The Katherine cafe throwing its weight behind upskilling people with disabilities has won the People's Choice at the Chamber of Commerce Customer Service Awards on Saturday night.
From the little town of Katherine, Equalitea is championing inclusive employment and leading the way for others in Australia - and people have taken note.
The CEO of NT Friendship and Support Stephanie Ransome and one of Equalitea's key employees, Anthony Smith, had the honour of accepting the award on the night.
Also named a finalist in the not-for-profit category, Mrs Ransome said the People's Choice vote was a nod to the community support standing strong in the background.
"Ultimately the cafe is about community, so the award was quite humbling," she said, "it shows the community has embraced what we are doing."
First opening its doors in November of last year, Equalitea provides hands on training for people to become skilled in hospitality.
It is a place for people to pass through on their way to other employment.
Mrs Ransome says the cafe is paving the way for organisations and businesses across the nation to build true inclusive models, but it couldn't have been done without the support of the Katherine community.
"This sort of thing might be happening elsewhere, but we're showing true inclusivity by giving people an opportunity to have a proper wage, upskilling them so they can move on to bigger and better things.
"We have a rainbow of ability: older people, younger people, people with disabilities, disadvantaged youth, all working together.
"We are showing the rest of Australia how it is done."
And while your coffee may take a few minutes longer, or your salad and cheese sandwich might come without the cheese, the community has been nothing but supportive, Mrs Ransome said.
"We have remained true to not fast food, but good food," she said.
"Everything is made from scratch and we have the best scones in Katherine made by Briony."
It has been a rare occasion Mrs Ransome has found herself ironing out an upset customer, and when the case has risen, the person has usually been from out of town, simply not in the know.
Along with a host of initiatives aimed at breaking down barriers, Equalitea will be rolling out training sessions for those exact people.
"People in town know that if they come in on a Thursday or a Friday at lunch time, it will take a bit longer, and for those from out of town, once we explain, they become just as understanding."
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