Journey of empowerment

Pictured (l-r) are Kate Johnson, Bridget Vallence and Bernie Finn. 181500_01 Picture: PETER DOUGLAS

By Peter Douglas

With November’s state election looming, one of the region’s most important not-for-profit organisations could capitalise on the many commitments being rolled out throughout the region.

The Lilydale-based Spectrum Journeys is “bursting at the seams” due to increased demand and the weight of its financial commitments, with many of its 50 volunteers going well above their call of duty to keep the service in operation.

However, a $45,000 commitment from the Liberal-National Coalition could help to ease the burden.

The funds injection would free up time from intensive fundraising efforts, so volunteers can focus on equipping and empowering families, early childhood educators, teachers and professionals as they support children on the autism spectrum.

Shadow Assistant Minister for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bernie Finn, and Liberal candidate for Evelyn, Bridget Vallence, on Thursday 31 May met with committee members of Spectrum Journeys and announced the election promise.

Director of Spectrum Journeys, Kate Johnson, said the organisation needed breathing space in order to grow and better service the region.

“We’re really excited because we’re passionate about supporting carers and this grant will allow us to support parents with new programs, as well as to keep our hub running,” she said.

“We have an amazing hub here, where we have therapists and community professionals offering an important service; to have this grant would be just amazing.”

Spectrum Journeys offers workshops to families, carers and education staff, which are designed to equip people with the right skills to help individuals and families thrive.

In addition, they also run an incredible ‘Blessing Bag’ project, which is a unique chance to show parents and carers of children on the autism spectrum that they are valued.

Through the volunteer and donation-based project, items are packaged, with an affirming card, and donated.

Ms Johnson said an important part of their service is their efforts to work with a combination of families and educators.

“We can’t do carers without doing education, because if everything is going terribly at school (for the child) they fall into a heap,” she said.

“If we can provide both, then that beautiful scaffolding around families is more complete. We see our role as really important; from the grassroots education of schools, to helping families.”

Ms Johnson said there was much work to do to ensure children and families had access to all the services they need.

Mr Finn acknowledged there is a need to make help readily available to all, no matter their place on the spectrum.

“This is what I’m working towards. The day when we don’t have to get up every morning and fight for everything that we need for our kids,” Mr Finn said.

“When we do that, we’ll have won. But that seems to be a fair way off, it has to be said.”

Ms Vallence said an organisation such as Spectrum Journeys is integral in helping families to stay together through what can be a stressful time.

“Families going through this journey can be under great strain. Parents can be isolated and don’t know how to cope,” she said.

“Something I really like about what they do here is that the prime focus is on the child with autism and the family, and what bolsters that, which is the educators and the professionals who you work with.

“It’s fantastic to come here, because the dedication you have, and the whole team’s dedication, is evident.”

*If anyone wishes to help out Spectrum Journeys, please visit