Anuha general manager Robert Evelyn. PHOTO: ALI KUCHEL
Anuha general manager Robert Evelyn. PHOTO: ALI KUCHEL

How recycling helps people with disabilities get a job

A PROGRAM initially designed to help people with a disability has ended up helping the whole Lockyer community.

Today, its 35 years of Anuha – a project of the Peace Lutheran Church – that has helped people with disabilities and provided them with job-ready skills.

Originally designed as a lifestyle support group, Anuha also grew into a multifaceted service that was the brainchild of former pastor Eric Liebelt.

There are 120 active participants, quadruple the amount prior to the introduction of NDIS, and there’s plans to expand the operation further.

Anuha general manager Robert Evelyn said there was a huge demand for disability services in Gatton – particularly one tailored to the individual’s needs.

“To do the stuff we take for granted, the people that we support don’t have that luxury,” he said.

How it all began

Anuha was formed 36 years ago by the Lutheran church, mostly for members of the congregation who had children with a disability.

It started off in the Sunday school room a couple days a week, but eventually it got to the size where state funding was required to hire staff.

Rather than being an arts and crafts drop-in centre, the program switched to an employment preparation model.

The first project involved people dropping off their old Gatton Star newspapers for recycling.

“We used to tie up old newspapers into bundles and sell them off,” Mr Evelyn said.

“It was the precursor to today’s recycling plant.”

In the mid 1990s, Anuha received a grant to build its headquarters at 10 East St in Gatton and expanded into a five-day-a-week service.

BEEP BEEP: The Anuha Tip Shop team are proudly displaying a 1967 electric Volkswagen Beetle.
BEEP BEEP: The Anuha Tip Shop team are proudly displaying a 1967 electric Volkswagen Beetle.

Anuha’s activities

The days of activity centres are long gone, but the business and charity hasn’t lost its core focus – helping people with a disability.

One of the most popular activities is 10 pin bowling – which has gone on strike during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was up and running before I got here, and that was 20 years ago,” Mr Evelyn said.

“We’ve had people go into state and national championships and win plenty of trophies.”

They’re run cruises through Queensland waters and across to Tasmania along with intrastate trips, depending where their clients wanted to go.

Following the building’s completion, the commercial kitchen came into full swing, where participants learned cooking and packing skills.

It still operates two days a week where fresh jams, chutneys and pickles are made then sold at The Big Orange and the visitor information centre.

“From our lifestyle program grew our employment program,” Mr Evelyn said.

“We employ people with a disability to do a range of different duties.”

Anuha employee Mark Williams sorts plastics to be recycled at the Anuha recycling facility. Photo: Claudia Baxter (File image)
Anuha employee Mark Williams sorts plastics to be recycled at the Anuha recycling facility. Photo: Claudia Baxter (File image)

Recycling program and tip shop

Anuha is most likely known for its recycling program and tip shop.

Recycling in the Lockyer Valley can be highly credited to Anuha’s initial sorting project that provided participants who weren’t suited to the activity therapy model another opportunity.

“We went to council and started a kerbside collection for recycling – just in Gatton,” Mr Evelyn said.

It was a bag system, which was voluntary.

If people wished to participate, they were given a 20-litre bag to put their recyclables in and put on the kerb on bin day.

The initial program continued until about 2012, which was when the new recycling centre was built.

With federal and council funding, Anuha also chipped in to build the recycling depot.

“It’s a program originally designed to help people with a disability that’s ended up helping the whole community,” Mr Evelyn said.

“We still haven’t lost focus, the whole reason it’s here is to give people job skills to gain employment.

“But it also has the benefit of stopping a while pile of rubbish going to landfill.”

The recycling program has boomed from employing 12 people at its initial inception to 30 disability workers, plus an additional 10 staff.

Despite the program’s success, a lack of understanding or wanting to recycle properly, frustrates organisers.

The most dangerous is hypodermic needles found in the sorting line.

“We don’t know if they’re form people using them for medicinal purposes, like diabetes management, or if is a drug user,” Mr Evelyn said.

“But everyone has been trained as soon as they see one, they stand back and pull a safety cord. It shuts the whole facility down.”

Mr Evelyn said that, along with food scraps, were the worst to come down the line.

They average about 14 per cent incorrect cycling, which he would like to drop to less than 10 per cent.

“If people were made to spend a day in recycling on the sort line, maybe that would stop them – I don’t know,” Mr Evelyn said.

Next door to the recycling centre is also Anuha’s tip shop.

It’s a place where unwanted “junk” is transformed into treasures.

“We get a reasonable level of donations. Because its co-located with the landfill site it makes it easier for people to drop stuff off,” Mr Evelyn said.

Anuha also provides accommodation for the disabled through a number of purpose built dwellings in Gatton. Photo Tom Threadingham
Anuha also provides accommodation for the disabled through a number of purpose built dwellings in Gatton. Photo Tom Threadingham

Major achievements and moving forward

In Mr Evelyn’s 20 years at Anuha, he says the construction of the recycling facility, along with the construction of seven community housing units have been rewarding.

But he’s eager to build more, with an increasing demand for community housing.

“The demand is there for community housing. It’s just the matter of coming up with land and the dollars to do it,” he said.

“We want to expand our housing portfolio, because we know there’s a need for it.”

Mr Evelyn said ideally, they would like to build another 12 units on the corner of East Street and Spencer Sts in Gatton.

“We have a wait list of about 12 to 15 people, if we built 12 units, we would fill them straight away,” he said.

A project in the pipeline is also building a new administration building next to the Peace Lutheran Church.

“We’re definitely committed to building a new administration building, but we’re just waiting for the congregation to give us a tick for that one,” he said.


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