The highly anticipated NDIS review was released this week. There are lots of good summaries and commentary about the proposed reforms. For what its worth, this is my take…

What’s Good:
  • The report acknowledges that families and care-givers need more supports. Capacity building through information, family programs and peer support.
  • Investment in foundational supports and the reconstruction of a program like HACC to support those outside the NDIS or those under nine years of age.
  • The need for programs that support children and young people with key transition points such as starting secondary school, finishing school and living independently.
  • Commitment to reduce restrictive interventions and improve the quality of behaviour support plans.
  • Greater flexibility in how participants and families can spend their NDIS budget.
  • Provider registration – the risk proportionate registration will mean that small providers do not have to undertake onerous audit processes. Having registration of providers does improve the visibility and integrity of the system.
What’s Not-so-Good:
  • More responsibility for parents or care-givers to manage their child’s budget and make payments to providers due to removal of plan managers.
Wait and See:
  • Functional needs assessments as the basis for developing budgets.
  • Skilled assessors to undertake the functional needs assessment.
  • How navigators will work – replacing LACs, support coordination and plan management.
  • How will the NDIA develop workforce capacity?
  • How their digital platform will perform effectively.
I think the NDIS review outlines a number of good initiatives. It does provide opportunities for greater support to children and families which is desperately needed. It will be fascinating to watch how the reforms work out over the next five years.


We live in a world of outsourcing. We do this because sometimes we don’t know how to do things or we don’t know enough about a subject; like the law. Sometimes it’s just because we can and we are too busy or lazy to do the task ourselves. There are times when it is smart to outsource, like when fixing a chainsaw. Chanting an “I can do it” mantra, I start pulling the starter cord. It doesn’t start. So I take things apart and then put them back together. I pull the starter cord. It doesn’t start. I put the chainsaw back in the shed. Wait a few weeks and try again, knowing I’ll have to take it to the chainsaw doctor in the end but, just not yet. I still believe!

I think there is a certain nobility for having a go. The optimistic approach to tackling a problem, the self-belief, the hope that by sheer will and innate intelligence you can solve the problem. If it doesn’t work, instead of self-flagellation and despair, move on and set up for the next challenge. Failure is one step towards achievement. Yet, every day we are seemingly assaulted by opportunities not to do it ourselves. Avoid the struggle, placate the naysayers, hand off responsibility and the fear of failure to something or someone else. Every day I receive emails offering to do things faster, better, quicker. Digital Transformation, better staff recruitment, marketing your NDIS business, impactful staff training, invest now in disability housing – 16% returns!, and even one that said TICK TOCK BB Con – a reference to a tech conference.

One sentence caught my eye – AI capabilities across our portfolio.

It made me think. This is an end of year Christmas message to all involved with Interchange Outer East …

From ChatGPT:

Wishing our cherished stakeholders a Merry Christmas! Your trust and partnership have been the greatest gifts. May this festive season bring you joy, peace and prosperity. We look forward to continued collaboration and success in the coming year. Thank you for being an essential part of our journey.

Stakeholders? I put in families, participants and staff.

From BING:

I have been reflecting on the things I am most grateful for. Primarily among those is the talented group of employees. Thank you for the work you have done for the organisation this year. You have helped us provide award-winning services to our clients.

Award winning? Just made that up!

Nice sentiments but it’s like reading a Hallmark card. It’s quick though, and a great way to avoid the challenge of writing. Perhaps I am yearning for times when things were slower and the struggle to achieve meaning or say something that reflects you was a noble and righteous path. So…

Have a great Christmas and holiday period. Stay safe and enjoy time with your family and friends.



Yes – I did open ChatGTP and ask, “How to fix a chainsaw?” Wow, it’s good! First point … make sure the chainsaw is turned off!


Chickens I like. They do chicken things each day – scratching, clucking, dust baths, creating eggs – go to sleep and repeat. Sure, there is the occasional unrest but they sort themselves out and get on with their chicken lives.

There is no chicken manual they follow. No quality standards to adhere to. No words on the wall extolling the higher values they should aspire to – Trust, Integrity, Respect, Transparency…etc. They don’t need nice words on their chookhouse they have a way and they behave accordingly.

It seems that our lives are increasingly complex and it’s difficult to keep absorbing, learning, adjusting, understanding and responding to the ever-changing environment we find ourselves in. Division, derision, dishonesty, disaster, despair, disease, disharmony … are all typical of what has been going on in our community and the communal discourse throughout this year. At times it’s a challenge to know what to do. Yet at the base of all, like chooks, we have a way forward that we all know and can choose – kindness, being nice, honesty, inclusion and knowing that hope will always defeat hate. Sometimes we have to stop and remember the way.

