The West

Workers concerned for future
Dennis Cox and Roy Kirby have been working in the Gnarojin Community Garden for more than 12 months.

Disability workers at Gnarojin Community Garden are concerned about their future employment after Hotham Personnel lost the tender to deliver disability employment services at the site from March next year.

But Hotham chief executive Peter Goff has rejected concern the garden will close and funding will be cut.

The employment services provider has a 25-year peppercorn lease on the property, and plans to continue on as facility manager.

Mr Goff said the garden played an important role in the community and he was looking forward to sourcing more funding and expanding the garden.

Employment service provider Hotham set up the community garden more than 12 months ago and had a contract with Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to employ people with a disability in the community.

Earlier this month, the Federal department announced as of March, disability employment services in Narrogin would be provided by another service.

Hotham declined to name the provider.

Peter Rance has been working at Gnarojin garden on Wednesday and Thursday mornings since it started and said he was concerned the change in employment provider might mean he lost his job.

“I travel from Wickepin, which is 40km away, to work here and the others come from Popanyinning and Highbury,” he said.

The department wrote to workers to assure them of their future employment.

Mr Goff moved to allay concerns.

“There is no problem with either the future of Hotham Personnel or of the community garden,” he said.

“We are still a viable organisation, we’ve just let go of a contract but we’ve still got many other things we’re dealing with and the community garden will be developed even more rather than being let go.”

Mr Goff praised the gardeners work on the garden and said he would work to secure funding to develop the garden to the next stage.

“We think that by next year we will be viable and selling produce,” he said.

Gnarojin garden project co-ordinator Dee Kirby said she was confident there were funding sources for the garden and Hotham would explore options to ensure its future.

“We didn’t get a tender this time but we’ve got a peppercorn 25-year lease on the property, so we don’t want to lose it,” she said.

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