Lana Wheatfill

Lana is on the verge of completing year 12 and is passionate about English, particularly creative writing and reading. Growing up with autism, Lana felt isolated in primary school and wasn’t able to overcome that feeling of isolation until moving into secondary school where she was able to make new friends who really understood her and were able to support her. Lana now has a large support network that include members of the school staff, her occupational therapist, her parents and her friends. Without this network, Lana confesses that she wouldn’t be doing as well as she is today.

Lana will discuss her unique experience of growing up in a family where all three children have diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and not only unique personalities, but a range of differing support needs. She will share her and her family’s support and coping strategies, both at home and at school, and will give a new insight for parents raising teenagers on the autism spectrum. Autism means that Lana is able to think outside the box and offer a different and unique perspective.

Chris Varney & Lisa Anderson

Chris Varney is Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network. I CAN Network is driving a rethink of autism so that young Australians on the spectrum think ‘I CAN’, not ‘I can’t’, in response to their challenges and opportunities. Chris was inspired to start I CAN from the exemplary support his family and friends provided in helping him channel his Asperger’s. Chris has a strong background in advocating for children’s rights. With World Vision Chris has held roles including Youth Ambassador, VGen Co-Director and Manager of Youth Supporters. With the Australian Government, Chris served as the 2009 Australian Youth Ambassador to the UN. For his advocacy Chris has received awards including the 2011 Monash University Student Alumni Award, the 2012 National Award for Youth in Advancing the Legal Rights and Interests of Children and Young People, 2012 Future Justice Medal and 2014 Monash Vice-Chancellor Social Inclusion Award.

Lisa Anderson is a mum of four, which includes I CAN Founder Chris Varney and Board Member Marian Varney. Lisa talks about being consistent with boundaries and direction as a parent. She has given her career to nursing whether in hospitals, aged care facilities, schools or to teaching aged care in TAFEs. When Lisa realised Chris’ differences she made a pact she would always support him. When Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Lisa used her closest friends, in-laws and parents to build an ‘I CAN Network’ around Chris which helped her family’s experience of autism be as positive and enriching as possible. She outright rejected the deficit language in Chris’ diagnostic report. Lisa’s humanity with her journey as an autism parent, including her good days and hard days, will make you laugh and make you cry.

Sarah McLachlan

Like you, Sarah McLachlan is many things to many people. A degree-qualified naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist, breastfeeding counsellor, wife and most importantly, the mother of four autistic children. Sarah knows what it is like to be deep in the trenches of parenting and caring for babies, toddlers, children and teens. She understands how hard it can be to get through a day, let alone make time for self-care or food and lifestyle changes in the home.

After using naturopathy to undo the impacts of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression on her body, Sarah’s journey to become a naturopath began. Naturopathy is a holistic healthcare system that assesses and supports your physical, mental and emotional wellness. Food (diet), lifestyle, nutritional and herbal medicine are the main tools used by naturopaths to support health.

Being a carer is rewarding, but can also be demanding, exhausting, and emotionally taxing. Many carers feel their strain is not real or important and underestimate the long-term health effects of leaving stress unaddressed. Carers then often ignore their own health and are 40% more likely to have a chronic health condition. Your physiological, mental, and emotional health form the basis for being a motivated, inspired, and energized person. With health on your side, you can feel and be your best.

Join Sarah for her practical, easy-to-understand presentation, ‘Self-Care With Every Bite.’ Sarah will guide you through what to eat to support and build your physical, mental and emotional health and your capacity to cope in all the roles life gives you.

• Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy)
• Bachelor of Science (Psychology)
• Certificate IV Breastfeeding Education (Counsellor)

Moana & Vinny Hope

A powerhouse of womens football since the age of 16, and a successful businesswoman, there is so much that Moana has achieved in her life to date. With footy in her blood, a passion she shared with her late father, Gary, Moana has always loved playing AFL. Moana took a few years break from the game before rediscovering the love in 2014 after seeing the changing landscape of womens football in Australia. With participation at an all time high since the announcement and inaugural AFLW season, Moana took her goal kicking prowess from suburban grounds to the big stage, representing the biggest sporting club in Australia, Collingwood.

