At Interchange Gippsland, a disability support provider that offers services to people aged five to 65, it’s not uncommon to hear an impromptu karaoke session first thing on a Tuesday morning. In another room, an artist – who visits the centre once a week – runs painting classes and drawing workshops.
Despite the creative endeavours, running a disability support service can be a difficult undertaking at the best of times. The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2016 saw government funding distributed away from service providers and given directly to participants requiring support. While this has many benefits for the participant, who can now pick and choose the providers they want to work with, the providers themselves now need to spend more to market their services, facilitate activities and find appropriate spaces for staff to work with participants’ varying needs.
Up until recently, Interchange Gippsland worked out of a little yellow three-bedroom house in Newborough. A loan from us changed all that.
“Receiving a bank loan from Bank Australia allowed us to purchase and refurbish a building in Morwell,” explains Rebecca Massaro, CEO of Interchange Gippsland. “Moving into a significantly bigger building means that we’ve been able to increase the level of support we can offer, use it to expand our office space and has enabled us to provide a day service in Morwell.”
Interchange Gippsland started banking with us because of the flexibility we were willing to provide and the support we offered. “They saw that we were keen to grow and saw the potential in what we were trying to do for our participants,” Rebecca says.
Initiatives like Interchange Gippsland are essential, particularly in regional areas, as they support participants to build natural networks and be part of their local communities in a safe and empowering way. “People living with disabilities are quite vulnerable; having that safety net behind them to encourage them past their limits is really important,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca and the team have been thrilled with the level of support offered from us, from assisting with documentation to provide to builders, to answering questions and providing advice. “You have those moments of ‘Are we doing the right thing?’, when you start to doubt yourself, so it’s been really nice to have that reassurance from the bank and that sense of connection,” says Rebecca, adding that having just one contact at the bank has made the process much smoother. “It’s fantastic to have a direct contact rather than having to explain the backstory to someone new and get them up to speed.”
The new space in Morwell, which can support around 100 participants, provides a safe environment where people can feel free to be themselves. “It’s great to be out in the community, but you can’t be out all the time,” Rebecca says. “It’s nice for our participants to have this safe space.”
A more recent loan from us enabled the team to purchase a piece of land in Wonthaggi and construct a purpose-built space for participants living in the South Gippsland and Bass Coast shires. This new site means the capacity of the program can increase from around 35 participants to at least 100, as well as boosting office space and staffing size. The property also has space for gardens, a functioning kitchen, access to three-wheeled bikes, and backs onto a farm with cows and horses.
“We’ll have everything people need, right at their disposal,” says Rebecca. “We’re extremely excited to be able to provide a space for the participants to call their own.”
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