Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the May 2023 edition of our monthly newsletter.


For quite a while now, I’ve been wanting to speak out about my experience as an 18-year-old living with a disability, and the challenges that I have faced as I navigate an ableist world. 

CONTENT WARNING: Personal experiences of ableism, discrimination and mental overload.

Everything I say here is my personal experience and opinions. Other people within the disability community may have different opinions and that is why it is always best to ask the individual person for their personal preferences.

Before I start this, I want to let everyone know that I am ok. I haven’t written this to seek people’s pity, or to deceive people into thinking that I live a debilitating life, just because of the fact that I have a disability. Even though it is deeply frustrating that I still have to face the repercussions of ableism on a daily basis and it has led me to write this, I still live an amazing life and I am grateful for that.

It can be difficult for people to treat me normally. 

This is a choice that people often make when they have an opportunity to interact with me. It often isn’t deliberate and is mostly a people make this choice with the best of intentions. But, at the end of the day, regardless of the person’s intentions – it is still a choice and that choice is ableism.

I will not sugarcoat it. It is a shit thing that I have to face on a daily basis and I wish that it wasn’t my reality.

Every day since the day I was born, I have had to deal with those choices that people make which directly affect me in every aspect of my life. Because of my disability, there are parts of me that make me different from what many people consider normal.

My disability, cerebral palsy (CP), affects my mobility, which means that I often need to use my wheelchair to move around safely and quickly. Furthermore, it impairs my speech which means it can be difficult for others to understand what I have to say. And because these differences are visible, it can be easy for people to make assumptions.

This affects the way some people interact with me.

Conversations with me can require a bit more patience from people as it takes time for them to get used to my impaired speech. I think the fear of not being able to understand me, and maybe their unconscious biases, has gotten the better of some people. It has stopped them from having a normal conversation with me or stopped them from even trying to initiate a conversation at all. 

Because this subtle form of ableism has been a reality for me for my whole life, I have often been thrown into situations where I have been made to feel unworthy of getting the same treatment that most others take for granted. I feel like I sometimes should have to thank someone for just wanting to have a proper conversation with me.

Every time someone reaches out to me of their own accord, I feel obliged to do a substantial happy dance around the house. Whenever someone opts to spend time with me, it is like I have just won the jackpot in Tattslotto. 

Those who choose to take the time to get to know me (and if you are one of those people, you’ll know who you are and I see you and I salute you) will learn that I am just a normal 18-year-old. One who loves to go hard on the dance floor at live music events, enlightens others with his witty sense of humour; whether that be bombarding people with silly memes or jokes – and I take firm pride in having a winning taste in music (although others may tend to disagree).

Most importantly, I believe that I am a kind and caring soul who will be there for anyone when they need it. I hope that all my existing friends and family know this and they are always welcome to take me up on that offer.

Yet, people often make the choice to not take the time and effort to see past my disability and get to explore the other amazing aspects of my personality.

Ableism is a devastating reality that so many people with disabilities have to face every day. However, I strongly believe as a society, we have the potential to change the world. It doesn’t have to be like this.

So I am asking you, whether you’re a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, someone whom I cross paths with at any point in my life, or someone that I don’t know, find everything within yourself to challenge that bias. Even if you believe that you have done so already, there is always more you can do to test your beliefs to their absolute limits.

I want to see more people without disabilities becoming allies for the disability community: 
  • Call out ableism when you see it – no matter who is doing it or how minor it is, it is never OK. 
  • Have conversations with your family, your friends and other members of your community, educate them about ableism and about how to comfortably approach interactions with people with disabilities in all parts of daily life. 

I want to see disability being normalised EVERYWHERE; on TV shows, in movies, advertisements, dating sites, in schools, parliament – in every aspect of life.

I want to see disability education being a compulsory part of the curriculum so young people can be equipped with the adequate knowledge to comfortably approach an interaction with a person with a disability, as soon as they need to.

But most importantly, I am asking you to take any opportunity that is given to you to interact with a person with a disability. If that interaction creates an opportunity for you to get to know them further: befriend them, date them, employ them, cast them, or grant them any other opportunity that everyone is entitled to. Please do it because not only are going to enrich the lives of others, your life is going to be so much better for it. 

