local parent/carer groups & activities

For more information about the Pinarc Parent Support Program, Peer Support Groups, Individual Support for families or to register for a group, contact Rebecca Paton rpaton@pinarc.org.au  or phone 0493 765 542

Ballarat Parent Carers Connect – This group is open to all parent/guardian carers of children and young adults with disabilities.  We meet for activities, information sessions and social coffees or meals.  The next event is a social coffee at the on Wednesday 7 February, 10 am,  Lilly’s Café at the Eureka Centre, 102 Stawell Street South Ballarat East.

Ararat Carers Group – This group will meet for social lunches and dinners each term. Contact rpaton@pinarc.org.au  for more information.

Ballarat Autism Early Years Connect – A parent-led group supported by the Pinarc Parent Support Program.  This group is for parents/carers supporting young children (0–7 yrs) with autism. This year we plan to meet at 10am on the first Tuesday of the month. The first meeting will be at the Robin Hood Hotel 10am Tuesday 6 February.

Ballarat Autism Parent Connection – This group meets for coffee at the Robin Hood Hotel (Urban Bar) for social connection and information sharing. The next meeting for the Ballarat Autism Parent Connection Group is 10am Monday 19 February. Emeila Hinge from Carer Solutions will be attending to talk about how their service and help local families.

Bacchus Marsh Disability Parent Connection – This group meets for social dinners and information sessions monthly on Monday evenings during school terms. Contact Rebecca: rpaton@pinarc.org.au  to register.

Ballarat Down Syndrome Parent Connection group – This group meets regularly for social connection and information sharing. Contact Wendy:  Charingal.park@bigpond.com.

Daylesford Carer Connection Group – A potential new group starting in 2024. Contact rpaton@pinarc.org.au with expressions of interest.

SCODA – (Supporting Carers of Disabled Adults) – A Ballarat-based group who meet for lunch first Monday of each month. Contact Rose on 0459 216 992

Would you like to start a new group? Our parent support coordinator can help. Please contact Rebecca Paton, on 53291361 or at rpaton@pinarc.org.au.

carer gateway carer events

February 15 – Pathways for Carers

Meet at 9:45am at Pipers for a stroll around the Ballarat Botanical gardens & a free morning tea at Pipers by the Lake.

March 21 – Pathways for Carers All Carers

Meet at 9:45am at Pipers for a stroll around the Ballarat Botanical gardens & a free morning tea at Pipers by the Lake.

March 21 – Harmony Day – Anh Do: The Happiest Refugee.

Held at Civic Hall, Ballarat. All Carers invited to bring a friend/family member.

If you are interested in any of these events, please contact Carer Gateway on phone (03) 5333 7104 or email carers@gh.org.au to register your interest. Their business hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday.

activities for children and young people with disabilities

Minds at Play Social Gaming Groups

Minecraft & Dungeons & Dragons programs are social gaming adventures for children, youth, and adults on the Autism Spectrum. The program runs online for 2 hours a week during the school term. https://mindsatplay.com.au/

CoCo Sounds at Parker Place

Music fun for pre-school aged children.  Starting on the 7 February and during the warmer months, this program is held in the gardens. Lauren leads an active 30 minutes of singing, dancing and moving to lots of songs for children. Then there is time to connect with other families while your children explore the gardens. It’s a free program and starts at 10am at 702 Pleasant Street South, Ballarat. Contact Alison.ford@salvationarmy.org.au

Autism Family Swim Events

These Autism Family Swim Events are open to the Different Journeys’ community and closed to the public to enable a safe and supportive environment for all.

  • Bendigo Family Swim Event –  10 February, 2024, 11:00 AM
  • Essendon Family Swim Event – 17 February, 2024, 4:00 PM
  • Sunshine Family Swim Event –  24 February, 2024, 5:00 PM
  • Sandringham Family Swim Event –  2 March, 2024, 5:00 PM
  • Knox Family Swim Event – 3 March, 2024, 6:00 PM
  • Essendon Family Swim Event – 16 March, 2024, 4:00 PM

Register here:  https://my.differentjourneysautism.com/events/category/28/swim

Funbugs Sessions for children with additional needs

  • Who: children with additional needs and their siblings only.  Ages 0-13 yrs.
  • When: Every second Tuesday afternoon 4-6 pm.
  • Cost: $10 per child
  • Kiosk open 4pm – 5.30pm

