Anthony Cheeseman is a Melbourne businessman and champion barista who helped found a social inclusion venture called MadCap Café, to assist people with mental illness to work in a safe and nurturing environment. MadCap is owned by Ermha, a not-for-profit organisation located in Melbourne’s south-east. It supports nearly 1,000 people who have a diagnosed mental illness, an intellectual disability or are hearing impaired. Anthony has tried to ensure that the cafés are staffed by 50 to 60 per cent by people who suffer from a mental illness, whether it be schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder. Ongoing learning is a key feature of the cafes. When staff have learnt a basic skill such as cleaning, they are encouraged to learn related skills in hospitality. Many of the staff who have worked for MadCap have gone on to obtain employment in leading outlets such as Gloria Jean’s. MadCap has three outlets in Melbourne and Anthony’s goal is to support the establishment of cafés in every capital city in Australia. The 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Pat McGorry, a great supporter of MadCap, says it is one of Australia’s best examples of the benefits of including people with disability in mainstream community life.
Anthony Cheeseman has demonstrated that social inclusion initiatives can become successful in the commercial world. He is improving community understanding of mental illness and providing a platform for better community engagement with sufferers. Anthony’s vision is helping the mentally ill to access better work opportunities and live with greater dignity.