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Growing Skills in Garden Maintenance

A job that he loves provides Mathew with more than just a wage.

Finding enjoyable paid work that also draws on our individual skills and passions is what most workers aspire to, and what twenty-six-year-old Mathew Grillo achieved when he began working for Ground Works.

Mathew comes from a long line of farmers and gardeners, so it was no surprise to his mother Nina that he loved working outdoors and had an aptitude for gardening.

“Mathew’s a hands-on person,” says Nina. “His dad was a gardener and from a young age Mathew would sit on his lap on the ride-on mower and my parents had a farm in Galston growing vegetables and flowers, so he grew up around experiences like that.”

After he left school, Mathew enjoyed working in a paid, part-time job at an organic farm. He also had another part-time gardening job but, as is often, unfortunately, the case for people with disability seeking employment, a voluntary job, although done well, was slow to progress into paid employment.

After four years, Mathew was ready to look for a new opportunity. It was around this time that Mathew moved to a new Supported Independent Living home and a staff member recommended that Nina contact Unisson Works, Unisson’s disability enterprise that provides paid employment for people with disability in a supported environment.

“That was the best thing we did,” says Nina “Mathew loves working with Unisson”.

“I like the people. I like the work. The job’s good and I like being outdoors,” said Mathew.

After a two-week trial, Mathew was employed as a Home & Garden Maintenance Worker at Ground Works, where he works three days a week, and with his background and experience, he was quick to pick up the work and soon got to know his work colleagues. Mathew now travels in a crew of 4-6 supported employees and his support facilitators to work sites around Sydney and the Central Coast providing gardening services to councils, government, retirement villages, hospitals, residential properties and customers who have garden maintenance in their NDIS plan, so they can continue to enjoy their outdoor spaces.

Seeing the results of his hard work and earning a wage, gives Mathew a real sense of pride and purpose says Ground Works Coordinator Troy Prescott,

“Working for Ground Works gives Mathew purpose and he’s proud to tell people about what he does. He’s made friends and he can buy what he wants with the money he earns and do more social events. He’s genuinely happy being outdoors working.”

Ground Works shares its Thornleigh base with Unisson Works’ mailing and packaging business Pack Works and is where Unisson Works hosts its social events such as BBQs, cultural and birthday celebrations and the annual Christmas party.

Mathew also chose to work one day a week in the Pack Works warehouse learning new skills as a Process Worker. He says that his favourite task at Pack Works has been participating in assembling around 120,000 induction bags for children starting Kindergarten, but, while he enjoys the variety and the larger social group at Pack Works, Mathew’s passion remains working outside with Ground Works, he says,

“I like the people. I like the work. The job’s good and I like being outdoors.”

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