The Burmese Family Carers Camp took place from 20 to 22 May 2022 and was our first multicultural specific activity. Amongst the families who attended we had parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Recognising that the term carer has a different meaning within different cultures, this camp invited members of the Burmese community residing in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne who received and/or provided care within their own families and community. Further, carers and carers family’s could also attend. Just like any other family camp, only a little bit different.

Several language groups, no prior knowledge of support needs and some new volunteers on board. Structure gave way to improvisation as we swapped out respite sessions for family connection experiences. For some, English was not their first language. Participating in the universal languages of singing, dancing, laughter, food and sport helped make up for it. It was fantastic to see everyone settle in quite comfortably from the beginning.

No time wasted on Saturday morning as families were eager to get into the activities. As usual, the giant swing was a huge hit for the whole family whilst the low ropes were very popular with some of our youngest and cutest guests. Archery saw some competitive contenders taking aim, the Circatron (I feel dizzy just writing the word!), trampolines and even the freezing cold pool saw some action. The afternoon warmed up like a great big hug. Blue sky, bright sun and very little breeze made for a relaxing and laid back afternoon. Some families opted to sit on the deck out in the sun, playing cards and enjoying a chat. Some made the short journey into town while others did take a siesta.

The time-honoured tradition of group sporting activities commenced with the usual enthusiasm (and chest beating) to demonstrate one’s skills. This ended with lots of laughter (and a few minor bumps and bruises!) usually at our own expense with the realisation we are not as fit and/or as good at sport as we first thought. Our youngest player, at just two years of age, had a great time during our Friday night basketball match. We thoroughly enjoyed his fabulous footwork skills to avoid Mum and his bedtime routine! A very enthusiastic self-appointed team coach in his 70s had us entertained with many laughs through to the end of our Saturday night volleyball game. Those who were not sweating out on the court were partying the night away in the games room; dancing and singing to Korean beats, playing guitars, pool and table tennis and sharing favourite snacks.

Being outdoors in nature and amongst beautiful landscapes is a favourite with the Burmese community. With this in mind we added a trip to the Nobbies and the penguin parade into their camp experience. I hadn’t been to the island for around 25 years and by my account, the penguin parade stood up to its reputation! It was cold and gusty, making the 10 kilos of extra clothing we each carried worth the wear. Despite the warnings beforehand, every family member attending camp chose to visit the penguins. Lets face it; the weather is part of the experience; you must feel it to believe it!

No sooner had our feathery friends reared their heads from under the waves, everyone was keen to get up and follow their journey from shore to burrow and out of the cold no doubt. The children loved the experience and I apologise for not being able to deliver the Antarctic size specimens some had anticipated.

Our visit to The Nobbies began with a welcoming surprise as I would compare the weather to that of a miraculous phenomenon. Barely a breeze, still waters, no threat of children being blown away and hats stayed on. Amazing! Families took their time with a casual stroll on the boardwalk, regularly stopping to take in the views and surrounding landscape, sometimes stopping on their own for what might have been a personal pensive moment. I felt at peace amongst good company. Like me, they were in no rush to get from A-B; it was a calming and relaxing experience enjoyed by the group. 

Thankfully, as we wanted families to feel comfortable, relaxing was the recurring theme over the course of the weekend. Most had not heard of IOE before, nor ever accessed any formal supports for their care needs. Disability is not what they hold in common but rather their journey from Myanmar to Melbourne. Feedback from our campers has been that they enjoyed the opportunity to meet and make friends, spend time together relaxing and enjoy some time being active and outdoors.

This camp was a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to the Burmese community as a support service for children and families. We hope that, after attending the camp, they would feel more comfortable to approach external agencies if they want or need help to care for someone. By choosing to attend the camp, families did, in a sense, welcome us to be part of their community. It wasn’t only the sunshine, but the entire weekend that felt like one great big warm hug. A group of people sharing something in common becomes a community; brought to life when each person has a sense of belonging.

We are grateful to Victorian Department of Families Fairness and Housing and Migrant Information Centre (Eastern) for their support to make this camp a reality. We also acknowledge the Burmese community and community leaders for their support and participation.

– LucyCoordinator, Support Services Team
Interchange Outer East 


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the May 2022 edition of our monthly newsletter.


