Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

PM’s Awards showcase employers who give people with disabilities a go

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today announced the state and territory winners of the 2003 Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards.

Senator Patterson said the Awards, which recognise businesses that employ people with disabilities in each state and territory, were established in 1990. This year’s attracted over 350 nominations from around Australia, the highest number to date.

“I congratulate all the winners and nominated employers. It is companies like these which are leading the way.

“It is wonderful to see a growing number of businesses with the insight, vision and commitment to open up their businesses to people with disabilities,” Senator Patterson said.

“These employers recognise the contributions that all Australians can make and value the different qualities that we all bring to the workplace as individuals,” Senator Patterson said.

Winners in each state and territory are:

  • ACT – Better Brakes and Services, IOF Furniture and Bunnings Building Supplies
  • NSW – Benbro Electronics (Brookvale), Deane’s Buslines (Queanbeyan) and Wideline Pty Ltd (Wyong)
  • QLD – Malpara Florist (Townsville), Classic Australian Building Products (Ashmore City) and Hamilton Island Enterprises
  • SA – L’Abruzzese Pty Ltd (Glynde), Haigh’s Chocolates (Parkside) and Compass Group.
  • Tas – Ampol William Street (Devonport)
  • Vic – Dandy Pine Furniture (Dandenong), HM Gem Engines (Dandenong) Moran Australia (Noble Park)
  • WA – Fremantle Sardine Company (Fremantle), Telstra Desktop Services (Perth) and Compass Group.

The Awards acknowledge employers who recruit staff based on their abilities and create workplaces where people with disabilities can participate fully.

“One in five Australians has a disability, many of whom are able and willing to work, and simply need to be given the chance to show what they can do.

“The Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards recognise employers who are open to employing disabled people and they are rewarded daily by the valuable contributions these employees make. The awards highlight companies that give people a fair go, a chance to participate, to learn, to succeed and to develop in real jobs.

2003 Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards Winners

Australian Capital Territory

  • Small Business Winner – Better Brakes and Services
    Canberra’s Better Brakes and Services is a small automotive parts wholesaler, machinist and repairer located in Fyshwick, ACT. The company employs eight staff, half of which have a disability.
  • Medium Business Winner – IOF Furniture
    IOF began operations in Canberra in 1960 and today produce the majority of its extensive line of furniture products from its custom built facility in Fyshwick, Canberra. The company retails from its showrooms in Canberra and Sydney and through a dealer network across the country. The company has ten staff with disabilities.
  • Large Business Winner – Bunnings Warehouse
    Bunnings is Australia’s most successful hardware and home improvement retailer and is the third largest employer in Australia’s retail sector with almost 20,000 team members. In the ACT, Bunnings operates large outlets in Tuggeranong and Fyshwick employing approximately 350 people with 12 per cent of their staff having disabilities.

New South Wales

  • Small Business Winner – Benbro Electronics
    Benbro Electronics is a small business in Brookvale, NSW, which specialises in electronic design and manufacturing. It is owned and operated by two brothers, John and Steve Bennett. Benbro has a staff of 12, four with disabilities.
  • Deane’s Buslines – Deane’s Buslines
    Deane’s Buslines is a public transport operator based in Queanbeyan and Eden, NSW. The company has 84 staff, 22 with a disability. Seven are employed under the Motor Bus Drivers and Conductors Awards. Deane’s is building a new office that will be fully equipped for staff needs.
  • Large Business Winner – Wideline Pty Ltd
    Wideline has been manufacturing timber and aluminium windows and doors for domestic and commercial use for more than 32 years. Since it opened its doors for business, the NSW company, with three locations across the state, has grown from a staff of two to an employer of more than 220, including 12 with disabilities.


  • Small Business Winner – Malpara Florist
    Malpara Florist is a small family-run business in Townsville, Queensland. The business has 18 staff, three of which have disabilities. They operate five retail outlets across Townsville and have won awards for their floral art and have recently been voted Townsville’s best florist.
  • Medium Business Winner – Classic Australian Building Products
    Classic Australian Building Products is a high-volume, quality bathroom vanity manufacturer in Ashmore City, Queensland. The medium sized business currently employs nine staff with disabilities ranging in ages from 21 to 50.
  • Large Business Winner – Hamilton Island Enterprises
    Hamilton Island Enterprises is a large business that operates on a resort island in Queensland. They currently employ 11 persons with disabilities and are looking to expand this to 24 next year. The average stay for an employee with a disability is just under two years, which is an excellent record given the nature of the industry.

South Australia

  • Small Business Winner – L’Abruzzese
    L’Abruzzese is a family owned Australian business that creates home-style egg noodles and gourmet and organic pasta from Glyne, South Australia. They sell to a large clientele, in South Australia and across Australia. L’Abruzzese employs 14 staff, four with a disability.
  • Medium Business Winner – Haigh’s Chocolates
    Haigh’s Chocolates is Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolate manufacturer. They produce high-quality chocolates and confectionery for retail sale, from their factory in Parkside, South Australia. The company is aiming for 25 per cent of its manufacturing workforce to be made up of people with disabilities.
  • Large Business Winner – Compass Group/Eurest
    Compass Group Asia Pacific is the region’s largest food service and hospitality company in more than 14 countries. The company specialises in providing food and support services on client premises. In South Australia more than seven per cent of their 600 staff have disabilities


  • Small Business Winner – Ampol William Street Devonport
    Ampol William Street is a 24-hour petrol station and convenience store in Devonport Tasmania. The station has 11 staff, half of which have a disability. The longest serving employee has been with the station for five years and the average length of employment is four years and six months.


  • Small Business Winner – Dandy Pine Furniture
    Dandy Pine Furniture is a family owned Australian business that manufactures quality pine furniture in Dandenong, Victoria. They employ eight staff, four of which have a disability. In 2000, Dandy Pine won both the national and state awards for the Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards—small business category.
  • Medium Business Winner – HM Gem Engines
    HM Gem Engines is a medium sized business that remanufactures automotive engines and allied components in Dandenong, Victoria. The company’s policy states: ‘All positions that don’t require trade qualifications are to be priority vacancies for disabled people.’ HM Gem Engines currently employs 10 people with disabilities in their Melbourne plant plus another six in their Sydney plant.
  • Large Business Winner – Moran Australia
    One of Australia’s leading designers, manufacturers and distributors of quality lounge furniture, Moran is a large business in the Dandenong Valley, Victoria. They have more than 100 staff, including nine with disabilities. Moran has two showrooms – one in Melbourne and one in Sydney.

Western Australia

  • Small Business Winner – Fremantle Sardine Company
    The Fremantle Sardine Company is a family owned fish processing business that combines traditional European methods for processing fish with the latest hygienic machinery and equipment available. Famous locally for their community support and equal opportunity practices, the company employs ten staff, two of which have a disability.
  • Medium Business Winner – Telstra Desktop Services
    Telstra Desktop Services (WA) provides comprehensive information technology solutions to a variety of companies and government agencies. Of their 55 staff, approximately 53 per cent have disabilities.
  • Large Business Winner – Compass Group/Eurest
    Compass Group Asia Pacific is the region’s largest food service and hospitality company in more than 14 countries. The company specialises in providing food and support services on client premises and employs 55 staff with disabilities across its WA operations.