Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the October 2020 edition of our monthly enewsletter.


Interchange Outer East presents the newest addition to our Boronia site – The Laguna Multimedia Library.

For centuries, libraries have acted as the greatest service to communities regardless of their background, abilities and/or socioeconomic status. During these tumultuous times, we have witnessed the need for information and access to literacy as well as the need for digital access have all become even greater.

Since all the libraries have been closed and our participants are deprived of borrowing any materials that can greatly assist towards making this tough isolation period easier we have decided to help. The Knox Hub team, together with IOE staff and some families, worked very hard for the last couple of months to put this program together. We are thrilled at the amount of donations and hope that you will be pleased with our collection so far.

Establishing Laguna

In July of 2020 IOE participant, Sanya and support worker, Yovanna started volunteering for Serbian Social Services and Support Inc. by delivering PPE, medication and groceries to elderly community members. To say thank you SSSS donated a cheque of $200 for us to spend however we chose. We made the decision to use this donation for the common good of the IOE community. This is how the idea of opening a community library came about.

Over the past few months a plethora of members of our community as well as numerous IOE employees, volunteers and families have donated huge amount of various materials and, due to this, our library is becoming quite a spectacle. We have catalogued everything that we have on offer according to their respective media type, genre, classification etc. Many participants and staff are already utilising our services and are very proud of their library cards. This little initiative brought a smile to numerous faces during these challenging times and we are hoping that it will become even more prominent in the years to come.

Laguna and COVID-19

Our Boronia offices are cleaned on a daily basis by a professional cleaning service that has the appropriate training and protective equipment to do this work. All of the staff and participants who enter this building (not more than three are permitted at any time with all precautions taken) adhere to the necessary protocols. Staff and participants wipe internal surfaces, including tabletops, door handles, book drops and computers several times a day. All staff working onsite institute thorough hand-washing, especially when handling books or any shared objects in the library. We are all trained to strictly follow all the necessary protocols to keep everyone safe.

Laguna staff disinfect and quarantine returned items for 72 hours before putting them back on shelves. The quarantine time is designed to eliminate the need for further disinfecting as the virus should no longer live on the surface of those materials. Materials like book jacket covers and DVD cases will be resprayed with a sanitiser spray or be cleaned with alcohol wipes since these surfaces are able to withstand it without any damage. We will also endeavour to make disposable paper covers for books that are not wrapped in polyester or polyethylene. This is because disinfectants and other cleaning solvents can cause water damage and weakened hinges and joints.

Being Part of Laguna

Some of the participants whom we have had the pleasure of supporting for the last couple of months have already received their library cards. Please reach out if you are interested in this program and we will be happy to send you a card! This card is merely a souvenir since it does not have a barcode like the proper library cards do. The card number will be the first four digits of the member’s date of birth. If you choose not to use the photo that is already attached to the participant’s support file, please provide a photo for the card also. For participants who do not have photo permission we can use any image of their choice.

Laguna library currently operates on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to 3pm. You are welcome to email us a list of the items you want to borrow (1 book, one DVD, one CD at a time for a week). We will place them in a safely sanitised box in the hall at the Boronia site for collection. We will continue this process as a precaution of reducing the number of people entering the facility as long as the current restrictions are in place. You will be returning the items in the same way using the returns box. If you live further than the 5km radius from Boronia or Ferntree Gully please get in touch. We can work together to ensure you can still participate.

Laguna’s CollectionDisplaying the Laguna collection

We can’t thank everyone enough for the help. We have had generous donations from Casey, Cardinia, Greater Dandenong, Boronia and Ferntree Gully to support this project. The library is growing by the day! At this very moment we have on offer more than 600 DVDs, 300 books of varying genres, art and craft materials, 60 vinyl records, 150 CDs, VHS tapes, magazines as well as an abundance of board games. Most importantly, the biggest gratitude goes to our special group of participants. They have believed in this project and participated hands on and enthusiastically at all times. Thank you in advance for your support with our new initiative. We are hopeful that we can continue with the Laguna program after these difficult times are well behind us.

– By Yovanna Vukovic, Adult Services Site Staff

Laguna Library – Parent Feedback

Adam has been visiting our Laguna Library regularly since its opening in August. The library has played an integral part in his well-being. Laguna provides essential social integration and has a wonderful community feeling. Yovanna makes individuals feel very special and there is wide range of DVDs, books and magazines. Using unique library cards gives a sense of pride and ownership. A lovely “safe spot” to feel a bit normal in these COVID-19 times.
I highly recommend dropping by to borrow an item and have a friendly chat.
– Michelle, IOE Parent 

For all Laguna Library enquiries, please email

Laguna's movie collection


Hi everyone! My name is Angie, and I use she/her or they/them pronouns. I would like to acknowledge that I am currently on the traditional land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation, andPhoto of article author, Angie I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Sovereignty has never been ceded and this always has and always will be Aboriginal land. A visual description of myself; I am Caucasian, with short brown hair which is half up/half down, and you can see my red scrunchie. I am wearing a black singlet and  I am sitting in front of a brick wall. You might see some fairy lights behind me.

