Fred leading the Dads on 2017 weekend away


Families are not easily definable. They can be all shapes, all sizes, functional, or not, bonded by blood or circumstance, they can be a given or created. It’s a connection we all have irrespective of the choices we make. They are important as they are the supports that help us become the person we are. In the vast majority of cases they are who we turn to in times of difficulty. The better able and equipped a family is to deal with adversity, the more likely the outcome for an individual will be positive.

Yet, they seem to be treated somewhat ambivalently in the current age where the individual is the focus of institutions across the country. Nowhere has this been more apparent than with the NDIS, where it seems at times that the family the person with a disability is connected to is ‘out of scope’ for consideration within NDIS supports. Family support is seen as the responsibility of other parts of the government or community. Unfortunately it is not apparent who is actively supporting families of children with disabilities. What has been clear is that some services that were previously available to families cannot be accessed once a person transitions to the NDIS.

Interchange aims to support families not only in the way they provide services but also in actually offering and running services to support family members of the person with a disability. Mums, Dads, siblings and the whole family are offered the opportunity to meet others and share the sense of collegiality and mutual recognition of a path less traveled.

Of all the family support services my favourite is family camp. They are an opportunity for families to come together and experience a ‘community’ where acceptance and understanding are freely given and opportunities for all are provided. For me family camp equals soccer, activity and sore legs from all the running and walking. What people get out of family camp is largely based on their approach and attitude. For some it’s relaxation, for others total madness. IOE has run two family camps so far this year – the first at Coonawarra and the second at the CYC camp on Phillip Island. We have played sport, swung, traversed, run relays, run tournaments, answered tricky questions, sung, danced, created, sung the national anthem, acted, improvised, canoed, swum and walked at night on the beach and in the forest. Sure there are the usual injuries – mostly on the dance floor – but most people walk away from family camp tired but in a happy space for a few days.

Family support services are important as they work to aid and assist the most important people for an individual with disability. NDIS services will come and go but, if we get it right, a person’s family will be there for a lifetime.

Fred – Interchange Outer East CEO

  • Today, 15 May, is International Day of Families an annual United Nations initiative which this year celebrates ‘Families and Inclusive Societies’.
  • It is also the start of  National Families Week. Held annually between 15-21 May, it’s a time to celebrate the vital role that families play in our Australian society.The theme for National Families Week is ‘Stronger Families, Stronger Communities’ which fits perfectly with IOE’s integral role of strengthening families through support.

Today, this coming week and throughout the year let’s celebrate families!