Russel O'Grady is described as a friendly character and much loved member of staff at Northmead McDonald’s.
Russel O'Grady is described as a friendly character and much loved member of staff at Northmead McDonald’s.

Trailblazer McDonald’s worker retires

RUSSELL O'Grady retired last week from his job at Northmead McDonald's after 32 years of work.

Mr O'Grady was a beloved and hardworking employee who did his job with gusto.

In a time when people with Down syndrome still faced discrimination, Mr O'Grady was one of the first 100 people in the country to find regular employment, according to the Hill Shire Times.

Russell O’Grady was first employed by the restaurant in 1986.
Russell O’Grady was first employed by the restaurant in 1986.

His placement was pioneering for both his employer and Mr O'Grady himself in breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. At the time of his employment in the eighties, huge barriers stood between individuals with Down syndrome and access to the regular workforce.

Mr O'Grady found his job through Jobsupport, which offers placements to people with moderate intellectual disabilities.

Russell O'Grady at Northmead McDonald's.
Russell O'Grady at Northmead McDonald's.

Gabrielle Bartlett, who works for the organisation, said in the intervening 32 years since Mr O'Grady first took on his trailblazing role, the societal change in attitude has been significant.

"It wasn't possible for people with a moderate intellectual disability to join the employment system," she said, speaking to The Hill Shire Times.

"We were pioneers in proving that people in Australia with a moderate disability can value-add to the workforce. Prior to 1986, if you were someone with a moderate disability, you had to stay on the lounge at home."

She said Mr Grady had paved the way for other people with a disability to enter the workforce.

Mr O'Grady has lived a full life, informed by the independence his job has granted him. He goes to the pub, where locals love to have a chat and shout him a beer.

One person told of Mr O'Grady being asked by someone at the celebration of his 20 year career mark if he was handicapped. He answered that he "used to be" handicapped when he "went to school. But now I go to work".

His brother said he could be "blase" about his work, despite loving it very much. He said his years of service had made his family proud.

 

He is now retiring at age 50 to focus on his health.
He is now retiring at age 50 to focus on his health.
Russell is described as a friendly character and much loved member of staff.
Russell is described as a friendly character and much loved member of staff.

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