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,



The Interchange Outer East Prep4Work team are thrilled that Leigh has achieved SLES success with his goal of obtaining paid work in the hospitality sector.

With the support of support worker, Lee Bartlett in the IOE SLES (school leaver employment support) program, Leigh has completed food handling and barista training and is now working at The Blacksmith Café Patisserie in Belgrave. His role is varied and includes kitchen hand tasks and preparing smoothies and milkshakes; with more to come as his skills develop!

Leigh has grown in confidence over the past several months in preparation for this position. His support worker, Lee reflects how proud he was to put on his uniform for his first shift in the café. The focus for Leigh prior to looking for employment was around self-care, following instructions, managing tasks and workplace communication.

Leigh’s Mum says he was glowing when he returned home after work. He is already feeling well supported and part of the team at The Blacksmith Café.

For more information on the IOE Prep4Work program, contact

Leigh working at The Blacksmith - SLES Leigh with his SLES support worker


I have grown up with a younger brother, but now in my twenties I have two younger sisters. This is what hosting feels like to me, having had the great privilege of not just being able to host one beautiful child but two. I have been a host volunteer with IOE for approximately three years now. I host 14 year old Leah and 12 year old Taniesha. Two very different young ladies; different ages, different communication methods and support needs but who share a beautiful friendship. 

I met Leah and Taniesha through the IOE recreation program several years ago. They were two gorgeous girls I instantly felt a connection with. I volunteered on recreation programs with IOE at the time but was keen to look into hosting. What drew me to hosting was the idea that you can build a stronger connection with the individual and bring them into your family. It is also more flexible and allowed me to see the girls more frequently. 

I have taken the girls out for days individually and together. I have also had Leah over for overnights at my house. Leah and Taniesha get on so well together. Leah is known as ‘Miss Leah’ when she is with us and Taniesha has built such a strong friendship with her. She is very patient and protective of Leah; she loves playing music for her, sings to her and is always right next to her. Leah also values her lovely friend. Pay attention to where Leah is looking when Taniesha is around – it is always right at her! 

Not only have I been able to build on the relationships I have with the girls but I think the thing that makes me even happier is seeing the friendship they have together. 

Hosting is such a rewarding experience. I have had so much fun with both girls and can’t wait for our next adventure together. Hosting means strengthening and growing your family – now I have two beautiful little sisters. 

– Ashleigh, IOE Host Volunteer

To find out more about the Interchange Outer East host program, click here.


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the April 2022 edition of our monthly newsletter.

Shared Shifts - Ben and Hudson


At the Interchange Outer East Maroondah Hub, the team have been working on a couple of new projects. One of them has been reconnecting participants with their friends now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased. The focus is on creating fun and exciting shared shifts out in the community.

So far, groups of friends have enjoyed activities like bowling, Healesville Sanctuary, among others. But the absolute highlight has been two young adult participants, Ben and Hudson. Their coordinator, Kristel set up a shared shift for them to head to the Melbourne Comedy Festival to see their idol Nat’s What I Reckon.

After speaking to both Ben and Hudson’s mums, it was obvious to Kristel what huge fans they are of Nat! They have his cookbooks and really enjoyed watching his YouTube cooking videos throughout lockdown. Nat’s videos are a must watch; both hilarious and educational but they do come with a language warning!

Kristel was keen to think out of the box to make these shared shifts a little bit more special after so many of our participants and families (like the rest of us!) had struggled through lockdowns and restrictions. She decided to contact Nat to see if he could take a few minutes before his show to meet with Ben and Hudson for a photo.

And she’s so glad she did!

Nat not only agreed to meet them for a photo before the show but also gave them unlimited credits at his merchandise store! They got free t-shirts, stubby holders etc. He then invited them backstage after the show so he could sign all the cool stuff they got from the shop! Ben and Hudson were absolutely blown away and super thrilled to have met him.

Their smiles say it all.

On behalf of Ben and Hudson, their families, Kristel and the whole Interchange Outer East team, we are so grateful to Nat for being so generous with his time (and merch!).

Nat's What I Reckon with Ben and Hudson

Kindness is free; throw it around like confetti!


Keep up-to-date. Read the latest news from IOE with the March 2022 edition of our monthly newsletter.