Fred leading the Dads on 2017 weekend away


Families are not easily definable. They can be all shapes, all sizes, functional, or not, bonded by blood or circumstance, they can be a given or created. It’s a connection we all have irrespective of the choices we make. They are important as they are the supports that help us become the person we are. In the vast majority of cases they are who we turn to in times of difficulty. The better able and equipped a family is to deal with adversity, the more likely the outcome for an individual will be positive.

Yet, they seem to be treated somewhat ambivalently in the current age where the individual is the focus of institutions across the country. Nowhere has this been more apparent than with the NDIS, where it seems at times that the family the person with a disability is connected to is ‘out of scope’ for consideration within NDIS supports. Family support is seen as the responsibility of other parts of the government or community. Unfortunately it is not apparent who is actively supporting families of children with disabilities. What has been clear is that some services that were previously available to families cannot be accessed once a person transitions to the NDIS.

Interchange aims to support families not only in the way they provide services but also in actually offering and running services to support family members of the person with a disability. Mums, Dads, siblings and the whole family are offered the opportunity to meet others and share the sense of collegiality and mutual recognition of a path less traveled.

Of all the family support services my favourite is family camp. They are an opportunity for families to come together and experience a ‘community’ where acceptance and understanding are freely given and opportunities for all are provided. For me family camp equals soccer, activity and sore legs from all the running and walking. What people get out of family camp is largely based on their approach and attitude. For some it’s relaxation, for others total madness. IOE has run two family camps so far this year – the first at Coonawarra and the second at the CYC camp on Phillip Island. We have played sport, swung, traversed, run relays, run tournaments, answered tricky questions, sung, danced, created, sung the national anthem, acted, improvised, canoed, swum and walked at night on the beach and in the forest. Sure there are the usual injuries – mostly on the dance floor – but most people walk away from family camp tired but in a happy space for a few days.

Family support services are important as they work to aid and assist the most important people for an individual with disability. NDIS services will come and go but, if we get it right, a person’s family will be there for a lifetime.

Fred – Interchange Outer East CEO

  • Today, 15 May, is International Day of Families an annual United Nations initiative which this year celebrates ‘Families and Inclusive Societies’.
  • It is also the start of  National Families Week. Held annually between 15-21 May, it’s a time to celebrate the vital role that families play in our Australian society.The theme for National Families Week is ‘Stronger Families, Stronger Communities’ which fits perfectly with IOE’s integral role of strengthening families through support.

Today, this coming week and throughout the year let’s celebrate families!



The NDIS is here and it’s a revolution in the way support to people with disabilities is provided.

Everything has changed from processes and systems to thinking like a business. Choice and control has been wrestled away from institutions and given to the individual. Welfare is over and everybody with a disability shall be a consumer in the marketplace where businesses battle for the consumer dollar. You no longer have to be stuck with one agency, you can go where you want to get your services. Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, IGA or your local butcher – you can choose where you get your sausages and they all cost the same … for now.

So you make you choice based on:

  • availability – yes we have sausages
  • quality – these are lamb & rosemary…
  • the extras – garnished with a sprig of parsley
  • advertising – shiny on paper … still sausages
  • friendliness – didn’t realise butchers flirting was a big thing
  • loyalty – they have always had sausages
  • Extra costs – distance

From an agency point of view we ‘have to’ transform our business. Become lean, targeted, focus on areas we can make money, be modular, outsource, and my personal favourite, think like a business.

Following through on these ideas would transform not only our business but also our soul. If we focused on returns there would be no sibling support, family camps, mums and dads activities … no camps at all. Volunteer support would go, other services ended and we would be like every other ACME Inc. organisation out there finding out the cheapest way to provide a service that will provide a financial return.

I’m often wandering around mumbling and talking to myself about what strategy levers IOE needs to pull to ensure our survival , sometimes I just get grumpy, and then a young but wise soul said to me:

I don’t know what you are worried about, just let Interchange be Interchange, its good”.

So with a eye on fiscal responsibilities Interchange Outer East will continue to:

  • Provide services to the best of our ability
  • Be flexible and open to ideas
  • Start with a ‘can do’ attitude
  • Be transparent and honest in working with families
  • Be a friendly, welcoming and personable service
  • Find the best fit for your family in terms of service and people
  • Ensure fees are value for money and nobody misses out on service due to an inability to pay
  • Maximise fun, challenge and opportunity in all services


So you may have to wait, its not going to be exotic, definitely no parsley, but we will cook it, stick it in some bread, sauce it, serve it with a smile and you will have your sausage!