Mt Victoria's Hotel Etico has taken out a national award for innovation at the 2022 Australian Disability Service Awards.
The NDIS-backed Hotel Etico at Mt Victoria Manor, is home to Australia's first social enterprise hotel staffed by live-in trainees with disabilities and supported by industry professionals.
The awards were held on November 9 at the Gold Coast Conference and Exhibition Centre where industry leaders and changemakers were showcased. From the hundreds of nominations received, 36 finalists were shortlisted, and 12 announced as winners.
Event organiser, Kellie Puxty, co-founder of One Community, said the awards showcased "exciting innovations and provided inspiring benchmarks in the disability service sector".
"We continue to be in awe of the incredible work taking place in our sector, by both small and large business."
Andrea Comastri, co-founder and CEO of Hotel Etico, said he was "extremely proud" the company had won the Award for Innovation in Employment Programs.
"There is nothing more rewarding that having your peers recognise the value of what you do.
"We pride ourselves for being innovators and disrupting the disability employment conversation, putting people with disability front and centre, paying them full award wages and using the dignity and fulfillment that comes from open employment as a way to achieve independence. So winning the award is amazing and very validating.
"We are proud to be a member of the Blue Mountains community with our first hotel and look forward to joining many more communities across Australia soon."
He said the award was recognition for his fellow directors and frontline staff "who have embraced our vision and are not only executing it but also contributing to its ongoing evolution and growth".
Hotel Etico's sees trainees front and centre of the business and fully integrated in operations. They live in-house and rotate through reception, housekeeping, kitchen, the restaurant and bar and participate in formal training certification.
Trainees develop independent living skills and further employment through a network of industry partners.
Recently Hotel Etico's first six trainees all secured employment with a range of employers including Leura's Fairmont Resort, Sofitel Wentworth and the Mercure Hotel in Sydney, Humble Bakehouse in Bligh Park and Hotel Etico itself.
Mr Comastri said many people were unaware that at 10 per cent, the unemployment rate for people with disability was more than double that of working age people without a disability.
"About 53 per cent of people with disability are in the labour force, compared with 84 per cent for those without a disability, a differential unchanged for 20 years."
One in five Australians have a disability but "are often an afterthought when it comes to ... policy development, leadership, employment and training programs," he said.
Preceding the awards was the Australian Disability Service Conference, where about 200 attendees gained insights from peers and industry leaders to build and enhance services that ultimately improve the lives of people living with disability.
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