One million test kits, and counting…

Vinnies helps make NSW safer during the pandemic.


Friday 3 September 2021

Vinnies supported employees have just reached a major milestone by hitting the one million mark in assembling testing kits to help NSW Health combat the COVID-19 challenge.

Vinnies’ Ozanam Industries – named after the Society’s 19th century Parisian founder – with multiple centres located in the Sydney suburbs of Stanmore and West Ryde, as well as in Coonamble, on the central western plains.

Staff and community volunteers assembling COVID-19 testing kits at Vinnies Castlereagh Industries in Coonamble. Photo: Oliver Brown/Coonamble Times

Along with vaccinating and contact tracing, testing is a key component in the fight against COVID-19’s spread. Boxes of assembled kits are despatched to NSW Health Pathology, Australia’s largest public pathology organisation, which commissioned Vinnies to undertake the work. These simple yet essential kits include nasal and throat swabs, a storage vial and a sealable poly-bag.

The Vinnies centres provide meaningful employment opportunities for people with disability by offering individualised supports and roles tailored to suit a range of skills and abilities. By offering a supported workplace employees build confidence, learn new skills and take pride in their work, all in a safe, supportive and professional environment.

With over 40 years of experience working with some of the nation's most respected corporations including HarperCollins, World Wildlife Fund, Caritas, and Future Logistics a team of dedicated employees has developed who are committed to achieving a high standard of service.

“We provide meaningful, sustainable and valuable employment to over 100 people with disability,” said Rod Silber, Business Development Manager – Disability and Inclusion at Stanmore.

“This gives individuals a sense of worth, an opportunity to develop a variety of new skills, and the chance to make new friends.

“The centres provide a professional, customer-focused service to some of Australia’s most respected companies, State Government departments, and community groups.”

One team member, Sue, who is vision impaired, has been at Stanmore for more than 21 years.

She enjoys the work because she can utilise her skill at ‘feeling the job’.

Sue, a staff member at Ozanam Industries, Stanmore assembling a COVID-19 testing kit for NSW Health Pathology.

“It’s like I’m contributing in a small way to ensuring that the NSW community can be kept safe during this pandemic,” Sue said.

Additionally, income from the centres supports Vinnies’ work with families and individuals doing it tough, never more needed than during this pandemic.

NSW Health Pathology’s COVID-19 Operations Lead, Michael Crowther, said at the start of the pandemic NSW Health Pathology staff were packing the test kits at the end of a busy shift in the lab and in the Newcastle office.

“As you can imagine, our staff were exhausted doing this on top of the normal workload,” he said.

“Thanks to their [Ozanam Industries’] help, we can get a steady supply of testing kits to frontline staff who need regular testing in hotel quarantine and airports, special health hospitals, and to testing clinics around NSW.

“I’d like to give a big shout out and thank you to everyone who has helped, from Sydney’s Inner West and all the way out to Coonamble in Western NSW.

“It’s a great opportunity to show that people with a disability are making a meaningful contribution to the community during the pandemic.

“The demand for these kits has never been higher, and the staff have assembled and packed over 1.2 million COVID-19 test kits for NSW Health Pathology.

“We couldn’t do it without their help.” Michael said.

Rod Silber added, “This work was extremely exciting for our supported employees and the support staff at both of our facilities.

“Our priority is to ensure that each person has the opportunity to develop their full potential as a member of the Australian workforce through effective, relevant, and ongoing training.

“Our support staff work with each employee to achieve their personal and individual goals.”

The assembling and packing of the test kits continues to be our priority right now with volunteers from the SES, the Lions and Quota clubs and local Aboriginal children involved with the Clontarf Foundation joining us in the production line at Coonamble to keep up with demand. Together they’ve assembled over 140,000 additional kits so far, in a community effort to keep people safe across the state.

St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO Jack de Groot speaking to Channel 9 about COVID-19 testing kit production at Ozanam Industries