“A hotel is the exact kind of place I want to be, a place where you can work with your colleagues, a proper social environment,” says 19-year-old Quinn.

“It is hard for me to explain my life as I have always had my disability. I guess you could say that due to my disability there are some places that wouldn’t accept me… there is some discrimination. There’s also time taken out of my life to take medication – I have to constantly take my medication, and it’s not easy, it’s not a simple pill – in other words it’s a pain!

“In the end I don’t feel different, I don’t judge myself differently. You think you’re exactly the same as anyone else is.”

Hotel Etico hospitality training program for people with intellectual disability
Harry and Quinn (right) were part of Hotel Etico’s very first intake of six trainee employees.

Where holidays create opportunities

Hotel Etico is Australia’s first social enterprise hotel. Based in Sydney’s Blue Mountains area, the hotel delivers a wonderful holiday experience to guests that powers an employment and independent living program for people living with intellectual disability.

There are two sides to the program. The six trainees undergo on-the-job training in all aspects of the hotel – from housekeeping and front-of-house to working in the restaurant kitchen. Then there is the Academy of Independence, which gives trainees an opportunity to live independently and develop life skills during a three-day working week.

Hotel Etico hospitality training program for people with intellectual disability
Hotel Etico at Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation has awarded three Community Grants to Hotel Etico:

  • $15,000 in the September 2020 grant round to purchase furniture and equipment for the Academy of Independence, plus uniforms for the trainees, support workers and volunteers.
  • $15,000 in the March 2021 grant round to run three project-based learning opportunities for trainees around business, health and wellbeing, and community.
  • $15,000 in the February 2022 grant round to help young people with a lower level of NDIS funding access the training program through a scholarship.

Quinn finds his purpose at Hotel Etico

“The reason I joined Hotel Etico is because I didn’t have any goals, and I feel like this is the perfect place to find those goals.

“So far I have enjoyed meeting the community, going to different businesses, introducing ourselves and networking. I have enjoyed all the training we have done. The cooking appealed to me most. My mother used to be an assistant chef, my father worked at so many restaurants, my brother loves cooking but he’s terrible. I’m always learning a lot about cooking at home.

Hotel Etico hospitality training program for people with intellectual disability
“Living at the Academy of Independence is my first time moving away from home alone,” says Quinn.

“To be honest I don’t really like sharing my space with others! But I do like the environment, and the idea of having people to talk to and playing games, I enjoy that part.

“In the end the reason I do all this is to get a well-paying job… I don’t yet know what type of job I want. After graduation I might go do some courses at TAFE, go to more kitchens and get more experience, see where that leads me.”

Update: Since graduating the program Quinn has found two jobs: with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and in the Hotel Etico kitchen. Congratulations Quinn!

Harry: having a ball at Hotel Etico

19 year old Harry had been thinking of working in a hotel for some time when his godfather suggested Hotel Etico. He was accepted into the first intake of six trainees. “We went out for dinner. I was happy when I got it,” says Harry.

Hotel Etico hospitality training program for people with intellectual disability
Harry in the grounds of the hotel.

Since then he’s been working at the hotel and particularly enjoys his cooking duties: “Because I want to work in a kitchen one day, a Thai restaurant,” he explains.

He’s also living on site at the Academy of Independence a few days per week. “It is the first time living out of home, I feel safe and I like being with others,” he says. “But I don’t like my bed, I need a bigger bed!”

Q&A with Harry

Biggest challenge: Waking up!

Funny story: We had a snowball fight and I got Sam in the head with a snowball, Sam tried to get me back but I was too quick.

Personal goals: Buying a house – I need to save money. I’m trying to save. Food. Ref the NRL. And play football next season.

Any last words: I love Hotel Etico.

Update: After graduation Harry accepted a job with the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth and it’s going great so far. He said: “I love my new job. They are friendly and I really love it. They said I am working very hard!”

employment assistance for young people with disabilities
Sisters of Charity Foundation CEO Louise Burton with Harry and Quinn at their graduation.

How does the Hotel Etico training program work?

“The Etico model is very different from previous models of employing people with disability in low paid, repetitive jobs with no future for individual change and growth,” explains Hotel Etico Australia Founder and Executive Director Andrea Comastri. “We focus instead on skills development, self-confidence and capacity building.”

In addition to their on-the-job training, trainees exit the program with formal RSA, Safe Food Handling and Barista certifications. They are also helped to secure other work experience and employment opportunities with the hotel’s tourism and hospitality partners, with the aim of securing open employment.

“The participants are front and centre at the hotel, profoundly changing the lives of the individual trainees, their families, their colleagues, the local community and the hundreds of guests that visit the hotel and restaurant every month,” says Andrea.

About the Community Grants Program

Every year the Sisters of Charity Foundation provides grants of up to $15,000 to small not-for-profits across Australia, like Hotel Etico Australia, that use clever ways to fight poverty, loneliness, suffering and oppression. We rely on the generosity of our supporters to fund our Community Grants Program.

How We Help

Each year we’re able to make a difference to thousands of people across the country with funds generously donated by compassionate Australians. We support initiatives that focus on benefiting the disadvantaged, marginalised and socially isolated people in our community.

Find out more