So as 2022 draws nigh, and amidst the hustle and business that we associate with the end of the year, I like to think of what’s next. It would be nice to explore new frontiers, for people to be kind and for all to aspire to be heroic and rescue something; like books trapped in a bookshop or a discarded chair on hard rubbish.

Whatever your future aspirations I wish all the best for you and your family and hope you have a great festive season filled with fun and laughter.




Yay – its election time! I always approach elections with unrivalled optimism… or despair, but never with indifference. They should always present hope, opportunity and the chance for renewal. Our leaders should be bastions of integrity and idealism with a vision for their community. They should be nice people, care about others, compassionate yet prepared to make decisions for the good of the whole.

On occasions there have been politicians who have seemed to be more than a pompous phrase looking for an idea but they seem to be the exception. Maybe we get what we deserve … too often focused on the short term, or ourselves. What we end up with is not ideas and vision but ads that focus on nothing but we might be bad but they are worse attacks. Worse, we get the raising of issues that are dog whistles to the intolerant and ignorant among us. I think I have seen one positive ad during this campaign from the major parties!

On election night I will be on a Family Camp. No wall-to-wall coverage of the result, no Antony Green. No delight or despair as the results for Casey, Deakin and Aston come in, no yelling at the TV. I will have to behave civilly and help facilitate a talent or trivia night; lock myself in  a room so I don’t scare people!

NDIS and the Election

The NDIS has featured in this election, alas mostly on a basic level and primarily about money and how expensive it is. The NDIS is big… really big. In fact, if the government paid the French five times the amount they paid them not to build submarines, it would just about cover the current annual NDIS budget ($26b). There is lots of talk about ‘fixing the NDIS’. I agree, it does need fixing – but what they seem to be saying is not about fixing the NDIS but more about reducing the cost of it. We have seen lots of individuals with significant cuts to their plans. For children we hear the phrase ‘parental responsibility’ banded about as the reason for the refusal of supports and in some cases cuts to plan budgets.

The NDIS was designed to support people to participate in our community and the economy. Unfortunately, it has become solely focused on the individual and the cost. For those individuals that live with their families the expectation is that those family members’ needs are ex-NDIS and should be supported through other programs. But imagine if we supported families by supporting the case management responsibilities that the NDIS brings. Imagine if we provided advocacy, supported the wellbeing of all family members, assisted parents to work. It could support siblings with education and careers, and support people to work in the field with a living wage. Then there is a chance that the NDIS may realise its promise and be seen for what it should be – a benefit and credit to our community.

Happy Election Day,



I’m writing to inform you of changes to the pricing structure within NDIS and the implications for families and Interchange Outer East (IOE). They will mean significant changes to how we price and invoice all groups and, how we operate, price and invoice recreation services. 

These changes are challenging; first to comprehend them and secondly, the affect they will have on the essence and culture of IOE. Whilst we have always operated within the guidelines of pricing or funding amounts; we have always worked collectively to ensure as many families as possible were able to access the support and services needed. It was important that we treated all families and individuals equally with dignity and respect. We shared the resources we had and squeezed them as hard as possible to maximise opportunities for people involved in our services. If we needed to do the extra (meetings, spending time on the phone, catch ups) to ensure it worked for all, that was what we did. It was based on developing relationships and a sense of partnership. 

Times have changed and whilst the positives of NDIS can be objectively defined, the reality of enabling economists to design the scheme is having an effect. Now the NDIS is rolled out, phase 2 begins: Reducing the NDIS spend, independent assessments, actuarial costings, and the ultimate indignity – turning people into economic units. Now, we as an agency are encouraged to think of families and people as widgets and the more widgets you process the more income you receive. The more efficiently you can deal with the widgets, the greater your margin. You can make money from the widgets in the NDIS which is the why there are many for-profit companies and sole ABN traders working the system – money! 

The changes: 

From 1 July 2021 the NDIS will be removing group based prices from their price guide. Whilst they are making this change under the guise of improved transparency it seems more likely that this step is being undertaken because they: 

  • have no idea of what goes into group based pricing; 
  • don’t like groups; and 
  • wish to transfer the responsibility for pricing from their remit to families and providers. 

With no pricing structure for groups the NDIS will continue to set the 1:1 price for support costs. This price includes the face-to-face support and the administrative functions including booking and rostering of staff, training and education, payroll processes, supervision, payment claims, etc. 

For group based support the NDIS require organisations to divide the number of participants in the group by the number of staff, e.g. three participants, one staff = 1:1 support cost divided by three).

