Social enterprise Grounded Cafe opens at Mount Druitt Hub

OPPORTUNITY: Whitelion success story James Naylor (left) with Sydney Swans player Michael Talia (right) at the opening of Grounded Cafe on Thursday. Picture: Isabella Lettini
OPPORTUNITY: Whitelion success story James Naylor (left) with Sydney Swans player Michael Talia (right) at the opening of Grounded Cafe on Thursday. Picture: Isabella Lettini

Coffee roaster Saxon Griese once read a crime statistic that inspired him to make a difference in the community.

“It said 70 per cent of criminals re-offend but only six per cent re-offend if they find meaningful employment,” he said.

“I thought it was really powerful and it stuck with me.”

It drove the man to open Grounded Cafe, a space where at risk youth can find work.

The shop with the “best coffee in Mount Druitt” was opened on Thursday at Mount Druitt Hub.

The project is a partnership between Mr Griese’s Charlie Coffee, youth support charity Whitelion and Blacktown Council.

“The saying goes, ‘Teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime’. I’ve always recognised the power in employment,” Mr Griese said.

The cafe will provide barista and hospitality training to young people in the community who want to gain work experience. 

“This is a social enterprise and this doesn’t happen without everyone coming together,” Whitelion chief executive Mark Watt said.

“What we’re trying to achieve is helping young people. We will give them a job and then support them to go onto other coffee shops and beyond.”

Whitelion success story James Naylor said the charity helped him find social housing when he was living on the streets last year.

“They really pushed hard for me. I can’t thank them enough,” he said.

“I think this is a great idea to give young people an opportunity to get into the workforce.”

The cafe’s profits will go towards running Whitelion’s community outreach programs.

Our young people are looking for opportunities for getting into the workforce and turning [unemployment] around.

Blacktown mayor Stephen Bali

Blacktown Council, which owns the property where Grounded Cafe was opened, offered heavily subsidised rent to the tenants.

Mayor Stephen Bali said this would allow the venture to maximise profits. 

“You hear a lot of statistics out there and people’s perceptions of Blacktown and Mount Druitt,” Cr Bali said.

“The youth unemployment rate nationally is 12 per cent and it’s about 14 per cent in Blacktown. It’s not a significant gap.

“Our young people are looking for opportunities for getting into the workforce and turning it around.”

Mount Druitt police Senior Constable Mark Bursa said projects like Grounded Cafe helped “open the eyes” of young people in the community.

“A lot of kids in the area don’t understand the opportunities available to them. There are so many services in this area,” he said.

“It’s up to them to take the opportunities and run with them.”