Uniting Op Shops – where young people thrive.


January 2, 2024

Uniting Op Shops across Melbourne are celebrating community collaboration and inclusivity, encouraging everyone to discover their unique style, personality and self-expression.

Working with the Employment Services team, Uniting Op Shops are helping young people living with a disability make their way in the world.

Nestled in the heart of communities such as Preston, Yarraville and Glenroy, Uniting Op Shops have long been known for their haven of creativity, community, and diversity. However, what sets them apart from other second-hand stores is their commitment to providing valuable work opportunities for young people living with disabilities via Uniting’s School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) program.

Uniting Op Shops have become thriving spaces where unique abilities and talents converge to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. The SLES participants – each bringing their own strengths to the table – are not only gaining essential skills and confidence but also actively contributing to the shop’s success.

The newly opened Brunswick Op Shop and warehouse on Victoria Street has generated excitement in the area, with a huge Op Shop and warehouse becoming a major hub for collecting and distributing goods. The large space houses kids, women’s and men’s clothing, a huge range of books, homewares, as well as vinyl records and hard to find retro and vintage items. The new space has also meant they’ve needed more hands on deck.

Jacob Miller – Uniting Op Shops Senior Manager says “We are delighted to be able to support the work of our colleagues running the School Leaver Employment program, and have these wonderful young people as part of our team. Our Op Shop Managers love being able to support them on their journey.”

Wolfie – one of the young people gaining confidence through work experience – enjoys learning how to count and handle money, and is beginning to gain familiarity with the workplace. He also likes making customers laugh with his jokes.

“It’s amazing to see [the SLES participants] develop a belief in themselves”, says Janet, one of the employment coaches supporting the young people. “They come in all nervous at the start…and then you see them coming out of their shell”. This is one of the most important aspects of the program – developing independence and confidence, Janet says.

Many of the young people live with a hidden disability, and can find everyday routines and interactions overwhelming. Navigating public transport, interacting with the community, understanding how to fill out forms and paperwork – many of these activities are taken for granted by people not living with a disability. The program helps young people to leave the familiarity of high school and supports them to develop essential skills that will set them up for life.

The community’s response to the Uniting Op Shop’s initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.

Visitors not only appreciate the vibrant atmosphere, but also applaud the young people in creating a space that champions diversity, inclusion and encourages self-expression.

The success of Uniting Op Shops is a leading example of the potential of inclusive employment programs. It highlights the importance of recognising and harnessing the unique talents of every individual, regardless of their abilities.

With understanding and a compassionate approach to young people living with different abilities, barriers to their career aspirations fall away and their goals for the future are brought that much closer.

Learn more about Uniting’s Disability Employment Services.


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