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Coffee a conduit to conversation and a career for office barista Kane

In a modern twist on the old-style tea lady, more than 100 people with disability have been placed in offices around Australia under the BusyBeans coffee-related employment program launched by disability service provider AimBig.

AimBig provides training and a coffee machine, while the employer – in Kane’s case, software company VETtrak – pays the employee a wage and supplies coffee and milk.

Happy at work: office barista Kane Cross, right, with his boss, VetTrak general manager Trevor Fairweather, and colleague Bridgette Kaminski.

Happy at work: office barista Kane Cross, right, with his boss, VetTrak general manager Trevor Fairweather, and colleague Bridgette Kaminski.Credit:Jason South

Kane’s boss, VETtrak general manager Trevor Fairweather, said the company was subsidised by the Federal Government for the first six months but the company intends to keep him on. ‘‘We enjoy having him as part of the team,’’ he said.

The 40 staff in the company’s Collins Street office appreciate Kane’s bubbly personality, chats about footy and deft handling of orders, which are sent to his iPad.

VETtrak employee Bridgette Kaminski says that, if she is too busy to pick up her hot chocolate from the office kitchen where Kane works, he will deliver it to her desk.

‘‘He knows everyone’s name, too, which is really nice.’’

Workmate Alison Ritchie is impressed Kane can make her a decaf, organic almond milk flat white. ‘‘I can’t actually get that downstairs in Collins Street.’’

Ms Ritchie enjoys chatting to him about camps he goes on, and their mutual love of cooking.

Mrs Cross said the barista job had made ‘‘a huge difference’’ to her son, who had previously felt down and ‘‘at a bit of a loose end’’.

Now, however, he is saving money and has more confidence.

‘‘He’s a lot happier. It’s just being part of a family, or a group. And somebody that accepts him and doesn’t look down on him, I think that’s the most important thing,’’ she said.

‘‘He needed something to pick him up and give him life again, which it did.

‘‘You have to be wanted and needed and contribute to society in some way, and he does – he makes people coffee and makes them happy.’’

Asked what he likes about the job, Kane said: ‘‘The people. Nice conversations.’’

Making coffee is ‘‘fun’’, he said. ‘‘It makes me look forward to something. It gives me a purpose.’’ One day he might work in a restaurant, ‘‘but I’ll probably stay here as long as I can, because I like it here’’.

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