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Thursday, 24 June 2021
Page: 90

Mrs ARCHER (Bass) (10:10): Blueline Laundry has been operating for close to 130 years and it has never wavered from its commitment to creating meaningful employment. It was originally founded by the sisters of the Good Shepherd to provide employment to disadvantaged women and girls. Today Blueline Laundry has two major operations—in Hobart and Launceston, within my electorate of Bass—and supports around 240 employees from a range of backgrounds that may provide barriers to employment, whether this is due to a disability, socioeconomic challenges or entering the workforce as a new migrant. Their Launceston operation has 90 employees from a variety of ethnic and linguistically diverse backgrounds. They wash and press over 50 tonnes of sheets and towels a week for the Launceston General Hospital and local hotels. Blueline is the only commercial laundry that is ISO 9001 accredited, which means that its quality, safety and efficiency of products, services and systems meet an internationally recognised standard.

It is more than just a laundry service. It was clear from my visit with CEO Michael Sylvester, northern operations manager Darrin Geard and Supported Worker Coordinator Cathryn Townsend just how much this for-purpose commercial enterprise is dedicated to living up to its mission—working closely with their employees to identify their strengths and place them in appropriate roles. Last year at the height of the pandemic the organisation lost 83 per cent of its customers, leaving the leadership team looking for every possible way to keep their doors open and the business sustainable. They discovered that there were 31 university degrees held between 25 migrant employees, who were able to move from factory work to other roles, such as IT and systems coordinators—positions that Blueline was struggling to fill from the local employment market.

Their accreditation means that compliance requirements must be met for the machines used by the laundry. Staff undertake specialised formal training, depending on their assigned role. As CEO Michael Sylvester points out, this empowers the employees and in turn makes them more resilient in their communities. He said, 'The thing that stands out for me when you surround yourself with a group of people who have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, whether it be those with disability or migrants, is it's not their disability that makes them vulnerable in the community; it's the way we as community members act that makes others vulnerable.'

Blueline is now close to pre-COVID levels of operations, which has enabled it to continue to support those who come through its doors. The organisation's reputation as a safe and welcoming environment for their employees means that they never have to advertise for their positions, as they're so well regarded by the community and by the support agencies that support them, who are often hoping to place clients with them. It is an incredible achievement for Michael and his team. With Blueline looking to expand its operations, I'm committed to doing what I can to support this business that gives so much back to our community.