By Tom Pere

    I recently strolled into the New Leaf Café at 107 Woods Street Newport on a chilly winter’s day. It was wonderfully warm and inviting inside with the muffled hubbub of happy kid noises coming from a separate part of the cafe. I found out later there were a couple of mums’ and bubs’ groups having what clearly sounded like coffee, cake and plenty of fun in their own kid friendly space.

    I was here to meet Debbie Reynolds, the recently appointed CEO of the Transformation Centre, to hear about the New Leaf Café and its mission to help job seekers develop their skills on the path to securing a job. Our conversation took place over a nicely crafted flat white and a peppermint tea.

    Debbie is a passionate individual who talks enthusiastically in her Glaswegian brogue about New Leaf’s objectives and her vision for the café and it surrounds. From our brief conversation she looks to be the right person for the job having had a wide-ranging 30 plus year career in leadership, coaching, training and development.

    New Leaf was established a few years ago as part of the “Work for the Dole” scheme to help job seekers gain the skills, experience and confidence they need to move off welfare and into the job market. Through the commitment of Debbie, her small but experienced staff, and a team of diverse volunteers, New Leaf gives over 150 job seekers each year training and practical experience in hospitality, maintenance and landscaping, social media and administration. Over the last five years New Leaf have assisted over 500 job seekers in their search for employment.

    Key to the success of New Leaf is building a caring, nurturing environment for the job seekers. Debbie and her team do this by providing personalized training and coaching on topics like resume building and interview techniques and making their clients’ time at the café as engaging as possible. This includes offering things like free yoga, a community library and menu discounts to the job seekers. All of the New Leaf team are committed to helping improve the job prospects of their clients. A great example is Juan, New Leaf’s El Salvadorian chef who is passionate about helping job seekers get a “hand-up” just like he did when he arrived in Australia.

    In addition to making a job seeker’s placement at the café as engaging as possible, the New Leaf team are working on building a reputation for training exceptional staff in hospitality.  There have been multiple success stories so far, including guys like James, who was 14 months unemployed, but after his stint at New Leaf is now working as Bar Manager in a western suburbs RSL (and who has recently employed another job seeker from New Leaf). There’s also Callum who was doing application development work for New Leaf and is now employed at a major retailer doing the same kind of work there. And there’s August, the recently appointed Assistant Chef for New Leaf who was previously a job seeker with them and has just finished her Cert 3.

    Debbie’s plans are to build the profile and reputation of the café so that it becomes fully self-sufficient. She also wants New Leaf to move into the horticultural space, developing an edible garden at their Woods Street premises and crafting a “paddock to plate” approach for the café. This will help broaden the scope of training for the job seekers.

    As we ended our conversation I asked Debbie what message she’d like to leave the Westsider readership. Her response was “we’re here and have great coffee, great food and great facilities. Come and give us a try – every latte consumed or “big breakfast” eaten will be helping give a hand-up to some-one who wants to turn over a “new leaf”.

    So, if you haven’t already been to New Leaf then head down to 107 Woods Street Newport and give it a go. I can confirm that the coffee is good.

     And if you’re interested in volunteering please reach out to Debbie directly at the café. She always needs volunteers in areas like IT support, horticulture/gardening, social media, events management and fund raising. Contact can be made via 9391-6876 or email /

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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