Today, I decided to open up about my experience of ableism with the outside world.

It was undeniably one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever made, but I believe that it was a necessary one to be part of the push to bring change within our community. 

Please keep my words at the forefront of your mind whenever you are given an opportunity to make a decision that affects me or other people with a disability. Not only does my life and the lives of many others in the community count on you making that choice, your life will be so much better for doing so. People with disabilities are worthy and are deserving of any opportunity that every human is entitled to in life.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this and for joining me on this journey. You are more than welcome to share this. If you have any questions or need a safe place to talk – my DMs are always open to ANYONE.

By Satria Arbai, age 18.


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the April 2023 edition of our monthly newsletter.


Thirty-one people, two weeks, three cities, new friends and countless memories! We have just completed our first Interchange Outer East supported holiday for the year; an NBA focused trip to California, USA. We had entire families or five and six, independent travellers and parents traveling with an adult child. Eight IOE staff were along for the ride to help make sure everyone could enjoy the holiday that they each had imagined. Whether that be jumping at the opportunity to go on every outing, sticking together as a family and squeezing as much in as possible, or taking a bit more of a relaxed approach and maybe even sneaking in a sleep-in here and there.

‘We can now confidently travel with our son on a plane, through airports and into a new country – all thanks to this trip and the people around us.’

We flew into Los Angeles, arriving bright and early on a Saturday morning and headed downtown to store our bags at our hotel. It was already time for a small group to head to their first NBA match; a rare daytime game. While they enjoyed the game, it was not without a few sneaky ZZZs thanks to the jetlag already creeping in! The rest of the group made the most of the sunshine with a walk around downtown LA.

For the remainder of our time in LA we enjoyed our hotel buffet breakfast (sadly at this point we didn’t know it would be the peak of our breakfast offerings!), hiked an 11km round trip to get close to the famous Hollywood sign (some opted out of the walk and watched *napped in* the Griffith Observatory planetarium), and went to a couple more basketball games. We checked out Hollywood and the Walk of Fame and went to Universal Studios. A small group braved the rain and got soaked on a trip to Santa Monica pier only to be rewarded for their efforts with sunshine and blue skies to finish off the outing. Others headed to outlet malls and contributed to the US economy.

‘Thank you for letting me come on this amazing trip. I had the best two weeks of my life hanging out with every one of you and getting to know you all.’

We then headed to Anaheim for two days at Disneyland and California Adventure Park. Our group was made up of I-will-go-on-every-single-ride-and-I-will-love-every-second types, as well as I-will-hold-the-bags-and-watch-you-go-on-rides types. Sadly, I am the latter thanks to some major motion sickness! Highlights for others were the Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredibles, Star Wars and Cars rides. I took the opportunity to wander the parks chatting with my new mate while the rest of his family beelined from ride to ride and line to line. We returned to Disneyland that night to watch the light show and it was fantastic; a real highlight of the trip! A few of us ducked away early from Disneyland the following night to watch some ice hockey – Anaheim Ducks v Jets NHL which was a lot of fun.

‘Thank you to everyone for making this trip one of the most unforgettable experiences ever! It truly shows what a loving, supported community can do.’

After two days at the most magical place on Earth we headed up to San Francisco where we braved the cold (very Melbourne!) weather. San Francisco brought us more NBA, cable car rides, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It also brought us what many travelers say was the highlight of their trip; an overnight to Yosemite National Park. The sun was shining, the air was still & crisp and there was not a cloud in the sky. The ground and mountains covered with snow. It was absolutely stunning. The scenery at Yosemite takes your breath away. We all commented that it simply didn’t even look real; that the photos didn’t do it justice. The weather gods gave us a clear, cold day to enjoy it and it really recharged the batteries and fed our souls.

‘We appreciate your company and support on such an amazing trip. Our family is truly grateful to you all for making it so special!’

Sadly, our last two days in San Francisco were rainy and cold. They made way for a couple of slow mornings, late breakfasts and even more basketball. Special mention to the small group of MVPs who took on the weather for the last time, for a very wet 12km bike ride to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time we boarded our flight home at 11.20pm on a chilly Wednesday night, I think I speak for everyone when I say we were exhausted but our hearts were full!

