The ‘Mayor’ of Oak Flats

Max Lukmann is a well-known identity in Oaks Flats, a lakeside suburb south of Wollongong. He’s the consummate host for visitors to Ratha’s Place, a social enterprise café that provides employment to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, All Abilities.

Max, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday with High Tea at the café, joined the team in January 2019 in what has been his first ever open employment role. His colleagues say that he is thriving in the role and has become the heart and soul of the café.

Gay Ingram, People and Partnership Leader at Workways Australia first met with Max in 2018 and was immediately taken by his warm smile and friendly nature. “Max is affectionately known as the ‘Mayor of Oak Flats’ due to the number of people that know him!”

Max had been participating in group activities at a local disability service provider when he first presented at Workways. ”While he enjoyed his daily activities, he was so keen to get his first job. His enthusiasm and willingness to participate showed that he would be of value to any employer.” said Gay.

“He nailed the first interview and was so happy when he was told he’d got the job.”

Ratha’s Place was first established in Western Sydney by philanthropists Faye and Blayne Webb. The café namesake is a young Cambodian boy with a physical and intellectual disability who Faye and Blayne met on a family holiday in 2011. Following an extensive fundraising campaign, they were able to provide equipment and support to Ratha, and establish Help2Help, a social enterprise in Cambodia to support other disadvantaged community members.

They then brought their experiences back to Australia and established ‘Ratha’s Place’ as an employment and training organisation for people with a disability.

Ratha’s Place has become a regular haunt for the Workways team, not just for the excellent service but also for the fantastic food.

“It’s hard to pick a favourite, but for me it’s probably the Great Caramel Lattes.

And they’re always served with a smile!” said Gay.