Today I will be talking about the two identities that make me, me; which is that I am gay and disabled. My story also has some content and trigger warnings for self harm and bullying. I will let you know when this is, I’ll put my hand up, and wait a few seconds. During this time, you may choose to silence your computer or even step away. When I am finished, I will put my hand down.

We will also put the number of the free helpline of the counsellors we are using. They know this conference is on, and if at any point you feel like you need to chat to someone, they will be there. We also have our fantastic Auslan interpreters with us, as well as our live captioning team.   

Imagine if every introduction started like this.

Acknowledgement of land. Stating pronouns, content and trigger warnings and reminding you where you can reach out for help. As well as live captioning and Auslan services. This is what the vibe of the first National Youth Disability Summit was. A disabled led initiative by young people for young people, it was created to help bring young disabled people around Australia together. It made sure to accommodate all access needs, so everyone could attend without barriers. My biggest praise? It made sure to include my biggest project I am currently working on, to make sure that all events in the future are inclusive of both disabled/autistic and LGBTQIA+ needs. And NYDS did that so perfectly, I had never felt so at home. 

Day One

Day 1 started off with a plenary, where we had Wurundjeri Council perform the Welcome to Country. MC’ed by Srishti Chatterjee, we heard from Issy Orosz, Chloe Hayden (Princess Aspien) & Hayden Moon. Focused on Education, and what inclusive education looks like for everyone, we travelled through the day navigating Zoom and breakout rooms. We did workshops surrounding the topic of inclusive education, and people shared their stories. These ranged from the lack of education around disabilities in primary schools and the bulling that results from this misunderstanding, to accommodations and modifications needed throughout high school into tertiary education. We learnt that the majority of individuals want to be listened to, and have assistance with the accommodations they need; too often they were left to do it alone and it was a draining process. 

Day Two

Day 2 kickstarted off with another plenary, this time MC’ed by Elise Muller. We heard from a range of disabled voices, including Mali Hermans, Mathew Townsend and Brigid Canny. With Employment the theme for the day, a career fair the next activity, we could choose to virtuality chat to a number of organisations on different jobs, including ANZ, Australia Post, National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and Mable. The next two sessions were some of my favourites – identity and advocacy. We spoke about how we identified, and what events led us to understanding and accepting our identities. From there, we got to sit back and listen to a number of advocates in the disability field talk about what advocacy is for them and how we can be our own advocates! 

Day Three

Day 3 once again started off with a plenary, MC’ed by Amy Marks, with guest speakers for the morning Mel Tran, Mary Sayers, Annika, Damian Griffis & Jax Jacki Brown on the disability rights movement and how we can continue to raise awareness for access and inclusion. The biggest day, welcoming those over the age of 30 to listen to us, we entered into our day of Awareness, Access and Inclusion and went into a structured networking session on advocacy.

We shared what advocacy was for us and how we can enable others to advocate for themselves. Communication is a fundamental part of learning to self-advocate. It is important to speak out to trusted people when you have an issue, but also to have those individuals start the conversation and to make sure they check in. We also identified that sometimes it can be hard to speak up, but to remember it’s okay to voice that something is not okay. We then went onto a Youth Power Panel. This session was facilitated by Mel Tran, with Timothy Lachlan, Natasha Swingler and Matt O’Neil. It is so amazing to hear from young disabled people with lived experience around advocacy! 

The highlight of the day was definitely The Talking Truth to Power workshop, with international guest speakers; the directors of Crip Camp, making an appearance first up. We then moved into break out rooms and I was lucky enough to have a member of parliament in my group. They listened actively on the inaccessibilities of the education system, buildings and transport. I contributed my big piece of making sure disabled and LGBTQIA+ events are inclusive of each others needs; quiet spaces and sensory considerations, as well as using gender neutral terms and respecting pronouns. The member of parliament asked how government could address this and how they could continue to include disabled voices in important matters.

That evening, we had a Ted-like talk – LiveX, and heard from six of the co-founding members, Tim L, Tim C, Allycia, Poppy and Kochava. So much to take in, and what an AMAZING end to the day! 