No adults on play equipment. Children to be supervised at all times.
For bookings and enquiries, contact Julie or Jamie on 0422 998 561

Future Tech Online STEAM programs

The online program runs via our purpose built discord server where we explore new topics each term through science, tech, engineering and arts. FutureTech, we’re all about providing the best learning experience for neurodivergent youth. Our STEAM mentors are not only experts in their fields, but they also have personal and professional experience of autism, so you know your young people are being supported by people who truly understand. www.futuretechaustralia.org/programs

People Outdoors upcoming camps

Provide weekend camps for kids, teens and adults with disabilities (Age 7+) Full list of upcoming camps: www.peopleoutdoors.org.au

For bookings and enquiries contact sandra@auscamps.asn.au

Friends and Me Camps/Adventures

Friends & Me offer a range of day, overnight and multinight adventures for people with disabilities aged 14+.  These include everything from snow camps or overnight at the zoo, to a 3 night cruise or a trip to the Gold Coast. The support ratio is mainly 1:3, however we are happy to discuss 1:1 and 1:2 support ratios. Keeping the group size to a maximum of 6 participants gives the staff the freedom to work independently with our clients on their strengths, weaknesses and goals throughout the day.  It also provides more opportunity for our clients to build bonds with each other without the anxiety of large groups of people.

For more information contact Rachel Messer on 0428 586 241 or email
rach.l.messer@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/groups/691163459160108


Together We Inspire – new programs   (Age 14+)


  • When: Wednesday’s 9:30am – 12:30pm
  • Where: A different Ballarat Café each week

Breakfast Club is an opportunity for participants to make new friends, socialise and try new cafes around Ballarat.


  • When: Friday’s 9:30am – 3:30pm
  • Where: In the community and Russell Square

Female adventure day is run by two female support workers and is an opportunity for female participants to make friends, socialise and experience new adventure. Optional pick up and drop off available for all group programs. 1:1 supports also available for anyone age 14+. If you are interested, phone or email:  Ph: 0499 863 693 Email: info@togetherweinspire.com.au

Outdoors Inc – Activities for 16+ – Mental Health focus

They provide outdoor day and multiday(camps) for people with mental health concerns, mild/moderate intellectual disability and neurodiversity. For more information: Outdoor Programs for Better Mental Health | Out Doors Inc. Calendar of activities we are providing in the next 6 months: 2024 Jan- Jun Calendar (outdoorsinc.org.au).

These programs are all malleable and can be tailored to different needs and abilities and there is capacity for Out Doors Inc to also accommodate carers and care recipients on program.  The NDIS streams that are supported can be found here along with our NDIS fee calculator: NDIS Services | Out Doors Inc..

Bus Stop Films’ Accessible Film Studies Program

Bus Stop Films’ Accessible Film Studies Program is taught by industry professionals with the assistance of dedicated disability support workers. Participants have the opportunity to learn all things filmmaking in some of Australia’s leading educational facilities. Our program is open to individuals who are 17 years of age or older and who have a mild to moderate disability or Autism, with a strong focus on those who live with intellectual disability. More information: busstopfilms.com.au/programs/

Wattle Tree Respite and weekend getaways (for Adults)

Wattle Tree Country Retreat offers country respite farm stays, including exploring the surrounding towns. They also offer guests short getaways.  This year they have group respite getaways to the great Murray River towns of Echuca and Swan Hill, to the sandy beaches of Phillip Island and to the national park mountains of Halls Gap.   https://wattletreecountryretreat.com.au/activities/

Phone 03 5463 2554 or email admin@wattletreecountryretreat.com.au for more information.

Neurodiverse Valentine’s Day Party by Melba

Neurodiverse people aged 18+ are invited for a night of music, food, activities in a neurodiverse safe space.

  • When: 6.30pm – 8.30pm, 14 February 2024
  • Where: Oscar’s Hotel, 18 Doveton St S, Ballarat Central, VIC, 3350
  • Tickets: $10 each

More information and tickets here:  events.humanitix.com/neurodiverse-valentine-s-day-party-ballarat

 IPALS 2024

IPALS are currently taking expressions of interest for 2024, so come and say hi! We welcome anyone over 18. Group members do not require diagnosis, NDIS, Medicare, or citizenship; though due to feedback, we have added a simple $20 cost per term, which covers some snacks or an outing (we found people were more likely to engage with a cost attached, but if it is a real barrier, we can waive it).