Moana has become a well known public figure, speaking a number of functions and signing sponsorship agreements with companies such as NIKE, Gameday Mouthguards, Special K, Melbourne City Mission, and the Herald Sun. In addition to this, Moana released her own biography ‘My Way’ on Mothers Day and is featured in the current CGU Ambition campaign due to her success as an Australian business woman. Whilst her life has changed, and people now stop her in the street to have a chat and wish her luck, her love for her family and football will always continue to be most important to her.

After two AFLW seasons with Collingwood, Moana joined North Melbourne for their inaugural 2019 season. Moana also featured on Channel 10’s Survivor in the Champions vs Contenders series. Unfortunately Moana’s journey on the Island was cut short due to a debilitating illness, however she puts it down as one of her best life experiences to date.

A successful business owner, it is common for Moana’s day to start at 4am in order for her to fit in her training, playing, work, and family commitments which she is devoted to. Moana is also the full time carer for her sister, Vinny who has Mobius Syndrome.

Moana and Vinny will talk about their lives and their special relationship as sisters before inviting the audience to participate in a Q and A session.

Jacci Pillar

Jacci Pillar is an Australian autistic woman, an anthropologist who has lived and worked with indigenous communities in the Australian outback, and a mental health & autism advocate.

Inspired and mentored by Australian comedian Frank Hampset and influenced by Jon Bennet’s audiovisual style, Jacci creates comedy dedicated to telling stories with social meaning on topics including anti-bullying, positive mental health messages and women’s rights.

Her current show Labelled is about growing up as an undiagnosed autistic girl in the 70s and 80s and the power of being a lighthouse; shining a positive light on disability for today’s young people.

While some comedians leverage off the adage that comedy is based upon lies and exaggeration, Jacci balks at this concept. She prefers to use personal true stories, historical events and life experience to entertain and generate the kind of laughter that comes from a sense of relating to the content and feeling empowered by its humanness.

Jacci was born in Upper Ferntree Gully and grew up in Queensland’s hinterland. Her comedy is gleaned from her quirky and delightfully Aspie retellings of her ‘cock-eyed’ (her words!) life journey and her observations of human behaviour. In 1993 her career as a scuba instructor was cut short by an accident that saw her develop a neurological and musculoskeletal decompression illness and led to a five-year recovery. Through all of that, humour and laughter became key to overcoming difficult circumstances.

Jacci graduated with an Honours Degree in Anthropology in 2004 which informs her comedic presence. All of this craziness has seen the development of her comedy, which asks people to be comfortable with who they are and through what some people would consider embarrassing stories. Her stories are told without judgment, self-consciousness or crassness; just humour. The intent is not to have waves of belly laughs, but thoughtful engaged audience participation followed by laughter that’s sourced from honest, from-the-heart, positive comedy.

Moira Kelly

Moira Kelly AO has dedicated her life to the service of others. She was inspired to look after the less fortunate when, at the age of seven, she saw a video of Mother Theresa. At the age of 20, she left home to work with Aboriginal children in Western Australia. So began a lifetime of supporting the least fortunate children and families. Moira has worked on numerous humanitarian projects with desperate and sick children and adults in Australia and overseas. She has been recognised with many community, national and international awards for her humanitarian work.

In 2013, Moira was named Victorian of the Year and her work has been the subject of three documentaries; A Compassionate Rage, Brothers in Arms, and Foreign Correspondent.

Moira runs the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation. She has devoted her whole life to charity work and those special causes close to her heart that ‘just make the world a better place’. Moira spent many years living abroad caring for sick and needy children and their families in countries like India, South Africa, America, Romania, Bosnia and Albania. Many are inspired by Moira Kelly’s personal sacrifice, passionate commitment and life-long dedication to doing whatever it takes to save and heal children and communities in need.

Wherever she goes, Moira makes a real difference to real people in surreal ways!

“Just do it.”
‘Moira Kelly’s philosophy might sound familiar, but the humanitarian known for bringing Bangladeshi conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna to Australia for life-saving surgery in 2009, says she’s been using the phrase for longer than Nike.’
– The Canberra Times


My name is Wendy and I am a married mum of two awesome teenagers, Jordan 16 and Hannah 14. My husband Danny has been an incredibly hardworking man, working two jobs since Jordan was a toddler in order for me to be a stay at home mum and be there for our kids through all their endeavours, and boy there have been a lot!

