Kathryn Rodwell and Peter Bartholomew have been working for the last 18 months on the Ginninderry project, job-sharing at the head office, helping in all kinds of ways to support the creation of a massive housing development in the north-west of Canberra.
They could be making the coffee, answering phones, greeting people to the office, setting up meeting rooms, photocopying, binding together reports - doing anything that helps the place run smoothly. And it does, says Ginninderry employment manager Emma Sckrabei, saying the aim was to have a diverse workforce.
"It means a lot to us to have them here," Ms Sckrabei said. "We weren't sure what to expect, hiring people with different abilities, sometimes people need a bit of extra support but they've been fantastic.
"They're part of the team. We don't look at them as having a disability. We look at them as having the same abilities as us."
Thursday is World Down Syndrome Day, a time to pause and celebrate the lives and achievements of people with the genetic condition Down syndrome, like Peter and Kathryn, who are treated like any other employee and who have become almost the face of the project.
"We're really proud of what this place has done to us," Kathryn said.
Ginninderry is a joint venture between the ACT government and the private company Riverview, creating a new housing development stretching from the north-western suburbs of Canberra, across the border, into the Yass Valley. Three suburbs in the ACT and one in NSW will gradually be built, 11,500 homes being constructed over the next 30 years.
Peter, 34, and Kathryn, 43, work in admin and reception at the head office on Stockdill Drive, next to Strathnairn Arts Association, in Holt.
The Riverview Group chief executive David Maxwell was keen to take on Kathryn and Peter, supported and informed by the ACT Down Syndrome Association.
“Being a family-based business, we’re focused on how families function and as most of us know, families are made up of a number of different characteristics," Mr Maxwell said.
“We want the same in our workpeople; people with a good range of skills and diversity across the team.
“It’s been a really positive thing for our existing staff to have Peter and Kathryn as part of the team, and it’s been equally rewarding for the two of them.”
Peter, who lives in Gilmore with his parents, and Kathryn, who lives in the Project Independence social housing in Latham, both catch the bus to Kippax where one of their Ginninderry workmates will pick them up and take them to the office.
"We have a work roster to take turns to pick them up and drop them off," Ms Sckrabei said.
Kathryn is passionate about ensuring people with disabilities are not subject to discrimination.
"I think they should be treated fairly and equally," she said. "I just want to be treated like a human being."
Peter said: "I was born with Down syndrome and a hole in my heart. It was special to my parents to raise me as a polite person". He is tailormade for the Ginninderry job.
"I like working here," he said. "I like setting up the meeting room."
Peter is also busy working as a kitchen hand at the Daana Indian restaurant in Curtin, taking cooking classes and playing basketball.
"When I move out of home, I'd like to stay at Sky Plaza in Woden because it's easier for me to have lunch with my big brother," he said.
Kathryn, who likes going to the gym, is hoping to save enough to buy her own unit because she enjoys living by herself. Working is another step towards independence.
"I want mum to understand I'm grown up now," she said, before reassuring her: "I'll still be her daughter."
The ACT Down Syndrome Association has a community inclusion toolkit, which is funded by a National Disability Insurance Agency, to support inclusion of people with Down syndrome in the community.
Down Syndrome Australia chief executive Dr Ellen Skladzien said the toolkit could provide significant support to employers.
“[It] has practical resources such as work schedules and training ideas to help employers include a person with Down syndrome into the workplace,” she said. The toolkit is available online at downsyndrome.org.au
People with Disabilities ACT executive officer Rachel Sirr said she wanted to see a day when it was not even necessary to highlight people with disabilities working in mainstream jobs.
“We want to see hiring of people with disabilities become a 'norm' in Canberra," she said.
"There are many jobs suitable for people with disabilities.
"Organisations in Canberra should consider this when recruiting staff, not just to 'fill a quota' but genuinely recognise the benefits to business, staff culture and productivity when hiring a person with a disability. The flow-on effects are undeniable. Truly a win-win.
“It is a great social-change need of our current times.”