Find out more at our website: grampiansadvocacy.org.au/about-us/independent-pathways-and-living-skills-i-pals


information sessions, courses and webinars

Free online safety training for people with disability and their parents or carers.

Supporting participants to access the internet safely. Topics include:

  • Recognising and managing cyberbullying
  • How to have safe online relationships
  • Protecting personal private information
  • Understanding image-based abuse
  • How to improve your digital wellbeing.

To equip parents, carers and educators with the tools to support young people, the training also provides information on:

  • Understanding current online safety risks
  • Enhancing connection, trust and partnerships with your child
  • How to set up a cyber safe home.

More information: interactionservices.org/online-safety/

ACD Webinars – Student Support Group Meetings

Do you have a school-aged child with developmental delay or disability? You’ll get practical information about Student Support Group meetings: what they are, how you can prepare, and how to make the most of them to support your child at school. Our professional workshop facilitators are all parents of children with disability. They have practical experience of Student Support Group Meetings and they have a range of practical tips and information to help you support your child on their school journey.

As well as Student Support Group Meetings, we’ll also cover:

  • Children’s rights in education
  • Advocating for your child at school
  • Reasonable adjustments – what they are and what you can ask for

Various times between 19 and 27 February


Carer Gateway Carer Workshops

February 22 & 29 Caring Together workshop

Facilitator: Counsellor, Mary O’Mara. For Carers whose loved one is in permanent care. (2 part workshop online).

March 7 Q&A session with Fiona Newsome, Local Dietician

Online for All Carers


CAFS (Child & Family Services, Ballarat) FREE parenting groups

To empower parents and carers by providing an opportunity to learn more about children’s brain development and understanding the behaviour of babies, children and teenagers.
Circle of Security – 8 Week Program: Designed for parents and carers of children aged 0-12 years who want to strengthen the bonds with their children.
Let’s Grow Play and Parenting Group – Bi-weekly 4 week Program: Offering support to families with preschool or primary school aged children, where a parent or carer has an intellectual disability/learning difficulty or mental health issues.
Understanding Your Child – 9 Week Program: This group is suitable for parents and carers with children from 12 months to 18 years. The group explores parenting, how children develop, and aims to understand children’s behaviour better.
Understanding Your Baby – 8 Week Program: Suitable for parents and carers with a
child/children from birth to 12 months of age. This course gives parents information about their baby’s brain development and their baby’s physical and emotional development.
Tuning Into Teens – 6 Week Program: For parents and carers of children 12 to 18 years of age. Parents learn different ways to talk with and understand their child, as well as how to help their young person manage emotions and deal with conflict. Parents also learn how to help prevent behaviour problems.
Create Respect – School Based Program (Grade 5 & 6): The program engages students in recognising, demonstrating and growing upon their sense of self. The program is delivered to rural primary schools over four sessions.

To enquire about any of Cafs Early Help Programs please contact:
Taite McNamara taite.mcnamara@cafs.org.au 0407 860 125

Salvos Family Connections Parenting Programs

For Bookings or more information contact Alison at alison.ford@salvationarmy.org.au or 0437 028 256

Term 1 Parenting Programs:
MUMSnext Thursday fortnightly at 8-9pm via Zoom
Come and connect fortnightly with other Mum’s who have children at school or who are adults. Chat and connect with others through discussion, interesting topics, and guest speakers.
MASTerful Mums Tuesday 1pm to 3pm at Parker Place (Redan)
For mothers who have an adolescents who have bought about particularly challenging times in your life. The program runs for 12 weeks twice a year. Empowering women as they connect with others.
Circle of Security Parenting Program Starts Monday 12th of Feb at 1 p.m. via Zoom (online)
The Circle of Security is 8 week program designed to provide a natural and gentle approach to parenting focusing on the needs of the child.
Tuning into Kids Starts Wednesday 7 February at 7:30pm via Zoom (Online).
Tuning into Kids is a 6 week program that focuses on the emotional connection between the adult and child.
Tuning into Teens Starts Thursday 8 February at 10am via Zoom (online)
TINT focusses on the developmental needs of teenagers, integrating a focus on acceptance/empathy. It helps parents/carers to manage their own responses when adolescents reject or push them away.

Expressions of Interest are currently being taken for:

  • Bringing Up Great Kids (BUGK) Parents learn how to meet their children’s growing needs and build on their connection with their child/ren.
  • Connection to Play Connection through play is a seven-week parenting program. Learn about the child’s brain development and develop strategies to support healthy growth for the child.

