Darwin Trailer Boat Club’s disability-inclusive employment proves a recipe for success

The Darwin Trailer Boat Club is a proud employer of people with disability.

Jack is a talented young chef and a person with disability. The Darwin Trailer Boat Club has found that employing Jack has brought many benefits.

The Darwin Trailer Boat Club is an ideal spot for visitors to watch the spectacular sunsets in the Northern Territory capital. For Jack, who’s in his early 20s, it’s the perfect place to expand his skills.

Tourism and hospitality businesses are realising that employing people under-represented in the workforce – such as people with disability – can help with workforce shortages.

Jack started work in the busy club’s kitchen in May 2023. A commis chef, he spends 3 full-time days a week preparing food. He chops onions with supreme attention to detail. He juliennes vegetables into precise matchstick strips. General Manager Alex Ehrlich loves Jack’s work ethic.

Ehrlich says: ‘It’s wonderful to have someone do all this work that isn’t glamorous but is so important – and do it with a smile on their face.’

Room for all in tourism and hospitality

Carpentaria, a disability services organisation, recommended Jack to the boat club, through Hospitality NT.

Jack is a person with hidden disability. Ehrlich was happy to employ the young chef on principle. More tourism and hospitality businesses should be open to inclusive recruitment, he believes.

‘Hospitality and tourism have room for a broader range of people than many industries,’ says Ehrlich.

The visitor economy already has a diverse range of employees, he says. It attracts people from different classes and backgrounds. It doesn’t always require lots of formal book learning. If employers are flexible, they can look at candidates’ skills and tailor roles to them.

‘I don’t really work to set job descriptions,’ Ehrlich says, of Jack’s having a job devoted to food preparation. ‘I look at a person’s skillset and apply them to the jobs I have going.’

A man in a chef's apron cooking in a kitchen.

Commis chef Jack in the kitchen of the Darwin Trailer Boat Club.

A sense of community

Darwin Trailer Boat Club is a local institution. It has won many awards in its 66-year history. These include the Excellence in Supporting Employment gong at 2023’s Northern Territory Disability Inclusion Awards.

The club’s employment of a person with disability, and its award, have generated positive publicity. Everybody knows someone with disability, Ehrlich says. Or they know someone who knows someone with disability. Word-of-mouth has inspired more people to visit the club and support its community spirit.

Working on a bigger stage

Jack says he was nervous at first about working at such a well-known Darwin venue. But he was excited about the new experiences this opportunity would provide. Jack completed his Certificate III in commercial cookery in Carpentaria’s training cafe, the Cafe at Harry’s Place. Now he’s working in a different environment, in a different atmosphere, and on a much bigger scale.

He’s particularly loved working with the people at the club. ‘The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and have varied experience to share. Every day brings something new – a new skill or new recipe. It’s a great place to grow,’ he says.

Today, Jack is making himself familiar with cooking each dish on the club’s menu. He’s keen to keep learning more and is thinking about continuing his studies in 2025. ‘For now, my plan is to keep cooking!’ he says.

Unlocking talent for Australia’s visitor economy 

Building a secure and resilient workforce is a priority of THRIVE 2030, Australia’s national strategy for the visitor economy.

People with disability in Australia have a labour force participation rate of just 53.4%. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, 4430.0 – Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia 2018.)

This means there is a large – and largely untapped – source of skills that tourism operators can recruit to alleviate labour shortages.

JobAccess provides free and expert support to help remove barriers to employing people with disability. It coordinates and funds workplace adjustments, support and training to get your workplace ready and help an employee with disability work more productively or safely. Not all employees with disability will require adjustments, but if they do, JobAccess can help manage the process from start to finish, including arranging a free workplace assessment.

With a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, the JobAccess team offers expertise across a range of specialist fields including disability and mental health, training and recruitment, workplace adjustments and occupational therapy. Most importantly, they are passionate about what they do, and want to help more Australian employers reap the rewards of an inclusive workplace.

Growing the visitor economy

THRIVE 2030 is Australia’s national strategy for the long-term, sustainable growth of the visitor economy.