Create another chance. It’s the tagline and ethos of the Australian Community Support Organisation, more commonly recognised as ACSO. It also applies to their latest social enterprise.
At the entrance of Victoria Street (the Hoddle Street end) the bright green of the mural that adorns the external wall next to ACSO’s offices, guides you towards the door of the aptly named ACspresSO.
We sat down with ACSO’s jack-of-all-trades and community re-integration dude, Tim Giles, to get the run down of the new venture.
ACspresSO has been set up as a café that provides hands-on training, work experience and access to paid job opportunities for ex-offenders in the Victorian community.
“We recognised and identified that we have a group of people that are coming out of prison and they really never enter community life as maybe you and I know it,” Giles said.
“They come into the community, they engage with centrelink, their corrections officer, a doctor. They rarely have the opportunity to access employment, become socially and economically included.”
The idea for the social enterprise had been in the back of the ACSO CEO’s, Karenza Louis-Smith, head for a number of years.
With their hands already on the perfect site, it was just a matter of time, preparation and obtaining philanthropic funding, before the idea became a reality.
Candidates for the training program are chosen through a fairly selective process that targets those who will benefit the most, with different levels of the traineeship offered based on experience.
Since opening its doors just over 3 months ago, ACspresSO has currently seen six participants successfully complete the course with a few of those going on to further their studies.
“You can see the pride that they take in responsibility for something when they have rarely had that opportunity in the past,” Giles shared.
The goal for the first year is to see 36 participants through the program, changing their lives by supporting them to build skills and gain confidence to gain economic independence and community connectedness.
“It’s designed to provide people with the skills, a reference, with the qualifications that they need to be competitive with others who are trying to enter the mainstream hospitality workforce,” said Giles.
“We want our clients not to be dependent on a welfare type employment opportunity for the rest of their lives. We want them to be supported and given confidence, qualifications they need to progress into paid employment”.
With the success from the program that they have seen so far, ACSO are keen to replicate the model elsewhere to continue on their quest to create another chance for many many more.