A much wider world


Sydney, NSW, a group of eight people with physical disability formed a support group to find their own employment and be financially independent. They called themselves the Civilian, Maimed & Limbless Association (CMLA) NSW.

1950 – 1960 Ten very busy years

  • September 1950, the first CMLA AGM was held with 17 members attending.
  • Members Hugh and Hazel Bedwin were endorsed by CMLA to establish a Sheltered Workshop.
  • April 1955 CMLA’s first workshop opens in the RPA precinct at English St Camperdown. It started with five people binding fishing rods for Slazenger.
  • July 1955 the first Art Union fundraising campaign was rolled out raising 2,296 pounds.
  • July 1958 the official opening of Gladstone Hall Hostel was a major milestone providing a home for ten adults with physical disability.

1961 – 1972 Growth and development

  • 1968 the new Summer Hills Workshop is officially opened.
  • Gladstone Hall extensions were completed accommodating 35 people.
  • 1969 CMLA established another new workshop at Canterbury with two departments – Textile & Bookbinding.
  • 1971 CMLA leased another workshop at Park Rd, Regent’s Park.

1972 – 1979 People, premises and prosperity

  • June 1972 new premises at St Peters is officially opened. It is the first Head Office CMLA officially owns.
  • 1974 CMLA president Joyce Hawkins receives the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community.
  • 1975 Joyce Hawkins passed away. Betty Webb is elected President, but her tenure is brief. Betty is posthumously awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal for Community Services.
  • May 1976 sees the introduction of a four-day working week.
  • June 1977 CMLA workshop sales exceed 1MIL for the first time!
  • CMLA employs 484 people – top 5% of manufacturing industries’ employment.
  • The Board established the annual “Presidents’ Memorial Award” in honour of Betty Webb and her predecessors, Joyce Hawkins and Hugh Bedwin.
  • 1978 the Lithgow Sheltered Workshop becomes a division of CMLA.
  • 1979 the Lidcombe Hospital and Regents Park workshops were merged into larger premises at Victoria St, Lidcombe.

1980 – 1989 Time for a (name) change

  • March 1980 CMLA officially changes its name to Access Industries for the Disabled Limited due to the inclusion of people with intellectual impairment.
  • December 21, 1983, the Victoria St Lidcombe workshop is destroyed by fire.
  • 1984 the opening of the first Seven Hills factory.
  • Kath Meads was elected President. Her popularity was emphatically demonstrated by her re-election in 1989, 1992, 1995 and 1998.
  • 1989 Access Industries takes ownership of the Southeastern Employment Service.
  • December 1989 Newcastle is struck by a major earthquake. The Access building is spared major damage.

1990 – 2000 Boards, buildings and work crews

  • Marrickville Council installs a library security system and awards the contract of work to Access Industries.
  • Following the Newcastle earthquake, two Access work crews assist reglazing Rose Farm nursery, and cleaning bricks to be re-used in the restoration of Newcastle’s heritage buildings.
  • 1991 Access Seven Hills participates in a rubber reclamation project, receiving recognition for its contribution to environmental conservation.
  • Access acquires a new “clean room” facility at Prospect Highway Seven Hills.
  • 1992 Access receives a bequest of $229,000 from the Patricia Morris estate.
  • 1993 Access wins a large contract with Esselte, an international office products supplier.
  • 1996 heralds a significant achievement with the Newcastle certification by Standards Australia as a Quality Endorsed Company.
  • At the end of 1999 Access had 140 supported employees in sites across Sydney, Newcastle and Lithgow.

2000 – 2023 Triumph and disasters

  • June 2000 Newcastle operations are interrupted by a fire in the spray-painting booths.
  • 2005 “the impossible dream” comes true with the purchase of Access’ primary premise at Station Rd Seven Hills.
  • June 2007 Newcastle is impacted by severe storms, with major flooding throughout the Hamilton site.
  • August 2013 the Lithgow Laundry facility is destroyed by fire. Access remains committed to the community with a $3MIL rebuild.
  • July 2023, Seven Hills completes a half-million-dollar investment by upgrading packing production from 12 to 18 lines.
  • Art Union transitions to Lottery. Marketing/Fundraising and Finance are consolidated at Hope Street Seven Hills.

Now and beyond

  • May 2024, Access Industries signed an agreement with OLS Hospitality Supplies to transfer ownership of the Lithgow laundry, now known as Access Laundry.
  • June 2024 Access Industries employs around 240 supported employees, more than one third of its total 600 workforce.
  • Access Knowledge (RTO) provides training for up to 100+ people per year.
  • Access Work Experience programs in Sydney and Newcastle provide a pathway to employment for up to xx school leavers with disability per year.