AMONG brand new desks and spacious, glass-walled offices, Bill Johnson couldn’t help but recall his first compact office — complete with just three chairs and a single filing cabinet.
To him the new $3.5 million home of Western District Employment Access (WDEA) is as much a reminder of the organisation’s humble beginnings as its bright future.
“Twenty-four years ago we opened on the 21st of August at the back of the TAFE — albeit in a two-by-two-metre room,” founding member Bill Johnson said.
“We had no training and no funds.”
Staff moved into the two-storey building several weeks ago but took a break on Friday for Premier Denis Napthine to officially cut the ribbon on the new headquarters.
“These things don’t happen by chance — they happen because people work hard,” chief executive Mick White said.
The first single room office that opened in 1989 had three chairs and as many staff.
“They were average conditions in the old place,” Mr White said.
After years of wrangling with council and following a “difficult path”, WDEA settled for the location at 52 Fairy Street.
The strongest praise came from Dr Napthine.
“WDEA is one of the organisations I take my hat off to,” he said.
“I’ve admired it for many years. They just quietly go about the business of putting clients first and getting the best outcome and for people with disabilities getting them into employment when they can.
“In my experience in the field of disability across Victoria, even around Australia, WDEA is one of the best, if not the best, organisations that I’ve dealt with.”