Choosing to Include

Ronnie has been a familiar face at IGA Mt Evelyn every Tuesday and Wednesday since he started working there over 15 years ago. In charge of cleaning the baskets and trolleys, organizing the catalogues, and helping in the Deli, Ronnie is one of the longest serving staff members in store.

Ronnie says: “I have lots of regular customers who come in to see me and I am really proud of what I do at IGA. Every customer who comes into our store says how lovely and clean the baskets and trolleys are and I work hard all the time.

“My workmates are happy to have me, they don’t want to lose me and always make me welcome. My friend Tony is a lovely boss. I would never work with an unkind boss. I’d rather work for people like Tony who are kind. I would never work anywhere else and will work at IGA for as long as I can.”

Pictured left to right: Tony, Donna Fairweather (Yarra Ranges Council) and Ronnie

Tony Ingpen, owner of IGA Mt Evelyn says that Ronnie is the perfect fit for their family owned business.

“Ronnie has been with us for 15 years and definitely is part of the furniture”, said Tony. Only three other employees have been here longer than him and he will always have a job with me. Until he decides otherwise, he will keep working here and we will keep on looking after him.

“I’m not doing Ronnie a favour by having him work here – he works hard and gives back so much to our business and I consider it a real honour to have him on our staff and also call him my friend.

“Everyone needs a Ronnie working for them. We all have challenges, but Ronnie has more challenges then others. He always comes through them smiling, which helps put things into perspective and there are some great life lessons that we can all take from Ronnie.”

According to Megan Jacobs, Community Connections Outcomes Manager, who helps empower people with a disability to live the life they want and secure valued employment in the local community, unfortunately situations like Ronnie’s are not as common as she would like them to be.

Megan says: “Ronnie and I started at Melba around the same time and I helped him secure the role at Mt Evelyn IGA. Both Ronnie and Tony benefit from the arrangement as well as  promoting the importance of inclusion within our local communities. Over the years, Tony’s wonderful respect, admiration and care for Ronnie has been filtered from the top down to all his staff and Ronnie is treated like any other staff member.

“I’m passionate about getting people with an intellectual disability involved in the community. People with an intellectual disability bring so much to the workforce – the best sense of humour, positivity, joy, productivity, and teamwork. The message is slow, but it is getting out there. It is ok to employ someone with a disability and if you aren’t you are missing out on so many levels!”