This year Hannah started year 8 at secondary school and seeing her so connected and settled and with Jordan moving from strength to strength at school and working at McDonalds, I found myself looking for that something extra to fill my time. I heard a comment once that ‘everyone needs someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to’ and seeing I had my loving family and plenty to do, it was time to look forward to something new.

I happened to be scrolling through my Facebook news feed when a post from Interchange Outer East appeared with ‘JOIN OUR TEAM’ heading up a call for the next round of casual support workers. It grabbed my eye as I have always been in awe of the families and the people who live with disabilities and thought perhaps it was my time to give. I took the step and commented on the post and from there it has been a whirlwind.

I attended an information session where I felt at home immediately. The support that was offered to potential support workers was very evident from the beginning. I had no hesitation submitting my application at the end of that session and the rest is history. I was interviewed and once offered a position I set the wheels in motion to obtain the necessary requirements as soon as possible. I wanted to get started as soon as I could. My employment was activated on 23 June and I have not looked back. It has been a steep learning curve to say the least, but the support of all the staff has made that a much easier task to tackle. They have been patient and answered my hundreds of questions, emails and phone calls without hesitation.

I have been as active as possible in getting shifts booked and have had such a variety of people to ‘work’ with (I find it hard to call what we do work when it’s actually so fulfilling and enjoyable). I have already had a number of ongoing shifts booked in to my week and have picked up one-off shifts wherever possible. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many awesome individuals, each of whom have taught me so much already in my short time with them. I certainly take home so much more than I thought would be possible.

I have had so many firsts from going to the gym with a super spunky natured young lady using public buses, to running through the playground being superheros with a young man who made my day when we danced to the Village People’s YMCA in the middle of Wally Tew Reserve. I have chatted for hours with a lovely lady over hot chocolate and been asked how my nacho making skills stack up. Every shift has something different and new. I have even now cooked vegetable byriani with flat bread from scratch for a lovely family when mum had hurt her arm, and braided her daughters hair which is some of the longest hair I have ever seen! To say I go home feeling fulfilled is an understatement.

I feel incredibly humbled to be allowed to be part of the lives of so many families and wonderful people and feel I now have a super huge extended family, so much so that my kids have signed up also as volunteers and have both attended their first full day shifts over the school holidays. I am so happy that I took the first step in this incredible journey and I would encourage anyone who has ever thought of making a difference to attend one of our information sessions… you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Check out the dates of our upcoming casual support worker recruitment sessions here

Meet Jackson

Jackson has always been a young man who has been determined to follow his own path and passions. IOE has been there to help him on the way.

Shortly after leaving school, Jackson began attending IOE’s Balance day program and adult recreation programs. Although he enjoyed the programs, group activities were not really his thing and he was happier to use his funding for 1:1 IOE support. Through careful management, his funding package gave him the freedom to pursue his interests, do voluntary work and enjoy regular social evenings with his worker’s support.

Working has always been one of Jackson’s goals. Over the years he has held down a number of positions at local restaurants and supermarkets where he has been supported by an IOE worker. He wanted more so, with his support worker’s invaluable assistance, he recently toured local businesses to drop off his resume. Success! He has now added another two days of supermarket work to his ongoing shift at the other supermarket where he has volunteered for the four years.

Jackson has always had an interest in music and performance. He is the drummer in The Glenn Family Band where he gigs alongside his singer/front man brother, Thomas and guitarist dad, Andrew. They have built themselves quite a reputation through their performances, both at IOE events and further afield. Always the performer, he attended Down Syndrome’s Emotion 21 for a while, where he learned dance. He even dabbled in acting, landing himself a role in a double episode of everyone’s favourite TV show, Blue Heelers.

Jack is continuing to follow his passion for music. With his support worker in tow, he is a regular at a local café and music venue where has become an accepted and welcomed part of the muso scene at their weekly music nights, playing along with a number of the local acts.

His sights are now set on gaining greater independence. Having learned a number of independence and living skills through programs at IOE, he now wants to build on these and has added a 1:1 living skills session to his busy weekly routine.

It’s Jackson’s life and, with support from his family, IOE and some amazing support workers, he is making sure he is living it to the full.