‘Thank you for all the support and hard work that went into this trip. What an incredible experience!’

The group itself was an absolute highlight for me. Thirty-one very different personalities all bringing something different to the dynamic. It was so heartening to see the ‘boys club’ form; a handful of young men who became the best of mates in what may well have been the most warm, welcoming and respectful boys club I’ve ever encountered. I loved being part of a group where everyone could truly be themselves and where everyone looked out for each other; such is the IOE way! While us staff were there to provide support and supervision where needed, the group looked after itself in a uniquely organic way as we navigated public transport, ran through the rain, got swallowed up in crowds and stood in line after line. Somehow it just worked!

IOE supported holidays were developed and have evolved over the years to respond to the needs of families and individuals. They provide an opportunity for individuals with disability, independently or with members of their family, to experience interstate and overseas travel. There can be hiccups and challenges along the way; every trip offers a chance to learn new things, but they are always an experience to remember with new friends and cherished memories.

A pre-COVID conversation between two people planted the seed for this unforgettable trip. It went something like, ‘We should go and see some NBA games!’ … and the rest is history. If you have a travel dream that we may be able to help turn into reality, get in touch and plant the seed!

Our considerable thanks to Michelle from Travel Managers for putting in lots of work to help us plan our latest adventure and being our travel agent in shining armour for the last few months!


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the March 2023 edition of our monthly newsletter.


International Women’s Day (IWD2023) brings women to the forefront; celebrating and uplifting women and empowering girls to aim high and hold their heads up higher. There are many incredible, strong women within the Interchange Outer East community. They are passionate, values driven, resilient, supportive and strong. They are hilarious, vulnerable and generous.

Few encompass all of this in the way that Belinda James does. From teenage volunteer to general manager. The voice of reason to Fred’s casual pragmatism and ‘why not’ approach to work and life. With her dry humour, unparalleled patience and a knack of not-sweating-the-small-stuff, Belinda has been part of IOE since around 1984. It was around this time that she lied about her age to volunteer! She has been a big part of the lives of so many of our families, including on the dozens of Family Camps she has attended – most recently with her son Max in tow (or out in front!). She often volunteers her time and weekends to tighten relationships and help our newer participants and families feel welcomed. From all this, through to hosting and – potentially most powerfully – being a voice on the other end of the phone or a calming presence at a time of crisis.

‘Belinda is a leader we all aspire to be like, she is empathic and caring while giving clear direction and having a vision for the future. She is humble and considerate and always strives to do her best. Always seeing the potential in an individual or situation, Belinda strives to help other women to reach their goals. She is willing and ready to have a laugh and is always willing to challenge the status quo for the benefit of people with disabilities.’ – Bel, IOE team leader.

Obligatory Pirate Analogy

While Fred may be the pirate captain at the helm, setting sail for adventures unknown and leaving no territory undiscovered; Belinda is the quartermaster keeping the crew safe and fed, the ship free of leaks and the bounty safe to be shared in port.

So synonymous is Belinda’s name with the Interchange Outer East culture that most families, staff and volunteers would not remember a time that she wasn’t involved. You will see her serving food from bain-maries at Family Camp. Or indulging Fred’s outlandish ideas for a laugh at the talent show. She’s head down at all hours deciphering legislation, policies and regulations to ensure our Is are dotted and our Ts are crossed. From popping her head in for a quick, ‘How are you?’ between meetings … to supporting families at times of profound loss and crisis. She even spent around three years and countless hours making sure our community stayed informed, supported and safe throughout a global pandemic (…is there anything she can’t do!?).

‘Belinda is a woman of substance and vision, whose strengths and gifts tick way too many boxes for one humble and rare role model of a woman. Her generosity, integrity, intelligence, endurance, fairness and a total lack of bullsh*t make her an absolute icon actually! She creates a better space where people grow and thrive.’ – Dianne, former IOE board member and staff member.

The theme of IWD2023 is – #EmbraceEquity.

