Ability Works started in 1963 as a small woodworking rehabilitation workshop offering occupational therapy for people with disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
Originally called Roytal, it was based on the grounds of the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital in Kew, Melbourne.
In the earliest years, there were only four employees. By 1969, this number had increased to 34, with employees working in across areas including ‘process’, ‘wire’, ‘pallets’, ‘carpentry’ and ‘printing’.
A dedicated building was built next to the Hospital in 1970 complete with machines and tools to allow production of wood and then metal fabricated products. A packing and processing area was also established to provide additional employment opportunities.
In 1972, most employees had epilepsy, with only four listed as having an intellectual disability. Throughout the 1970s, employee numbers increased steadily. A third had epilepsy and a quarter had an intellectual disability.
In 1981, Roytal had over 100 employees and expanded by taking over another workshop for people with disabilities, called Paraquad Industries, in Fairfield. It expanded further again to become a division of the Austin Hospital in 1988.
During this decade most employees had intellectual, neurological (epilepsy), psychiatric and acquired disabilities.
The base in Fairfield also meant Roytal was much more accessible to the northern suburbs, which is likely to have encouraged more people from non English-speaking backgrounds to participate.
In 1997, operations were consolidated, which involved closing the Fairfield plant with minimal employee and operational reductions. In the late 1990s an in-house training service (Registered Training Organisation) and support worker roles were set up to provide more opportunities for employees.
In the early 2000s, Roytal became independent from the Austin Hospital. This resulted in successive name changes, first to Royal Talbot Enterprises (Limited) and then in 2006, today’s name – Ability Works Australia Ltd.
Today, Ability Works continues with the two original business units of wire and fabrication, and packing and assembly with the addition of Records Scanning (2019) and Inclusive Design (2020).
We currently employ over 100 people with disabilities across a range of different manufacturing areas, and help them increase their skills through targeted on and off the job training. For individuals ready and able to take the ‘next step’, we also provide further vocational opportunities through our connections with specialist open employment services.
Losing an arm and a leg, and sustaining permanent damage to a hand and foot would of been a traumatic, life-altering setback for anyone… but not Ted Woods.
ROYTAL Sheltered Workshop opens for woodworking rehabilitation therapy of brain injury patients and people with disability…
New dedicated building for manufacturing and process lines built to allow for expansion.
Roytal Sheltered Workshop takes over Paraquad Industries and expands processing department.