Day Four

Day 4 started off with jumping straight onto Zoom, with an Ideas and Experiences session. We talked about what makes us happy, how we access supports and also the barriers we face, to give feedback for the next National Disability Strategy. After a little break, we went onto hear from Robyn Lambird, Layne Dixon and Andre Ascu. They shared about their involvement with sport and representing Australia, how they access it and how the NDIS has helped them. We then went onto a plenary talk with Senator Jordon Steele-John, Jocelyn Nuemuller and Jesse Williams. They spoke about the NDIS and housing.

That evening, we did another great structured networking session on Disability Pride. In small groups, we spoke about how we were proud of our disability. For me, my disability gives me a unique perspective of the world. It has allowed me an amazing skillset to work in the disability field and special interests to pursue careers that I am passionate in! We also shared disabled people in our life we looked up. This gave us a great list of new people to follow on social media! 

Day Five

Day 5 started off with our last plenary. We heard from Annika Victoria, Elise Muller and Jess from (Deafferent Theatre) about mental health and their journey through it. After a short break, we had a Workshop led by Jess on Active Listening and Safe Storytelling. Jess spoke about how to tell our story, but also how to let others know when you can’t listen to their story; if you’re not in the right headspace it’s okay to say no to look after yourself. It was then onto a workshop from Activate Agency in Auckland. Kera Sherwood-O’Regan and Jason Boberg spoke about social change and how to remove ableism from society. We touched on tokenism and using disabled people in marketing, inaccessible environments and in social movements where activism doesn’t consider disabled people’s involvement.

Why did it take a pandemic to move online and make everything accessible to disabled people who were not previously able to attend events? And how can we make sure this continues post COVID? We also spoke about ways to reduce ableism, including planning ahead and using funding on improving accessibility, e.g. Auslan interpreting. We then went into a workshop on sexual health. The session was beneficial to many who have never received a proper sex education class. It was then onto our final Ideas and Experiences workshop, talking about Choice and Wellbeing, and the barriers we used and what would help us.

The resounding theme was – listen to the person who needs the support about what they want and need; not what you think they need. This was a powerful way to finish up the Summit, as well as reflecting over the past five days.

This is only the beginning for the young people who attended. We are excited to see what the future brings!  

– By Angie Sipka, IOE Support Worker and Volunteer 

Zoom image of summit participants on screen



Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the September 2020 edition of our monthly enewsletter.


Adult Interchange Outer East participant, Mark, has been having a blast crushing cans utilising the can crusher thingamajig attached to the IOE Yose Street office for years. The cacophony of aluminium being crushed intermingled with peals of laughter have always been a highlight of supporting Mark.

In the past six months Mark’s can crushing levelled up to incorporating transporting the cans to a metal recycling business in Bayswater. On our first visit to Melbourne Copper Scraps, I introduced Mark and explained that we are from IOE, what we do and our goal of donating the money from Mark’s recycling efforts to The Royal Children’s Hospital.

The whole of the Hilux tray was filled with crushed cans! They came in at 17kg and translated into about $15. The owner walked away then came back to give Mark $50! A tad gobsmacked I asked,


“We would like to donate to your organisation!”

Last Wednesday Mark and I returned to recycle more cans and the conversation incorporated how Mark had spent the first six months of his life in RCH. The person assisting us had asked, “There is not much money in recycling cans – why bother?”

I communicated with prompts from Mark that it was fun for him and also brought him a sense of purpose and joy that he was doing a good thing. Melbourne Copper Scraps have graciously continued to accept Mark’s cans while donating another $50 directly to IOE!

Contact Recycling Continues

We rely on aluminium cans being provided to us by staff and some other families I support. The COVID-19 restrictions have put a bit of a strain on supply. I have continued to pick up used cans inside plastic bags which families have left outside their homes for collection. They can leave them either on the porch or in the front yard for ongoing contactless recycling … WIN WIN!

By Donna-Jane, IOE Support Worker


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the August 2020 edition of our monthly enewsletter.


Throughout this pandemic, as we hit the half way mark of stage three restrictions (mark 2) and are rewarded with even more limiting stage four restrictions, one word has risen from obscurity and been granted the air time of an A grade celebrity – ESSENTIAL.

What is it? What does it mean? This is subjective and perhaps the grey area that has either saved us or hurt us, but most definitely confused us over the past six months or so. What is the essence of essential?

The Oxford Dictionary defines essential as – absolutely necessary, extremely important; fundamental or central to the nature of something or someone. Is this limited to the things that are needed to sustain life? Food, shelter, water, healthcare.


Is it Bunnings? Is it some TLC at the hairdressers or a new air fryer from Kmart? It’s a grey area for sure and a huge can of COVID worms. Back in March, when we first heard the word essential in relation to social distancing measures, we were told there were four reasons to leave home and one of them was to shop for essential items. If this were defined more clearly, could the second wave have been avoided? Closing all stores and services that weren’t ‘absolutely necessary’ would have resulted in a complete unbalance of the health vs economy tightrope that we know exists but no one really talks about. But perhaps it would have meant a single six week lockdown; a sprint, instead of the marathon we are all enduring now.

