40 years making the everyday better

Forty Years of Making the Everyday Better

Celebrating four decades of dedication to people with disabilities and their families

In the heart of Bendigo, a remarkable journey began four decades ago with a mission to support and enhance the lives of people living with disabilities and their families.

In December 1983, Lifely, known initially as Interchange Loddon Campaspe Region, emerged with a clear objective: to provide respite care for parents of children with disabilities.

Based on the Interchange model founded in Melbourne just a few years earlier, Lifely established a host program where compassionate families volunteered to care for children with disabilities over weekends.


A Humble Beginning

The fledgling initiative soon found its home at St Luke’s Family Care on Forest St, Bendigo. In early 1984, the pioneering Dorothy Kennedy stepped in as the first Program Coordinator. Her enthusiastic leadership ignited a wave of publicity, leading to remarkable growth. Within a year, 34 families had registered, supported by 15 dedicated volunteer host families and 12 successful family matches.


A Decade of Growth

One year later, the organisation welcomed Des Moyle as the Executive Officer, a role he would faithfully hold for the next decade. Under his guidance, the host program flourished, facilitating 45-50 annual matches, some of which endured for years.

With success came overwhelming demand, leading to the introduction of volunteer-led children’s camps in 1993. These camps offered families the chance to take a short break from their caring responsibilities. At the same time, their children enjoyed a fun-filled holiday supported by professional workers and volunteers.

The era also saw the creation of the Families of Children with Disabilities Support Group and the Making a Difference Programme, amplifying support for families.


Leisure Buddies

In 1986, Leisure Buddies was created to offer more leisure options for people aged 16 and older. Initially auspiced by Interchange, it later became independent and changed its name to Leisure Focus in 1989.

Although they faced some disagreements in the late 1980s and 1990s over the ownership and funding of the shared Mitchell Street office, the two organisations continued to collaborate.

In 1998, Leisure Focus stopped receiving funding from Sport and Recreation Victoria and started operating as a fee-for-service business. The following year, the two organisations merged, and Interhcnage began offering recreational group activities as part of its services.


Moving into the Mallee

The latter part of the decade saw the organisation expand its physical footprint, securing a permanent address at 127 Mitchell Street, Bendigo, in 1989.

This expansion was complemented by the launch of satellite offices in Swan Hill in 1991 and Mildura in 1992, reflecting the organisation’s ambition to serve central and northern Victorian communities.


A Changing of the Guard

Leadership shifted in 1995 when Joolee Hughes took the reins as the new Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Des Moyle.

With an expanded geographical presence, 1996 prompted a rebranding: Interchange Loddon Campaspe became Interchange Loddon Mallee Region.

The turn of the millennium brought fresh challenges as the organisation navigated the realities of deinstitutionalisation and surging community care demands.


Preparing for the National Disability Insurance Scheme

The new millennium prompted an infrastructural overhaul. By 2009, the Mitchell Street premises, laden with memories, underwent extensive renovation, thanks to a federal grant, culminating in a 2011 reopening.

The onset of the 2010s brought the NDIS, reshaping the disability care landscape. From 2015, the organisation strategised for this new era and introduced services like Support Coordination and Plan Management.


A Modern Era

In 2018, Joolee Hughes, after a notable 23-year tenure, stepped down, and Janette Martin assumed the role of CEO in 2019.

Under her leadership, Interchange expanded its portfolio, providing the Outside School Hours Care Program at Bendigo Special Developmental School and Kaliana School.

In 2021, Lifely embraced change once more, adopting the vibrant moniker ‘Lifely’ to align with the rapidly transforming NDIS landscape. The following year, Lifely expanded further, establishing Support Coordination and Plan Management Services in Ballarat.


Continuing the Legacy

As Lifely stands on the brink of its 40th year in 2023, it reflects on a legacy marked by commitment, innovation, and community service. It remains a leader in regional and rural disability support and children’s services.

Lifely’s journey is a testament to the profound impact an organisation can have when fueled by compassion and dedication. Here’s to another four decades of enriching lives and making a difference.