Category Archives: local government

Gippsland Regional Communication Service – local, effective and valued

Staff and management of Gippsland Regional Communication Service celebrate their service at the end of 2019

Gippsland Regional Communication Service started in 2005.

Over the years the service has become an integral part of local communities in the geographically large area of Gippsland.

Working in partnership with people with communication disabilities, the Regional Communication Service has identified opportunities and needs in the local community and worked to address them.

A huge number of mainstream services (such as local bus and transport companies, emergency response workers, tourism providers, hospitals, primary health providers, and local government offices), as well as disability-specific services, have been able to improve their access and responsiveness to people with communication disabilities through their work with Gippsland Regional Communication Service.

Great work, Gippsland Gals!

Meg Irwin (Communication Access Network Coordinator)

Building communication access in the community: Lived experience makes a difference

Nateace has been working for several years with the Communication Access Network. She has been a member of the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service Steering Group and is currently a Communication Access Symbol Assessor. From time to time, she also works with Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service to train community organisations in communication access.

As a person with lived experience of communication disability, her contribution to training is highly valued. Organisations willingly pay her to co-train with the Regional Communication Service (The Regional Communication Service is funded via the Victorian Government with no cost to community organisations).

Nateace oversees group work at a recent Central Goldfields Shire training in Maryborough

Meeting people with communication disabilities helps staff understand the barriers people with communication disabilities face. Staff also gain skills and confidence to communicate with everyone.

Workers try getting their message across without speech

Before their successful Communication Access Symbol assessment, Nateace was involved in training City of Greater Bendigo staff,

In their evaluation feedback, City of Greater Bendigo staff said they found all aspects of their two hour workshops useful:

role playing to simulate the experience of people who do not use speech to communicate

observing and role playing real work scenarios using communication aids and strategies

learning how to use the City of Greater Bendigo communication books.

And they especially highlighted the value of Nateace’s presence:

“It was great having Nateace there to ask her questions that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to ask”

“Great getting real life advice from a person who isn’t able to speak and listening to her life experiences”

“It was most useful having Nateace there as we didn’t have to make up scenarios we could practise with Nateace”

“Great having Nateace there to demonstrate.”

“I now know that it is okay to ask someone with a communication difficulty if there are other ways that we could communicate with one another, I know it isn’t offensive to ask.”

Meg Irwin Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

Communication Access at Brimbank Libraries

The North-West Regional Communication Service (NWRCS) recently worked with members of the Brimbank Disability Network to evaluate the communication accessibility of Brimbank libraries. St Albans, Keilor, Sunshine, Deer Park, and Sydenham libraries were all involved.

It’s great to have community members with complex communication needs so passionate about making community services accessible to everyone.

Megan providing feedback on her library audit experience

How did the project start?

The North West Regional Communication Service met with the Metro Access and Libraries Coordinator from Brimbank City Council. We spoke about Communication Access and the importance of having people with disabilities involved in the projects.

We decided to work with the Brimbank Disability Network to do an evaluation of the libraries and provide recommendations about what is needed to improve the experience of people with disabilities.

Each person involved had a meeting with the North West Regional Communication Service to talk about Communication Access and the project. Then each person went out to the libraries and used a ‘Library Audit Form’ or other tools to record their experience.


Community consultation meeting

Community consultation

After the the library audits were completed, a meeting was organised for everyone to share their experience at the libraries. The Libraries Coordinator from Brimbank City Council came to the meeting to listen to everyone’s experiences and suggestions.


There were many positives but also some areas for improvement.

The group spoke about:

  • How staff can have better interactions with people with disabilities
  • The use of communication boards at the library
  • Signage and wayfinding
  • Having written information available in Plan Language or Easy English
  • Physical accessibility

This has given Brimbank City Council lots of information about ways to improve customer experiences at Brimbank libraries.

Where to next?

The North West Regional Communication Service aims to continue to work with Brimbank libraries to create inclusive and accessible environments for everyone.

Stephanie Popovich, North-West Regional Communication Service

Fun at the Pool for everyone

Swimming is stressful for some people. How can we make it more enjoyable?

