Brief History

Interchange was introduced to Victoria in 1981.

The following year, 1982, the program commenced in the outer eastern region of Melbourne and Interchange Outer East was born!

The 80s – Our beginnings

The 80s were a time of establishment, introducing families to the new service and building its place in the community.

Interchange was introduced to Victoria in 1981 in the inner eastern region of Melbourne. The following year, Interchange Outer East was formed by parents and professionals, who were keen to see a similar program (host family program) established in the outer eastern suburbs. By the end of 1982 Interchange Outer East had its first operational host matches and had an annual budget of $18,000. In 1985 IOE became an Incorporated body.

The 90s – Expansion and program development

The decade of the ‘90s saw a huge increase in the range of programs and services with the introduction of school holiday program, weekend recreation programs for young adults and youth, the In-Home Support service, programs for children with ADD and ADHD and the Specialised Care volunteer program.

IOE’s family support focus was established with the development of support groups for mums, dads and siblings and the introduction of an annual family camp and family days. IOE also introduced the management of Individual Support Packages. Filling an identified need, Balance, a day service for young adults, also commenced.

The Noughties – Diversification and growth

During this decade IOE introduced a new management system to better manage the rapidly expanding service. For young adults, a weekend recreation program and After Work Social Club were formed and Balance, IOE’s post school service saw the opening of new community based sites and an increase in the variety of program opportunities, to cater for the rapidly growing number of participants.

Principles of Person Centred Planning were embraced with regard to IOE programs and services and Good 2 Great training was undertaken by staff. Further recreation programs were added for specific age groups of children and specialised camps for children and their siblings and children with high needs were funded. IOE continued to support an increasing number of family members through activities and events.

The excellence of IOE’s volunteer program was brought into focus when our volunteer coordinator presented a paper at the International Respite Conference in Paris.

We sourced and nurtured relationships with numerous funding bodies to enable us to expand our program range – notably the St George Foundation. A major increase in the use of our purchased programs also added to IOE’s financial viability. At the end of the decade over 1000 families were registered with IOE.

2010 on – Embracing Community and the Future

We’ve developed opportunities for travel and holidays, both within Australia and overseas, for people with disabilities and their families. An exchange program with Italian disability organisation Athla Onlus was developed and recently IOE has embarked on a NZ student exchange, Achieve2B.

Other initiatives during these years: publishing Bayswater Buzz newspaper; exploring the possibilities of social enterprise through the Crunch program; the introduction of biennial IOE conferences; Friends of IOE program to raise funds to assist with the running of family support programs; partnership with St. Kilda Mums to recycle baby goods for families in need; and the development of a community Mens Shed.

Support for families has been an important part of this era. An ongoing partnership with Freemasons Victoria has been established and strengthened, providing vital funding for our Sibling program.

All Family Support programs restructured with the absorption of the Parent Support Network, formation of a Grandparent Carers group, expansion of Mums and Dads Support programs and introduction of extra family camp per year to cater for new families. Families are now also being supported through a newly formed partnership with the Lions Clubs.

Since the beginning of 2016 IOE’s focus has been on preparing the agency for the introduction of the NDIS, informing membership, establishing and restructuring the agency and its services to best cater for the change whilst remaining firm in our commitment to retain families at the centre of all we do.

The 2020s – NDIS and Beyond

The 2020s brought the introduction of the NDIS across Australia and with it, considerable challenges and uncertainty for the sector, particularly for service providers operating on a non-profit basis. As we do, IOE persevered and worked through challenges with pragmatism and a continued focus on families.

The organisation increased focus on service development and the identification of service gaps in the local area, as well as building partnerships with organisations doing similar work. The growth of the Specialist Services Team has ensured that we can continue this important work.

After a period of market analysis in allied health space, IOE established the Allied Health Team in 2023 with the introduction of group-based programs as well as counselling, occupational therapy and physiotherapy services. Allied health will continue to grow in 2024 and aims to be fully operational by the end of 2024.

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