2 April 2024

Advocate Noah Beltrame thrives working at Griffith bakery celebrating Autism Awareness Month

| Oliver Jacques
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bakery staff

Noah Beltrame celebrates Autism Awareness Month with Lisa Maibola, Erin Vaccari and Karissa Undy. Photos: Oliver Jacques.

Griffith bakery Vaccari’s is celebrating World Autism Awareness Month by encouraging businesses to follow its lead and employ someone impacted by the condition.

In January, co-owner Erin Vaccari recruited 18-year-old Noah Beltrame to work in customer service for her. Mr Beltrame is both an advocate for autism and on the spectrum himself.

“He’s very switched on, he’s good at repetitive tasks and he’s an authority on anything and everything,” Ms Vaccari said.

“Working with him has been fabulous for all the staff. I think it’s a good tool to learn everyone needs to have the skills of patience and humility.”

READ ALSO Griffith autism advocate receives offers from four universities as he graduates from year 12

For the past two years, Mr Beltrame has been on a mission to change the way the public views autism spectrum disorder, to help them understand the positive side of the condition.

“I don’t look at autism as a disability … I see [the difference between those on or not on the spectrum] more like the difference between left-handers and right-handers,” he said.

“There are still people who think autism is something that needs to be ‘cured’ … [I disagree], the world would be a much worse place if we didn’t have people like me.”

young man serves a customer at a bakery

Noah Beltrame serves a customer at Vaccari’s.

His mum Dene says she can see how much working at Vaccari’s has benefitted him.

“It’s done so much for his self-esteem. He had felt like nobody would give him a chance,” she said.

“I hope employers give those with autism a chance and let them show their qualities and what they have to offer.

“There is support out there for employers who want to take a chance on these kids, through employment agencies and financial assistance through Centrelink.”

Such assistance isn’t required for Noah, who is doing a gap year in Griffith after graduating from Marian Catholic College last year with offers to study at four different universities. He told Region he loves his job.

“Except the cleaning part,” he said.

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Today (2 April) is International Autism Awareness Day, when landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House are lit up blue to draw people’s attention to the condition – a developmental trait that impacts on the social interactions and behaviour of 200,000 Australians.

Vaccari’s staff are marking the occasion by wearing blue autism-awareness T-shirts and decorating the store with blue balloons.

“We want to do a massive campaign this year. We are handing out posters to businesses and schools and want to create as much awareness,” Dene said.

“It’s about acceptance. We want people to take a moment to think about what their life would be like if affected by autism-related conditions, which include ADHD and dyslexia.

“We are eternally grateful to Baiada’s Children’s Charity Nest for their continual financial support, which has allowed us to run this campaign, as it’s very expensive to get T-shirts printed and balloons done. They also help our Griffith Autism Spectrum Support Group (GASG) assist so many families. I’m also so happy businesses like Vaccari’s are supporting us.”

two people in their bakery

Erin and Glenn Vaccari have run the store for 25 years. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Vaccari’s bakery, run by brothers Glenn and Jason alongside Glenn’s wife Erin, has now been in operation for 25 years.

“Glenn is the ovens man. He has to wake up at 11:30 pm every day to start baking. I get to ‘sleep in’ until 4 am,” Erin said.

“It’s a hard job and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. I’m old-fashioned, my favourite item is our apple pie, but I also recommend our butter chicken pies.”

Businesses and schools wanting to get involved in Autism Awareness Month can contact Ms Beltrame’s Griffith Autism Spectrum Support Group (GASG) Facebook page. Vaccari’s East Griffith Bakery, in Probert Avenue, is open 7 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday and 7 am to 12:30 pm on Saturday.

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