The pioneers of disability employment

While most people know See Differently for our guide and assistance dogs, many don’t realise that we’ve been pioneering disability employment in South Australia since 1884 – that’s 139 years!  

These days, our Manufacturing and Packaging site at Gilles Plains, an accredited Australian Disability Enterprise (ADE), employs almost 70 dedicated and highly motivated people with vision impairment, hearing loss or autism.


Our staff work across two factories to undertake assembly, packaging, and thermoforming for many leading South Australian brands and enterprises.


Business is flourishing, as local organisations realise the substantial productivity and efficiency gains that come with engaging our services, as well as Corporate Social Responsibility credentials.


These benefits extend to our workforce too, who have the opportunity to achieve financial independence, and feel a heightened sense of contribution to the community.


But with so many ADEs in South Australia all doing fantastic work, knowing which one to engage can be difficult. That’s where Christophe​ Esteve, See Differently’s Business Development Manager, comes in.


Christophe helps local organisations discover how our Manufacturing and Packaging Services division can deliver solutions that support their business and understand the ADE marketplace in South Australia – because not all ADEs are created equal.  


Getting down to business

See Differently’s Gilles Plains site is home to two factories: one that focuses on assembly and packaging, and another that focuses on thermoforming.


These factories produce outputs for many medium to large private and commercial businesses – some of which are well-known, global brands – across the state.


“In one of our factories, we operate a ‘contract packing’ service. We either pack food, or we are an assembly plant, helping businesses assemble their components,” Christophe said.


“For example, for one client, we’re putting together kits for them that help them test the reliability of their machinery. We pre-purchase all componentry and deliver the kits as a finished product.


“In our other factory, which focuses on thermoforming, we manufacture packaging, like biscuit trays, using polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET). We also manufacture bespoke packing for customers.


“So, the two plants are different, one is a manufacturer, and one is food packaging and assembly.”


Our assembly and packaging factory incorporates a HACCP accredited clean room facility, while our thermoforming factory offers a complete service for thermoformed (vacuum) and pressure formed products, including clamshells, food grade containers and folded and heat-sealed blisters.


The See Differently Difference

In Australia, there are approximately 600 ADEs that employ more than 20,000 people with disability. But not all ADEs are created equal – especially when it comes to the amount of pay ADE workers receive.


At See Differently, we pay our Manufacturing and Packaging Services staff award wages – based on the supported wage system used in open employment, unlike many other ADEs, who may use other Wage Assessment Tools to determine wages for their staff.  


“We’re a bit different from other Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs), in that we pay award wages,” Christophe said.


“A lot of our employees have come from open employment and have acquired vision impairment, so they often have mortgages and families to support.”


Along with award wages, the quality and service delivered by our Manufacturing and Packaging Services Division is of a commercial standard – another significant point of difference when compared to other ADEs according to Christophe.


“While they may charge less, many other ADEs also don’t have the capacity to produce what we can in the timeframes, and the quality of their outputs may be lower,” he said. 


“For us, it comes down to a relationship of trust we’ve built with our customers, who understand and value the difference in our offering compared to other ADEs.”

Meet our diverse and dedicated workforce

Our supportive workplace provides employment opportunities for people aged 17 to 70, who have vision impairment, are hard of hearing, or are a school leavers with autism.


Many young people use our Manufacturing and Packaging Services site as a platform to launch their career, while others transition to our site from open employment if their vision impairment progresses over time.


“The school leavers can come here, work and gain skills, but it’s entirely their choice to stay and continue to work if they enjoy it,” Christophe said.


“They’re welcome to leave and go into open employment and use the experience they have working in the factory to help them secure their next job.


“A lot of people can also use the skills they developed in open employment, like team leadership or machine setting, and continue that here, and continue to maintain their lifestyle with a wage that supports their family, and mortgage.


“While they are here, if their vision impairment progresses, we can provide additional support to enable them to keep working.”


With See Differently’s Industrial Service offering consistently operating at capacity, Christophe said there are opportunities to employ more staff, in a greater variety of roles.


“We’re certainly looking to expand and diversify our workforce,” he said.

“School leavers is an area we see lots of potential in, as well as hiring people for roles involving technology and automation.”


The future of disability employment

To complement its growing workforce, See Differently is committed to investing in our Manufacturing and Packaging Services site at Gilles Plains. This includes exploring the potential for harnessing automation technology.


“We’ve got two or three projects in the works for both our packaging and thermoforming factory,” Christophe said.  


“We’ve been semi-automating our existing work for a while now, but we think we can really harness automation to expand the food packaging side of our business.


“Most commercial businesses will invest in automation to gain efficiencies, but in our case, we’re investing in automation for growth, improving our capacity and reducing the amount of manual handling.


“It won’t mean any job losses – in fact, it’ll mean we’re able to release labour to work on other things.”


If you’re a business that would like to engage See Differently’s Manufacturing and Packaging Services, contact Christophe​ Esteve, See Differently’s Business Development Manager by emailing or calling 0418 443 188.

If you feel you may be eligible for employment at See Differently Manufacturing and Packaging Services please contact See Differently Employment Services on 1300 944 306 or email

Trainers & Therapists

Trainers & Therapists