Royal Children’s Hospital Kids Health Information Podcast

RCH has developed informative podcasts to supply tips and advice on a range of child and adolescent health issues. Hosts of the podcast include Margie Danchin, Lexi Frydenberg and Anthea Rhodes, they all are pediatricians and also Mums!! Some of the topics covered in the podcast include, Pain and pain relief, Fussy eaters, Brushing up n healthy teeth, From snooze to snore- how children’s breathing affects sleep and more https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/Podcast/

The Sue Larky Podcast: Dr Norrine Russell’s Insights into ADHD & AS

Dr. Norrine Russell, an esteemed psychologist and educator, shares her profound insights into the world of neurodiverse children, particularly those with Autism, ADHD, and related conditions. As a mother and a professional, Dr. Russell offers unique perspectives that resonate with educators and parents alike.

new services for families

Mental Health and Parenting Support for young women and mothers

Nurtured Mothers Wellbeing is accepting new clients with increased availability across the week. Areas of support include Perinatal and Maternal mental health (preconception to parenting children up to age 18years), Parenting support, Women’s health, and Erryn also supports young women’s (16+) mental health. More information can be found here: www.nurturedmotherswellbeing.com.au

Free virtual emergency medical service

The Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) is a FREE online public medical service for non-life-threatening emergencies. It’s available across Victoria, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And best of all, it includes paediatric emergency specialists. To use the service, your child must be with you, and you need a device with a camera so the clinician can see your child. The doctors can connect you with local services if your child needs further care. Wait times are generally 30 minutes. There’s also an interpreter service if you prefer to speak in your own language and the patient information about the service is available in seven community languages. For more information:  www.vved.org.au/

Athlete’s Foot Quiet Appointments

The Athlete’s Foot Australia offers Quiet Appointments for all children (and adults) with disability. They have a communication chart to download to help you prepare for your appointment and a short video that shows you what to expect. The quiet appointments, powered through SocialQ, our booking platform. Using this platform allows for individuals to make an appointment and have the ability to plan and prepare for their visit in-store. With the support of Aspect, our full-time staff in-store will be trained to assist in finding the best fit for those with disabilities and creating a space where customers can feel relaxed and well supported. To find out more and to book a Quiet Appointment, visit:  www.theathletesfoot.com.au/quiet-appointments

NDIS Updates for Families

NDIS new computer system and Participant Journey

In preparation for the national expansion of our new computer system and improved ways of working, we have built a dedicated website improvements.ndis.gov.au/ that sits next to www.ndis.gov.au 
The way you interact with the NDIS is also changing. Read about it here: The Participant Journey

NDIS Review

The NDIS Review final report has been released. It outlines how the NDIS can work better now and in the future, and makes some big recommendations. So what does it mean for families with children with disability?

NDIS have summarised the Review and tried to answer your top questions: www.acd.org.au/ndis-review-what-does-it-mean-for-families/



Research and Feedback Opportunities

Feedback required: The NDIS Experience Outside the Cities
NDIS participants living in rural, regional and remote Australia often have a different experience of the NDIS to people in urban areas. The federal Government recognises this and has asked the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme to inquire into the experiences of NDIS participants in rural, regional and remote Australia. The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) is seeking your feedback to help them prepare a submission to the Joint Standing Committee.
You can contribute your thoughts via the survey here: ADFO Feedback Survey

“AutInsight” University of Queensland
Are you a parent of an autistic child ages 10 years or under? Are you interested in developing your relationship with your child? University of Queensland are working hard to improve the support we can offer to parents of autistic children. As part of this important work, we have developed an innovative new parent support program – “AutInsight” – designed to support strong parent-child relationships and improve outcomes for parents, children, and families.

The AutInsight parent support program is a 5-week online group program (one 2-hour Zoom session per week) aimed at supporting parents of autistic children to:

  • develop greater insight and understanding of autism from the inside out, drawing on the perspectives of autistic adults,
  • strengthen their relationship with their child, and
  • develop practical strategies for parents’ self-care.

For further information visit: qcprrc.centre.uq.edu.au/project/parentingautisticchildren

Children and Young People with Disability Australia Strategic Plan Review
CDYA want to hear from young people with disability (aged 15 to 25) about their experiences and aspirations, and from families/caregivers of children and young people with disability aged 0 to 25 about what their Strategic Plan should look like. They are holding four focus groups: two for young people with disability and two for families/caregivers. Focus groups will run for one hour over Zoom and participants will be given a gift card valued at $75 for their time and insights.

