Chairman & Managing Director Report

Independence Australia is a social enterprise that provides choices for people living with a disability or other personal need, enabling them to regain or retain their independence within a supportive community.

We provide core disability supports, health and wellbeing products and mobility aids that assist people in their daily lives.

During the year we provided core supports to almost 750 Victorians living with a disability through over 160,000 occasions of service. With a focus on our complex care capability, we expanded our existing program to provide specialist complex care for people impacted by additional environmental factors such as homelessness, fragile family backgrounds, behaviours of concern and involvement in the Victorian justice system in partnership with specialist agencies.

Our specialist behaviour support service continued to grow with a 230% increase in hours delivered, supporting customers to build and maintain relationships, engage in their communities and achieve their goals. The psychology and counselling service also experienced significant growth, increasing access to services by over 75%. With a shift to telehealth in March 2020, due to the impacts of the global pandemic, the service was able to meet increased demand for mental health supports. Support group sessions increased and digital sessions were established to support people in connecting with others online and in bridging the gaps caused by social isolation.

Our information resource Inform has now reached 20,000+ Australians since its re-launch in 2019, connecting people with a disability and their families to essential services and supports within their communities through the delivery of our magazine, podcast series and online information hub. The Transport Accident Commission sponsored SpinChat program raises awareness, educates and promotes spinal cord injury prevention. Despite program suspension in March 2020 due to health and safety concerns associated with the pandemic, the program in 2019/20 reached over 8,000 secondary studentsacross Victoria.

Aligned to the key theme of our strategic plan, ‘Impact Matters’, we commenced our social impact project, ‘Independence and disability: maximising impact and NDIS outcomes for disability service users’ in collaboration with Swinburne University of Technology, which will see the development of a framework to measure the impact of our services on the people we support. Our social enterprise continues to provide much needed financial support to our core business.

We are considered to be the only NDIS registered service provider to deliver both community services and healthcare consumables to the Victorian community, and the only Australian supplier to offer an online solution for the purchase of essential NDIS funded products. We pride ourselves on offering great value, personalised service and exceptional choice from our wide range of 13,000 health care products. Over the past year our national social enterprise delivered over 750,000 orders to our customers across Australia. We also experienced very strong growth in online sales as more and more customers transition to our digital platform.

We increased the number of people supported by Independence Australia through the delivery of the Australian Government’s Department of Health National Epidermolysis Bullosa Dressing Scheme (NEBDS). We also welcomed our new specialist Epidermolysis Bullosa nurse, enabling us to provide targeted resources for Australians living with EB and tailored training and support for families newly impacted by the condition. The social enterprise retained contracts for the Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Appliances Program and the Victorian Statewide Equipment Program.

The Annual Independence Australia Daddo Charity Golf Day, which ran for its 15th consecutive year raised $70,000 to help fund our psychology and counselling service. The event continues to be a highlight for corporates and the golfing enthusiasts, with many participants and sponsors returning each year. We successfully completed our surveillance audit against the ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System. We were also pleased to be one the first Victorian disability service providers to transition from the Department of Health & Human Services Standards to the NDIS Practice Standards, with the completion of the Stage 1 Audit in 2020. We see this outcome as a strong endorsement of our commitment to the quality and safeguarding of the supports we provide to our disability customers.

The Board and Executive Management Team would like to express their appreciation to our partners, including the Transport Accident Commission, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Commonwealth Department of Health, National Disability Insurance Agency, Western Australian Department of Communities, Queensland Health, Ballarat Health Services and other community-based partner organisations. We also extend our gratitude to the trusts, foundations, corporations and countless individuals for generously supporting our work over the past year.

Our success is testament to the efforts of our entire team, who are committed to ensuring that we continue to support people living with a disability or other needs enabling them to regain and retain their independence within a supportive community.