In addition to the support cost they have introduced three additional pricing structures to be implemented to cover the costs of providing group based services. 

1. Non-face to face charges 

These charges are costs incurred by organisation in the running of group based supports. They may include activity planning and booking, activity set up and pack up, development and maintenance of support information as well as medication, team meetings to support an individual’s participation and outcomes, purchasing of tickets, emergency management plans, etc. These charges will change in accordance with the level of work involved in setting up the service. For example a group that goes swimming at the same pool on the same day and time each week will have less non face-to-face charges in comparison to a community access program that attends a different venue each week. 

2. Capital Charge 

To cover the cost associated with the provision of a venue for the activity. For example, the cost of a campsite for a weekend, hire of a hall to provide an activity, rent on a building used as a base for activities, etc. 

3. Program of Support 

Provides a series of activities within a set period (maximum 12 weeks) and provides a cost for each activity. This assumes people sign up for all the activities offered within the program of support. It removes the cancellation component of the service enabling the group to continue irrespective of people being absent from some of the activities. For example, if we offer a 10 week swimming program as a program of support you commit to all 10 weeks of the program. If you cannot attend one week, you will still be charged as if you attended. This brings them into line with how most community run groups operate; pay by the term. 

At this stage we are unsure about how the use of STA for 24 hour + services will be affected by these changes. Given the STA price incorporates a capital charge and possibly some non face-to-face charges (the NDIS do not disclose this) we will have to wait for further details. However STA bookings can be incorporated into a program of support and that will affect our recreation and House Intensive services in particular. 

What does this mean? 

  1. Day services and House Intensives will become programs of support 
  2. Invoices will be different. Broken into: 
    1. Support costs 
    2. Non face-to-face costs 
    3. Capital costs (if applicable) 
  3. Recreation services will need to be totally redesigned to move towards permanent groups as a program of support rather than an activity-by-activity application process (except school holiday programs). 
  4. If we need to do the extra bits (care plan meetings, team meetings, letters, reports, etc.) to make the service work – we now need to charge to ensure we remain viable. 

No More Chocolate Cake? 

Whilst it relates to the need to charge for the extra bits, we always had the capacity and ability to waive fees and costs because it was important for us to support families first. 

  • Can’t afford the camp fee for your three children? 
  • Can you bake instead? 

Chocolate cake economics worked well for me – at one camp we ended up with nine chocolate cakes. Whilst my blood sugars thank the NDIS I hope we can get back to a service system that is less based on cash and more based on providing people with the support they need. 

And more chocolate cake! 


Fred Brumhead, CEO
Interchange Outer East 

Fred and his dog Gordon


Welcome to the new year. We can but hope that 2021 brings with it more opportunities and choices than the previous year.

2020 wasn’t all bad – my dog loved it! Gordon’s year consisted of a morning walk, breakfast, sleep, mid-day walk, sleep, dinner, evening run, sleep … repeat. There was a lot of pats, lots of meeting the neighbourhood dogs and lots of exploring new places.

My other 2020 highlights included the ranting Italian mayors yelling at their citizens to be safe, the random acts of kindness of people helping out – like the man who set up a grocery store at home so mother (who has dementia) could continue her usual routine. Then there was the person who went into a toy store in Brisbane and paid off all the lay-by debts ($16,000) in time for Christmas. The applause of health care workers at the end of their shifts in Spain; the singing in the streets in Italy; the distanced street dancing in England and the driveway ANZAC remembrance in Victoria.

2020 was a year where we discovered Zoom as a tool of connection. We had a 90th birthday and Christmas that zoomed family in Hong Kong and Queensland to include them in the celebration. Netflix did well; many discovered Schitt’s Creek as the best redemptive ‘hero’s journey’ tale ever told. We saw some hope for the future; South Australia was totally powered by solar energy for 24 hours. Then, a few days later 24 hours totally powered by wind turbines!

Adapt and Overcome

At IOE we witnessed the great work of our support workers continuing throughout the restrictions – dressed in their PPE space suits, their commitment and willingness to support families eased the challenges for many. We had our frequent flyers who flew to Orlando only to have the pandemic announced the day they left. They had a one day holiday then another flight back. Our group based programs ceased and the capacity to morph the service to provide connection with peers on line was a great achievement. We brought ‘rec-in-a-box’ packs, live music, Dungeons and Dragons and more into family homes. We witnessed leadership. Through coordinators supporting workers and families to navigate the challenges of COVID-19, to team leaders ensuring regular communication and connection with all team members and teams coming up with new ideas and ways to support people and families.

