Different Journeys, which is auspiced by IOE, has just been awarded a significant funding boost of $100,000 by the Victorian Government.

Starting off as an avenue for social support for ASD teens and their families over two years ago, Different Journeys quickly extended its program to support young adults as well. Encouraged by the support of their ASD community, Different Journeys has taken on an advocacy and awareness role, seeking the support of other organisations and individuals to help spread their message.

They have been very active in their advocacy and networking and earlier this year were invited to speak about Different Journeys with the Parliamentary Secretary for Carers, Gabrielle  Williams, along with representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mel Spencer, co-founder of Different Journeys, said ‘It was a great opportunity and we were grateful to them for giving us their valuable time to hear all about Different Journeys and what we are accomplishing. Gabrielle took note of what we told her and subsequently appealed to the Minister for Disability in Parliament, which also raised the profile of our program.’

Mel also participated in four of the five Autism State Plan consultations which resulted from the parliamentary inquiry into services within the autism community

The Victorian government committed $22 million dollars to improving services and outcomes for Victorians living with autism. Part of this money was used to significantly boost the funding of five advocacy and support groups, one of which was Different Journeys. The remainder of the funds is being used in the development of a comprehensive Autism Plan to improve inclusion, support and services.

Mel said ‘We are really grateful for this fantastic support and are currently in the process of working out the best ways to allocate the money for maximum benefit but it certainly makes for exciting times ahead!’

To find out more about Different Journeys check out their website

What families attending the Different Journeys social groups say:

‘Being introduced to Different Journeys teen dinner has changed my son’s social life. It is a space where he can be 100% himself and enjoy the company of this extremely inclusive community.’

‘Different Journeys allows people to just be teens and young adults for an evening – making friends, socialising, learning to get along and developing a sense of identity and resilience without it feeling like therapy.’

‘Our daughter loves attending the monthly teen dinners, it has made such a difference to her outlook on life. Her wellbeing and self-image have gained a huge boost through finding a community where she feels she belongs. She has made friends and now has the social life she’s always wanted. The dinners have also connected us with other like-minded parents; we have made our own new friends, ones who know the daily challenges our families face, and who can offer a sympathetic shoulder when needed. All in all, the teen dinners have benefited our entire family and increased our daughter’s quality of life tremendously. We could never thank D.J. enough’