A two-way street as Gateways Support Services helps a local manufacturer during COVID-19

Australian Apparel manager Stephen Long wears the Geelong manufactured PPE gowns

When the initial threat of a COVID-19 outbreak hit, disability service providers across the nation were scrambling to source personal protective equipment to keep their staff and clients safe. So were many other sectors, which made finding sufficient quantities of PPE near impossible. 

So when Gateways Support Services CEO Stephanie Gunn heard that a local school uniform manufacturer had made up some PPE gowns for a Belmont medical clinic, it sparked an idea. 

Stephanie contacted North Geelong’s Australian Apparel to ask if they were able to supply PPE gowns to a network of disability service providers Australia wide. 

According to Australian Apparel manager Stephen Long, that phone call saved his business. 

‘With schools and retailers closing, our business was starting to go down. We’d be closed if it wasn’t for this. They saved us,’ Stephen says 

The 26-year-old manufacturing business shifted focus overnight, calling suppliers to source the special Teflon-coated microfibre required to make the PPE gowns and working with disability service providers to arrange distribution in batches and ensure everyone who needed the gowns began to receive them within four weeks. 

‘It’s changed our whole business and our structure of doing things,’ Stephen says. 

‘We’ve even had to hire more staff. We are definitely one of the lucky ones.’ 

Australian Apparel has so far supplied some 4500 gowns to 16 disability service providers across Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia, with more orders continuing to roll in. 

Stephen says the new direction of his business would likely be permanent, with other PPE including scrubs and masks soon to be added. 

Gateways Support Services CEO Stephanie Gunn says Australian Apparel’s flexibility and hard work had made an enormous difference to the ability of disability service providers to prepare for potential outbreaks. 

‘Stephen and the team at Australian Apparel have been so helpful and worked so hard to make sure that every provider who needed gowns was able to get them, even if that meant supplying in batches while more gowns were made,’ Stephanie says.  

‘On behalf of the COVID-19 coordination group network, I want to extend our gratitude for helping ease the challenges we all faced at this difficult time.’ 

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