The Year Ahead

So to 2021 and whilst the world news to date hasn’t been great, we can but hope that we continue to achieve and enjoy whatever the year brings. There is hope that corrupt, racist, populist right wing governments have had their day; that there are more leaders that take responsibility rather than blame others; and that the essence of humanity (kindness, fairness and justice) continues to rise above the selfish, blame based culture that has been so much part of the mainstream discourse.

At IOE we are looking to start the year with a return to some group based services. Our camps and recreation groups are back, we are planning for activities – adult day service, Family Camps, sibling support, carer support groups, etc. all to return, albeit under the guidelines of COVID Normal. We may have to wait a little longer for all services to return but the anticipation will bring greater satisfaction!

2021 will bring what it brings. We will adjust, adapt and continue to focus on what we do … sort of exciting really!




I was told it was about time for another CEO’s blog and given a suggested topic:
What I’ve learnt living and leading an organisation through a global pandemic
Blimey, thanks Faye! OK, here goes. I have some rules which I stand by whenever something difficult comes up; and a global pandemic rates right up there as difficult!
  1. Find someone to blame
  2. Find someone else to follow it up
  3. Ignore it
However, a global pandemic, creates some specific challenges to this approach. First, there is no-one to blame (in spite of ‘stupid‘ blaming everybody). Secondly, we literally all have to address this and finally, it’s very hard to ignore!
So with great reluctance I have sort of had to do stuff and yes, I have learned some things:
  1. There is a real problem having your pantry and fridge within a few steps of your workplace;
  2. Zooming with children can make you motion sick;
  3. Our dog has developed an over attachment disorder;
  4. Without driving to work my podcast library is out of control;
  5. People have learned to appreciate the art of walking; and
  6. This room needs a paint!
Beyond that, living with and leading an organisation through a global pandemic is really the same approach people should have to living and leading an organisation without a global pandemic. So here are my Rules for Life; Pandemic Edition:
  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Find people who are smarter than you and work with them.
  • Understand what may happen, what the issues are, and what is most important.
  • Appreciate that people will respond in many different ways.
  • Act in good faith.
Whatever actions are decided upon ensure that they meet the following three criteria – be kind to all people, protect those that are vulnerable and be fair. Ultimately if you follow this approach you will get most things right and those that you stuff up – own it, apologise, fix what you can and move on.
Strange and significant events have occurred and will occur again. The strength of an organisation like Interchange Outer East is always going to be the collective team of people who work together to support families and each other through any disruption. Leadership is the process of allowing that to happen.



Almost three weeks of the new normal and this working from home gig has its benefits. No commute. If I forget my lunch (most days), I just walk into the kitchen. When seeking a distraction I just play with the dog. There are no children in my house so it’s all quite peaceful really. I can hear the muted tones of Monash University online in the background (my niece is staying with us – our dog attends many of the lectures!) and with Jules spending her days in the garden (online playgroups are not happening) it means I have a very peaceful and serene workplace.

I compare this peace with some of the sounds I hear and see when talking and zooming with co-workers. WWE bouts live in the lounge room, wall decorating behind mum during a Zoom session, unrelenting screaming and giggling in the background, co-workers being shot with Nerf guns whilst trying to be attentive, staff being used as climbing frames now that playgrounds are off limits, and I love the …’will you guys just be quiet, can’t you see I’m on the phone!’ or the ‘go annoy mum she’s trying to work too!‘ rants in the middle of conversations.

It has been a busy few weeks and I feel for all our families, volunteers and staff dealing with the additional challenges. I have been really proud of the way staff have adapted and accepted that we need to do things differently and that what they are doing now isn’t necessarily what they signed up for. Given the situation the response from staff has been brilliant and families have been able to continue to access the support they need. We made a commitment to all that we would get through this challenge together without leaving anybody behind and we are working hard to make that happen.

To all our support workers, I want to thank you for all you have done for families. Coordinators, plan managers and all office based staff – juggling work and home life whilst ensuring families are able to access support, have been brilliant. In the background have been our finance and admin people that have ensured that IOE can keep working and ensuring people get paid.

There is other work happening that we hope will be rolled out in the near future. Online social group opportunities and other online options are being developed. It might be nice to have a virtual overseas trip, a road trip or a camp, to connect up with friends or other carers whilst doing a yoga or exercise class. The options are endless and we hope to be bringing them to you soon.

Easter is nigh and I wish everybody all the best at this time. Just watch out for the Easter Bunny, I’m not sure how that works with social distancing, visiting all those homes! So be sure to arm your children with alcohol spray to clean any eggs that may land in your vicinity.