Hello from our President
Mel Spencer is a parent of three children who have a diagnosis of ASD. Her background is 18 years with Victoria Police. She has become a tireless advocate for her children and many others. She is very passionate about making a difference and finding creative ways to overcome the challenges and obstacles that present along the way. More recently Mel has completed several Certificates IV’s in Disability and Small Business Management. She is the co-founder and current President of Different Journeys which she started to ensure that her children had opportunity to connect with a wider world than their bedrooms. Her vision of Different Journeys is to provide opportunities for our autistic community to find meaningful ways to connect and empower both themselves and their families to ensure that they have every opportunity that is afforded to them so that they have the opportunity to lead an ordinary life.
Wise words from our major partner
Fred has been at IOE since 1989. For Fred, becoming the CEO of the organisation ‘sort of just happened’ over the years. It was nothing he planned or ever anticipated. Fred has a Bachelor Degree in Recreation and a Graduate Diploma in Business Management. IOE is a very successful organisation with Fred at the helm for over 30 years. Naturally at home playing in mud, water on the sporting field rather than the corporate boardroom, Fred is grateful that IOE has enabled him such variety and the opportunity to engage with families across a range of actives. Being hard to please, Fred is always focused on making IOE a better and effective service for families of children and young people with disabilities. Having previously worked for three other disability organisations prior to coming to IOE, Fred has, in his role as CEO, worked to ensure that IOE has not followed the direction of the other organisations but has maintained its own path and values – a commitment which has shaped the development of IOE over the years.
Style and guidance
Merrin has worked tirelessly in the ASD community for the past 18 years in various voluntary positions. For a seven-year period she held positions of President, Vice President and Fundraising Coordinator at Irabina Childhood Autism Services and more recently in 2015 co-founded Different Journeys with Melinda Spencer. Merrin and her husband Darren have two sons, 18 and 21, both diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Merrin has been working in the education department for over two decades, specialising in maths and science teaching for year levels 7 – 12. As Merrin navigated her way through the maze of early intervention programs, health professionals, therapists, the public and private education systems and she quickly realised how difficult the journey could be, the limitations of many of the programs on offer and the lack of supported social activities available for her boys participate in.
Our finance man keeping us in line
Michael is a Professor of Accounting and Business Information Systems at the University of Melbourne with over 25 years experience both in Australia and internationally. As an industry engaged academic he has advised corporations and regulators around the globe in financial reporting and risk management, strategy, decision making and data analytics. Michael is passionate about the human impact of organisations like Different Journeys and seeks to use his accounting and IT expertise to ensure that human impact remains the real KPI. As a parent of two adult children with a disability he also brings a real-life experience to his role on the committee.
Our fearless advocacy champion
Daniel, 23, is an autistic and passionate person who adopts a ‘person-first’ approach to the development of autistic youth. He strives everyday to enrich the lives of the autistic community, as well as create opportunities for individual personal development. Daniel has worked for the I Can Network for over three years, producing stronger autism advocacy and mental health outcomes for young autisitcs. Daniel has a Bachelor of Music from the Australian Institute of Music and a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences from Monash University.
Our fabulous secretary
Rebecca is a single Mum of two children, who are both diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder and Generalised Anxiety. Rebecca has a degree in Bachelor of Biological Science and worked as a Microbiologist for 10 years. After having her children she returned to the workforce and now works as a Medical Receptionist and has come on board with Different Journeys as Secretary. Rebecca also volunteers supporting the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) at Primary Schools. She devotes all her ‘spare time’ advocating for her children and ensuring they live their best life, being including in the community and beyond. I joined Different Journeys basically to help other children live their best lives and to be included in the community too. To help develop and promote ways this can be done.
General committee member and so much more..
Kellie has stepped down as Vice President and her duties with the new arrival of her second child. We hope to see Kellie’s face more once she has settled into the life of a family of four!
Kellie is an Occupational Therapist with 11 years of experience, who works both as a therapist and consultant. She completed a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and a Bachelor of Ergonomics, Safety and Health at La Trobe University. Kellie runs her own business, Beyond The Book Therapy, which provides a service to children, teens and young adults with disabilities. Kellie has a special interest and passion for working with children and young people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I have been the Executive Assistant to the CEO at Interchange Outer East for eight years, but have worked at IOE since 2008. I am also the Chief Administration Officer with Different Journeys when Mel and Merrin needed someone to be the contact person for anyone who had enquiries via phone and manned what was originally the ‘Teen ASD’ email address. I loved learning more about the ASD community as I went, prior to this I had very little knowledge. I have learnt a ridiculous amount from everyone involved with Different Journeys and love my work with them. I am constantly inspired by those around me and appreciate the insight I am constantly given.
Megan is a former Div. 2 nurse currently working as a Pathology Collector and a member of the Melbourne Autism Lions Club. She has over 18 years of experience working with people who have a disability. Megan is a mother of four children, three are autistic. Working with Different Journeys has provided her with an opportunity to pass on her own life experiences, helping nurture people and become the best version of themselves. She is gifted at connecting with other parents, who share similar circumstances, and support them through re-encouragement and great communication skills.
Kim has worked in the disability sector for many years in a variety of roles from support worker, rostering office and manager. She now spends her days helping people to understand the NDIS and advocates strongly for all people to experience and be recognised as living an ‘ordinary life’.
Jodi has been a keen volunteer over the years on many Committees. As an Aunt to three ASD kids Jodi has always been interested and keen to learn about the challenges her Nephew & Nieces face and how it will shape their future choices and opportunities. Often feeling ineffective and not knowing how to best help when challenges have occurred over the years for her Nephew and Nieces, Jodi is eager to ensure the wider community have a greater understanding of the ASD community and what we can all do to be more inclusive.
After 15 years of working my way up to leadership in the Automotive Industry, it all came to a holt in 2017 when the Industry ceased production in Australia. Most others were concerned with what they would do next, I saw it was an opportunity to move to a new industry i have always had an interest in, accounting. I moved straight on to complete my certificate 4 and diploma of accounting and am now finishing my advanced diploma of accounting with the intent to complete my degree.
I really enjoy accompanying my step son, who has autism, to the peer support events, swim night and the camps along with an outstanding support group that Different Journeys run. I joined Different Journeys thinking this was a perfect opportunity for me to not only show my skills but also develop them and give back to the community.
Raymond is a dynamic executive consultant and coach, with proven experience in supporting organisations to better define and implement strategies that achieve success. For the past 30 years, Raymond has gained experience working across all levels of Government, the community services sector, private sector and academia. His experience includes sitting on National decision-making panels and senior evidence advisory bodies; leading major reforms in clinical and allied health services; managing state-wide implementation of client and service information systems; policy development; project management; organisational development; strategic plan facilitation and overseeing national and state-wide training initiatives.
I have lots of qualification across a range of different industries, including media, fashion, business. I always enjoy taking on new challenges and upgrading my skills. I have a huge passion for youth work, supporting people to achieve goals big and small. My aim is to run a community centre that will provide a safe and inclusive environment for people of all walks of life; fostering teenagers who need just a bit of understanding. Giving time to Different Journeys is vitally important because it is a welcoming environment. They support me and I support them back.