To register your interest, click on a date below.
Young people with disability (aged 15 – 25):

Families/carers of children/young people with disability aged 0 – 25:

For more information contact CYDA via email info@cyda.org.au or via phone on 1800 222 660.

NDIS Participant First
Do you want to help shape the future of the NDIS?
Participant First is looking for people like you. As a member of Participant First, you can have a say in how we develop our products and services. You can tell us about your disability experience and help us understand your needs. What you say matters and can help us deliver a better NDIS for everyone.
Watch our new video from Participant First members (opens in new window)

New Resources for Families of Children with Disabilities

Starting Blocks-Your First Step into Early Childhood Education and Care
StartingBlocks.gov.au is a great resource for anyone looking for information relating to Childcare. Whether you are beginning to look at childcare options or want some other childcare related information Starting Blocks is the perfect place to start. Listed on their website are all approved services under the National Quality Framework including long day care centres, family day care providers, kindergarten and outside school hours care services. The website also covers information on costing (CCS Calculator available), ratings of services and their inclusions. Parent factsheets are available on various childcare related topics such as the different types of services, programs, nutrition, illness, sun protection, hygiene, learning and development just to name a few.
Starting Blocks also shares very useful information that can offer support for home life too, including information on ideas for activities to do at home, sleeping, toileting, developing routines and safety information including safe cot information and sun protection. Head to the website www.startingblocks.gov.au/

Autism Friendship free guide
Free guide for parents. See how to help your child know how to make friends, and keep friends. You’ll see steps for helping your child make sense of friendships and all-things-social. Download your free guide here: www.amazingskills.com.au/building-friendship-skills-guide

Get Active Kids Voucher
Eligible families can apply for vouchers of up to $200. The vouchers can help pay for sporting equipment, uniforms and memberships in a range of activities – even learn to swim classes for toddlers. Applications will close once the allocation has been exhausted. Vouchers can be used up to 30 April, 2024. For more information, visit: www.getactive.vic.gov.au/vouchers/

Supports for Families of Children with Disabilities

Carer Gateway
Caring for a friend or relative can be complicated. Carer Gateway can provide a range of supports to unpaid carers (including siblings as young carers). Call to register: 1800 422 737 8am to 6pm weekdays www.carergateway.gov.au/

Victorian Government Carer Card
The card provides discounts and benefits to carers in acknowledgement of this contribution. It’s easy and free to apply for the Carer Card. Applications can be made online. Alternatively, forms can be downloaded from this site, or you can request that one be posted to you by telephoning the Carer Card team on 1800 901 958 (toll free). Applications may take four to six weeks to process. www.carercard.vic.gov.au/

EACH Statewide Carer Support Services
EACH can fund counselling for carers and other family members (not just the primary carer, including siblings and grandparents) They can also fund ongoing counselling sessions if Carer Gateway funding runs out. www.each.com.au

Association for Children with a Disability
Resources: www.acd.org.au/information-and-resources/
Free telephone information and support:
Call 03 9880 7000 or 1800 654 013 (regional)
Or email acdsupport@acd.org.au
Or text 0475 577 997
To obtain an ACD membership please click here: acd.org.au/join-now/

Young Carers Supports

Young Carers Connect in Ballarat
Lifely are opening our group Young Carers Connect in Ballarat! This is an opportunity for young carers (anyone between 12-25 who cares for a sibling, parent or family member with a disability – they do not have to be the primary carer) to connect with other young carers to receive peer support from others going through the same thing, encouragement from others who have been in the space and have time out from caring for a bit. There is also the opportunity for 1 on 1 mentorship. Young Carers Connect is also available in Bendigo. To register or learn more call 1300 799 421 or email: keely.mcneill@lifely.org.au

Little Dreamers – Sibling supports
Young Carer organisation, working with young people who provide unpaid care for a family member with a disability, illness or addiction across a range of direct support programs, these programs can be found here: www.littledreamers.org.au/programs/ A link for the application for support can be found at www.dreamershub.com.au

Carer Gateway Young Carer Supports
Carer Gateway can provide a range of supports to unpaid carers (including siblings as young carers). Call to register: 1800 422 737 8am to 6pm weekdays www.carergateway.gov.au

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