It is with great pleasure that we announce that Maureen Crawford, Founder of Interchange here in Victoria, has been chosen as a finalist in the Unsung Hero category for the national HESTA Community Sector Awards 2015!
Maureen was nominated by Interchange Incorporated for her outstanding efforts and commitment to supporting families in need at a time when no other social supports were available.
The program Maureen initiated has not only assisted families to provide their children with opportunities, it has also supported siblings and parents, contributing to the resilience of families and keeping them together.
Many thousands of families over the years have been supported through the program established by Maureen and we are incredibly proud of her.
The HESTA Community Sector Awards are proudly presented by HESTA and Australian Centre of Social Service (ACOSS).
Maureen founded the first volunteer-supported respite care program to support children with a disability and their families, has been recognised for pioneering a service that now runs in four states.
Maureen Crawford started the first Interchange program in Camberwell, when her intellectually disabled son, James, was five years old — and the pressure of caring for him became physically and emotionally overwhelming.
Ms Crawford is among five finalists in the Unsung Hero category of the 2015 HESTA Community Sector Awards. The Awards recognise those in the community sector who’ve made an exceptional contribution to social justice in Australia by enhancing the wellbeing of disadvantaged individuals and communities.
“In 1980, I couldn’t find even one community body to offer respite care on a regular basis and I realised that other parents in similar situations were also isolated and unable to cope with the heavy, daily pressures of caring for their children with disabilities,” Ms Crawford said.
“I was worried about the long-term effects this strain would have on both me and my family. Not only was I unable to help James develop outside interests, the locked doors and gates at home were isolating my other children.
“I realised that, if relief wasn’t available on a regular basis, our family was at risk of pokiesaustralian.com falling apart and this feeling of impending disintegration was the motivation behind creating Interchange.”
Together with a small group of parents, Ms Crawford opened the first Interchange program to give families who had a child with a disability a regular break by sharing their care with volunteer host families.
There are now 12 Interchange agencies across Victoria, as well as agencies in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, supporting about 4,000 children with a disability, per year.
While the core services — the Interchange Host and Interchange Recreation programs — offer respite care, peer support, social skills, camps, and friendship groups, services have extended to include sibling activities, parent support groups, family activities and events.
“Over the years, the focus has shifted from just providing respite care for the family to encouraging entire local communities to be inclusive of families and children with disability,” Ms Crawford said.
“My own work in the field has led me into a job as a grief counsellor, helping families following the birth or diagnosis of a child with a disability.
“While I have gained enormous satisfaction from the challenges of the past 35 years, I couldn’t have done any of it without the continuing support of my entire family, including my son James.”