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The regional chocolate with big impact

12:13pm April 17 2019

Regional Victoria social enterprise The Mildura Chocolate Company provides training and employment for people with disabilities. (Josh Wall)

It straddles the New South Wales and Victorian borders. South Australia is less than a two-hour drive away. 

And Mildura Chocolate Company, which provides training and paid employment for people with disabilities in the region, makes the most of the fresh produce on tap for one of its most popular Easter treats. 

“One of our trademark products for Easter is our fruit and nut egg which we're really proud of,” says social enterprise co-ordinator Melissa Tucker, adding Easter makes up about a third of income. 

“We source everything for that from local producers here – probably the furthest you’ll find the product comes is an hour away.”

Florence Davidson, the executive officer of social enterprise Christie Centre, which operates the Mildura Chocolate Co, adds of the local iconic egg: “It doesn’t matter how much we make, we can never keep up with demand for that.”

But the company’s support for local suppliers is far from its only impact. 

Nestled in north-west Victoria, Mildura Chocolate Co has steadily grown partners and funders since being founded in 2005, the Westpac Foundation last year providing the Christie Centre a Social Scale Up Grant valued at $300,000 over three years, plus support to improve and expand the business model.

Ms Davidson, who has been instrumental in driving training, volunteering, work experience and paid work opportunities across the community, says while the business remains small at around $170,000 in annual turnover, its impact on people is far bigger. For example, one of its work experience participants now undertakes seemingly small tasks independently, such as calling a taxi. 

And today, the company is facing a nice problem: it’s outgrowing its space. 

“We're still a small company,” Ms Davidson says. 

“We have gone from having three supported employees to now having seven. 

“It raises people into the realm of living a big life. And we've been able to make that level of change for lots of people. And it's a wonderful problem to have in that we actually need to double the size of the Mildura Chocolate Company’s factory because we have been so successful.”
 

Josh Wall is the Head of Video at Westpac Wire. Prior to joining the team, he spent 10 years as a video journalist and documentary filmmaker, most recently as Head of Video for the Guardian Australia. He also worked across numerous News Corp mastheads in Sydney as a presenter, producer, writer and video journalist. Josh is originally from Perth, Western Australia where he began his career by co-creating a video magazine that focused on music and the arts.

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