workshops which looked very much like a
very basic factory floor, where people were mostly just sitting around doing packaging and that's
really about all I could find.

NATASHA JOHNSON: So this mother of three, whose primary cooking experience had been the family
kitchen, fought for government funding and opened the DAL Cafe. She started with two part-time
supervisors and four people with disabilities. Her daughter was one of the early employees and is
still working here.

MARIE KUCHENMEISTER: So, to see how she has come along with lots of support obviously and
assistance and making the friends that she's made here, it's just to us, as a whole family really,
just a dream come true.

NATASHA JOHNSON: It's also a dream come true for the 42 disabled people now employed here. 16 years
after opening her little coffee shop, Marie Kuchenmeister 's dream has grown into two cafes and a
catering service which turns over $1 million a year, which is ploughed back into the business to
create more jobs.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Did you find it hard to get a job when you left school?

BROOKE GREENHALGH, CAFE WORKER: Yeah a little bit, yeah.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Why was it hard?

BROOKE GREENHALGH: Because with my disability I sort of couldn't get anywhere, so, I'm luck I'm

NATASHA JOHNSON: Twenty-one-year-old Brooke Greenhalgh has been working at DAL for five years. Like
most of the staff, she's also gained qualifications in hospitality at the local TAFE college, an
achievement her mother never imagined would be possible.

CARMEL GREENHALGH, BROOKE'S MOTHER: My husband and I were extremely worried thinking what was going
to happen later on in life with her. You know, if something happened to us what would happen to
her, and things like that. And to know she's got this to fall back on. Oh, it's absolutely

NATASHA JOHNSON: And it's not just about work. The staff have developed close friendships and even
formed a 10 pin bowling team.

CARMEL GREENHALGH: When she did first come home from work, she was just so excited that a girl here
had asked her whether she'd like to go bowling with her and things like that. And she was just so
excited that she was going somewhere like that, bowling, and if there's a party or anything, they
all go to it.

NATASHA JOHNSON: What does it mean to you to have a job here?

BROOKE GREENHALGH: Very much, yes. Very important to me. Just, all the friends and everyone
supports me here. Like, sometimes I do mistakes, but I can do it properly again.

NATASHA JOHNSON: So disabilities don't matter here?


NATASHA JOHNSON: The workers are all closely supervised and supported and take on tasks from
cutting up the vegies to serving on tables, managing catering orders and even the accounts. They
earn a decent wage and the aim is, where possible, to move them on to employment in the wider
community. Marie is now helping to set up similar workplaces around the state, determined to help
those whose struggles she knows so well.

MARIE KUCHENMEISTER: I have somebody, a young lady who's working here, and her mother said to me
that her daughter having a job here is better than winning Tattslotto could ever do for that
family. And it brought to tears to my eyes, obviously. And I suppose that's one of the things why
my heart is really in the place, because I know exactly how all of these parents feel and what it
means to them and their sons and daughters.