Jocelyn, a Gippsland Regional Communication Service speech pathologist, happened to be at the local pool. She watched as staff struggled with a patron who did not want to swim. Jocelyn had made social stories about swimming lessons for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and parents had reported they were very helpful. Jocelyn figured an adult version could also help adults with cognitive and communication impairments prepare for their pool visit. They could know in advance what the pool looks like, who will be there, and what will happen. 

Draft: Preparing for what might happen at the swimming pool

The facility management were quick to jump on board and support the project. Resources are being prepared right now! There will be a standard book that can be given to anyone, as well as a template that can be personalised with an individual’s own photos.

When the resources are designed, Jocelyn will seek feedback from community members and facility staff before finalising the books.

Expect more happy splashing in the local pool!

Communication Access Symbol awarded to City of Greater Bendigo: What Next?

Maintaining Communication Access at CoGB

City of Greater Bendigo has met the Standards to be awarded the Communication Access Symbol at their three main Service Centres in Bendigo and Heathcote. Their front doors now sport the Symbol.

So what next?

To continue to meet the Standards, City of Greater Bendigo will complete self assessments prior to another external assessment by Scope in 3 years.

In order to keep up the good work, City of Greater Bendigo has an identified Communication Access Champion (as part of her current work). She makes sure:

  • new staff complete CAN’s Communication Access E-learning package as part of their induction process
  • staff and customers regularly review communication aids and the aids are updated
  • documents for customers are in accessible formats
  • signage is clear
  • customers are asked for feedback on how communication accessible they find City of Greater Bendigo’s service desks
  • the Regional Communication Service provides more training for staff as needed

Well done, City of Greater Bendigo!

PS Did you know that the Inclusive Towns project, funded through an NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity Building National Readiness Grant, has been extended? On 1 August we heard that half a million dollars had been allocated to the new “Champions for Change” program across Mount Alexander, City of Greater Bendigo, and Loddon shires to promote employment of people with disabilities to local businesses.

Communication Access at the City of Greater Bendigo

The City of Greater Bendigo Service Desks Communication Access Symbol assessment is probably happening right now! Good luck everybody!

The City of Greater Bendigo has a population of more than 110,000 people. A few years ago, it identified communication access as an important part of its Community Access and Inclusion Plan. It requested support from the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service.

Initial planning and training took place with the Manager of Customer Support and some selected “champions” working on the City of Greater Bendigo Service Desks.

Other Managers were informed and consulted about City of Greater Bendigo’s actions to achieve communication access.

One of the CoGB Service Desk Communication Book produced in collaboration with Service Desk staff and clients by the Regional Communication Service

The Mayor and Councillors and the Disability Inclusion Reference Committee were informed and reviewed the communication aids. The website was reviewed and changed.

By the start of 2019 City of Greater Bendigo service desks in three locations felt nearly ready for assessment.

City of Greater Bendigo promoting its communication access initiatives

In the first half of the year, the Regional Communication Service and City of Greater Bendigo staff worked hard to realise their goal to be awarded the Communication Access Symbol at the three main Service hubs in Bendigo and Heathcote.

Early in the year the Regional Communication Service observed and reported to City of Greater Bendigo managers on communication accessibility at the Service Desks. This led to some meetings with managers, to review results and plan responses.

The Regional Communication Service worked closely with the Customers Support Manager to make sure commercial picture communication symbols were properly acknowledged, to create explanatory material for the public and staff, and to organise staff training, including pre training questionnaires and tasks, pre and post training evaluations, scenarios for inclusion in training, and payment for the co trainer, who was a Communication Access Assessor and an Augmentative and Alternative Communication user.

The Regional Communication Service planned the training with the Communication Access Assessor. Four two hour trainings were delivered so that all staff at Bendigo and Heathcote Service Desks could attend.

Evaluations indicated that the training was highly valued overall. Participating in scenarios and roles plays, learning to use communication aids, learning how to interact with people with communication disabilities, and being able to ask a person with communication disability questions were all repeatedly commended. Everyone reported that they would recommend the training to others. 

The Communication Access Symbol

We hope more City of Greater Bendigo services will be developing their communication access.

After seeing what the City of Greater Bendigo has done, another local government area has now approached the Regional Communication Service for support.

Meg Irwin, Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service