Figtree Conference Centre Opening

Thu May 16, 2013


People with a lived experience of mental illness are new participants in the function centre industry through Sydney’s newest purpose-built function centre, an ambitious and unprecedented enterprise catering for corporate and social conferences, events and exhibitions.

The Figtree Conference Centre at Sydney Olympic Park is an initiative of RichmondPRA, one of Australia’s foremost community-based service providers for people living with a mental illness and psychosocial disability.

Formally opened today by RichmondPRA Patron, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, New South Wales Governor, the centre will compete in the open market with other top-line conference facilities across Sydney.

The key difference is that the centre will offer extraordinary social returns by creating supported work and career opportunities for people who live with a mental illness – people who often find it difficult to secure an employment and career foothold.

Each worker will be trained and mentored in the areas of conference, event, exhibition and catering management by industry experts. Vocational services will give workers tailored training, mentorship and direction along with access to TAFE courses.

The ability to interact with other workers, achieve goals and make a productive contribution provides a boost for participants’ self-esteem, helping them with their recovery journey.

Because the centre is a commercial enterprise, workers must strive to ensure that guests’ expectations are met and that the overall enterprise returns a profit.

Profits will be fed back into the enterprise to invest in enhancing customer experience, learning experiences for workers and support the centres long-term viability.

Ultimately, workers will obtain skills and experience enabling them to move on to jobs in the open labour market.

“The Figtree Conference Centre is ready to deliver premium services and offer an invaluable opportunity for people living with a mental illness who come to us looking for work opportunities,” RichmondPRA CEO Pam Rutledge said.

“Anyone using the centre will enjoy outstanding services and facilities, and also help create exciting career opportunities.

“The Figtree Conference Centre provides an opportunity to break the cycle of unemployment and isolation so often experienced by people with lived experience of mental illness.

“It helps gives them a sense of purpose and goes a long way to bolstering their sense of belonging and wellbeing.”

Keith Christiansen, one of the first workers to be engaged by the Figtree Conference Centre, said he was thrilled to be given such an opportunity.

“This is a facility where I and many other people with a lived experience of mental illness can earn some serious employment and career stripes,” Keith said.

“The atmosphere here is incredible. You get an instant sense of the potential and the support available as soon as you step inside.

“I’m pretty sure that a lot of workers will look back at the Figtree Conference Centre and say ‘this is where my life changed for the better’.”

Strategically located in the heart of Sydney’s metropolitan area, the Figtree Conference Centre features:

  • An open-plan conference space with flexible partitioning transitioning it from one large room catering for gatherings of up to 200 people, down to smaller spaces for meetings;
  • Full access for people with a disability;
  • A separate open-plan gallery for exhibitions and displays;
  • Outdoor space, accessible for break-out discussions, or outdoor lunches or entertainment;
  • An industrial kitchen with prime catering facilities, providing for basic to premium catering requirements, depending on the function and budget;
  • State-of-the-art IT and audio visual facilities;
  • Provision for a range of functions, including corporate gatherings, functions, weddings, and other special-occasion events;
  • Easy access by public transport, and free parking.

The Figtree Conference Centre complements a suite of employment enterprises and businesses delivered by RichmondPRA. The organisation currently has over 300 supported positions across the Sydney metropolitan region.

RichmondPRA’s employment and vocational services are supported by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

RichmondPRA is a not-for-profit organisation providing recovery focussed support programs, accommodation and hope for people with a mental illness in New South Wales and Queensland. Advocating community-based assistance, it is a leading mental health support provider that has been in operation for more than 55 years.

Anyone with a lived experience of mental illness wanting to apply for a job at the Figtree Conference Centre or other RichmondPRA businesses should contact Vocational Services, (02) 9701 3600 / or email

Media enquiries and photo / interview requests: Matthew Watson, 0417 691 884