Huon Valley News

Catering to community

Twenty-one-year-old Ruben is an enthusiastic staff member at Wren and Wolf café in Huonville.

“I like to cook. I make some bread, sandwiches, cut some vegetables,” he says.

“I like to meet the customers.”

Since starting at the café, Ruben has also learned to make coffees and take orders for food, as well as the art of team-work.

It’s a typical role for a cafe staff member, but Wren and Wolf is a café with a difference.

For the last six months, Ruben has been in training through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – and he was recently the first student to graduate through the program!

Now, he gets paid a full wage to work.

His mother Lisa couldn’t be prouder.

“He does want to have a trade, he does want to learn, he does want to live a normal life,” she says.

“He sees everyone else living their normal lives. So getting on to this was brilliant.”

Lisa says before Wren and Wolf, the family struggled to find consistent support services.

While Huonville is classified as a suburb of Hobart under the NDIS, the family had been told they lived “too far away.”

Now, things are working out.

Wren and Wolf employs a number of Huon Valley residents with a disability, and the right staff to support them to learn.

Feeling the love

The cafe recently catered for Council’s Freedom of Entry community event, in which the crew of Navy warship HMAS Huon were granted special entry to Huonville.

Ruben made 80 sandwiches on the day and received a Neptune medal for his efforts.

Wren and Wolf owner Taryn says it was a huge day.

“I’m just so proud of each and every one of them, and so proud that the community embraces them,” she says.

“I think it just changes the way people see people. They’re very capable – they can take direction just like any other person and it gives them confidence, to know they are supported.”

Taryn moved with her husband from the Torres Strait several years ago and has 28 years of experience in the sector.

She hopes the visibility of Wren and Wolf staff in the community will encourage other businesses to think about how they could become an inclusive workplace, and give other people with a disability the chance to succeed.

Creating new ways to work

They’ve also started a farm-based initiative at Mountain River called The Grounded Goat, offering NDIS participants the chance to learn about animal care, nature therapy and horticulture.

And through their broader business Tasmanian Support Collective, they offer in-home support and short-term accommodation to people with complex needs.

“I didn’t want to go back to being just another service provider. I wanted to see where the gaps were and do something that’s a bit different,” says Taryn.

“Opportunities don’t have to stop at the end of school. We’re very outcomes-focused, and Ruben has really proved that.”

Making a name

As for Ruben himself, he’s discovered a knack for making his namesake sandwich, the Reuben.

According to recent tourists visiting from New York, he makes the best Reuben sandwich they’ve ever eaten, including in the United States.

And his reputation is growing – Wren and Wolf has even had phone call enquiries about Ruben’s Reubens!

“As a mother, all you want to see is your child succeed in life and Ruben has always tried his best at everything,” says Lisa.

“I’m very emotional, because he has the talent there, he has worked so hard, and now he has someone else who sees it and believes in him.”

📷: (top to bottom) Trinny, Taryn, Atlanta and Kim of Wren and Wolf | A delicious spread at the Freedom of Entry event | Ruben received the Neptune medal for his hard work