As a strong, resilient and empathetic woman in a position of influence within our IOE community, ‘Belinda works tirelessly to acknowledge the inequities families face daily while working to redress and support their imbalances.’ – Simone, IOE parent.

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. It’s not about giving everyone the same toolbox and sending them on their way, it’s about learning what each individual or group needs to achieve their goals.

‘Throughout her life Belinda has embraced diversity in both her personal and working lives. Feeling included, being accepted, having the opportunity to participate and achieve on an individual level are important aspects of equity. I believe these values are a core part of Belinda’s beliefs. She treats everyone equally whilst celebrating their differences. Belinda is a woman who truly embodies the theme; #EmbraceEquity.’ – Sandra, IOE parent and former staff member

The Hosting Effect

Not content with nearly 40 years of volunteering on recreation programs and working at every level of the organisation, Belinda has also hosted children and teenagers with significant physical support needs. Her commitment, level of care and unwavering friendship has had a profound impact on the families that she has connected with through hosting.

‘I think she is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. Her kindness, compassion, selflessness & energy. She is deserving of continued respect in her work life as well as wonderful things in her personal life. She is a loyal & caring friend and I feel privileged to have known her for nearly 25 years.’ Lisa – IOE parent

On behalf of the women and girls in the IOE community and the men and boys who love them, we thank Belinda James for being the ultimate role model for strength, empathy and patience. As the mother of three daughters myself, I am energised by the knowledge that there are women like Belinda all over the world, working to create such a deep and lasting impact for us all. To all girls and women – we love you, we are proud of you. We salute you today and every day. Happy International Women’s Day!

-By Faye Lougheed

‘Belinda has always been a quiet achiever. She is always a pleasure to speak to and will always take time to speak to me and see how I am going. Thank you for all you do Belinda.’ – Gordon, IOE participant

Disabled Surfing Australia Day out


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the February 2023 edition of our monthly newsletter.


As we come into 2023 and even look towards 2024, Interchange Outer East (IOE) has vacancies on two programs supporting young adults to take steps to independent living. These programs support young adults with disability in small groups to learn all that is involved in living outside the family home. From self care (hygiene, grooming, exercise) to meal preparation, social skills (respecting others, conflict resolution, teamwork), domestic tasks, life skills and more; participants will experience all facets of living independently with support from dedicated IOE staff.

For any young adult, taking steps to living independently can be a daunting prospect. This is why Interchange Outer East offers two different programs for young adults to develop their skills and independence.

House Intensive

The IOE House Intensive program supports participants to have a taste of independent living one night and 2 days each week in one of our rental homes in Chirnside Park and Scoresby. This program is covered by NDIS; there are minimal out of pocket costs. Participants in this program will have goals relating to increasing independent living skills such as domestic tasks, self-care, budgeting, and social skills. Each small, tailored group supports participants to learn all that is involved living outside the family home whilst being supported 24/7 by our passionate and skilled staff. Participants in the program may be working towards differing levels of independence. For some, this may simply start with becoming comfortable away from the family home. For others they may commence the program with far higher expectations and goals they wish to achieve.

Suitable participants may transition into our next steps Home Experience Program (HEP) where three housemates live together in a rental property for six months. 

For House Intensive eligibility, cost, outcomes and more – view the program flyer HERE.

Home Experience Program (HEP)

This unique program offers young people over 18 years of age the opportunity to live in a share house for six months with two other IOE participants. Participants live in a rental property 24/7 for six months where they will experience fully what it is like to live independently with housemates. The program provides part-time staffing and a lead tenant overnight to ensure participants receive the freedom and experience of living away from home but with supports to develop and build on skills and capacities. During the day participants may choose to go to day programs, work or volunteer, or simply stay home.

To be eligible for HEP, participants will have completed at least 12 months in the House Intensive program and/or reached a level of independence to ensure that they are able to participate fully in the program. Further details about eligibility, cost, outcomes and more, can be found in the program flyer HERE.

Current Vacancies

Both programs are now accepting expressions of interest from young adults who may wish to take part in 2023 and/or 2024. Participants do not need to be registered with IOE express interest in House Intensive or Home Experience Program. For more information or to enrol in these programs, contact Linda Hull on 9758 5522 or