Local florist's new hire: 'Must have a disability or mental illness'

Nip Wijewickrema started GG's Flowers with one goal in mind: to provide meaningful employment for her sister Gayana, who has Down Syndrome.

Five years on, GG's has become so much more. With five full-time employees and 20 casual employees during the Christmas rush, Wijewickrema can proudly confirm that all staff employed have a disability or mental illness.

"Often people with disabilities aren't provided with employment opportunities. And it can be challenging at times, employing people with a disability. You have to factor in so many things," Wijewickrema said.

Nip Wijewickrema and her sister Gayana of GG's Flowers are looking for a new employee. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Nip Wijewickrema and her sister Gayana of GG's Flowers are looking for a new employee. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

"But what you do get out of hiring people with a disability is fierce loyalty. You get loyal, competent and passionate employees. They want an opportunity, a fair go. That's what GG's is all about."

2.1 million people in Australia of working age have some form of disability. Australia’s employment rate for people with a disability is 46.6 per cent, which is on par with other developed countries.

Wijewickrema is now looking for the next addition to the "socially sustainable" florist.

Last week, she posted on Facebook that they were seeking a driver and florist assistant to work 15 hours a week. And they "must have a disability or mental illness".

"I've had a few people in my existing network send me a message saying: 'You probably don't know this but I battle anxiety and would love to work with you.'

"And I think this brings a huge light to mental health issues in our community. There are so many people battling in the workplace, and often those workplaces aren't meeting their needs adequately."

Since opening in 2013, Wijewickrema has received over 200 resumes in her inbox, job applications from all around Australia.

In 2015, in the ACT the unemployment rate for people with a disability was the lowest in Australia at 3.6 per cent.

Some of the messages Wijewickrema has received have been from people in the Northern Territory and Queensland, all wishing there were more businesses in their area who were willing to employ people with a disability or mental illness.

GG's new hire will help with their Christmas rush, but Wijewickrema also hopes the new addition to the team will help grow the business.

"I'm looking for someone who has great customer service skills, and who has a friendly personality.

"The business was born from Gayana, who's the cuddliest, affectionate girl. She gives everyone a hug or a high five with all her deliveries.

"So I'm not looking for someone to take her role or to give hugs, but just someone who can encompass all the values she brings. Plus a passion to work, and really wants the opportunity."

And what will a prospective GG's employee get in return?

"What we can provide is a safe, compassionate and caring workplace where you can truly flourish. This job is also great for those who would like to be more independent."

If you have a disability or mental illness, or know of someone who does, you can contact info@ggsflowers.com.au for more information about the position.