Maybe the essence of essential is far more complex than new clothes, tins of beans, a bigger TV and a cut and colour. The classification of essential for bottle shops and hardware stores certainly says a lot about our culture in Australia. One thing this pandemic has universally reminded us of is the importance – the essential luxury (is that an oxymoron?) – of human connection. Another is the impact of being occupied, mentally and physically, to support our emotional wellbeing. Given that, maybe essential isn’t as black and white as it first appears.

If you ask 20 people what essential means to them, you’d probably get 20 different answers. I wonder if the use of this word was a carefully considered deliberate allowance for self regulation of the restrictions. A sort of kindness and an acknowledgement of the subjectivity of the term. Was it picked as a way to limit our interactions with others, but on our own terms?


This global pandemic has certainly forced us to reevaluate what is essential; what is absolutely necessary, extremely important. For some, it’s time with family – thank goodness because most of us have had a lot more of that! For others it’s spending more time on the activities that feed their soul; creative projects, learning something new or finally being able to dedicate more time and energy to health and fitness.

After a slow start back in March, and even the sense that people with disability had been forgotten in early COVID-19 planning, common sense has prevailed and people with disability have been largely able to continue to be supported in their homes and communities. Thanks to this buzz word essential, our support workers and coordinators have marched along the front line with that word emblazoned on their chests. They’ve provided essential support – the things that are absolutely necessary; personal care, medical support and assistance with day-to-day tasks. They’ve also worked creatively to tick off that subjective area of what is essential. They’ve done this with bushwalking, craft and cooking, online support, gaming, facilitating wider social connection and much needed respite for deserving families.

We’re proud of them. We’re proud of the way that they have thought outside the box to ensure that support can continue, and not just at a plateau or baseline level, but to help individuals and families make progress with goals they knew they had and identify new and previously unexpected areas for growth. Throughout this once in a hundred year event, the measures aimed at keeping us safe have  forced us to consider that word more than ever.


What is it? It’s subjective for sure. There are grey areas. There could even be debate with both sides bringing strong arguments. But as a team, as a community and as a society, we have been reminded about what’s important in the most harsh and unexpected way. What is essential for life? What is absolutely necessary – extremely important? It’s food, water and healthcare. But it’s also connection, purpose, time to breathe, a rainbow in the window on a family walk and an offer of help from an unexpected place.

When COVID-19 is a thing of the past and when we inevitably go back to our busy, overscheduled lives, my hope is that we can remember the time that adversity forced us appreciate the most simple pleasures. It’s almost like a time machine has taken us back to a world unexplored by younger generations (mine included). A time when communities were smaller, children played outside, families cooked together and wrote letters to faraway friends and family.

In a post COVID-19 world, can we bring those two worlds together, remember what is really essential and put our lessons learned into practice for years to come?


Since our Premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that the wearing of masks would be a legal requirement from Thursday 23 July 2020 for anyone over the age of 12 (some exemptions apply), some uneasiness was created within the disability community. This surrounds not only the wearing of masks for people with heightened anxiety and sensory difficulties, but the confusion and fear that seeing people everywhere with their faces covered may bring. Thankfully, the disability community works fast to support each other and there are many great resources out there to support people to understand the who, what, why, where and how of wearing a mask or face covering.

On 8 August 2020, the Victorian State Government also released a directive that all community service workers, including disability support workers, wear eye protection while working with clients. Eye protection includes safety glasses, safety goggle and face shields in addition to face masks to protect the airways (nose and mouth).

Our Recreation Services Team has put together the following resources suitable for people of all ages and their families and support networks.

IOE social story – COVID-19-WEARING-A-FACE-MASK.pdf (187 downloads)
IOE one pager – WEARING-A-FACE-MASK.pdf (135 downloads)
IOE SUPER-HEROES-WEAR-MASKS.pdf (75 downloads) Social Story
IOE social story – COVID-19-WEARING-A-FACE-SHIELD-OR-SAFETY-GLASSES.pdf (93 downloads)

Here are a few other resources we’ve found, thanks to Autism Little Learners. We suggest you take a look at each one and choose whichever social story would be most useful for your family or the person you are supporting.

Seeing Other People Wearing Masks – click here
What is Social Distancing – click here

There are also a range of great resources around about DIY masks. Some are as simple as four snips to an old (or new … ) sock! Getting people with extra worries involved in the process of making masks that’s just for them might help increase positive feelings around wearing a mask.  If you come across a resource or idea that might help others in the community, feel free to share it on the Interchange Outer East Facebook page.