Annual Report


AQA Victoria Ltd.

Our Values

Our Purpose

We exist so that people who have a disabling life event can best resolve its impact and enjoy life – in every way.

We have a proud 33 year history of supporting people with spinal cord injury and other traumatic injuries and neuro-muscular conditions. Our full suite of services is available to a person with any injury, disease or condition that affects enjoyment of life.

Chair and CEO Report

Welcome to our Annual Report for 2019; an opportunity to share our achievements in what has been a big year for our organisation as we progress an ambitious strategic agenda.

Chairman and CEO Report 2019


2018/19 was a memorable and exciting year for AQA. Moving into a new office space; commencing a whole of organisation digital transformation project, moving forward with a reimagined purpose and strategy; while continuing with business as usual delivering services and organising community events; this past year has definitely given us much to remember.

AQA's New Office

In early 2019, AQA made the move to a new office. As our services and staff have grown, we established the need for larger, more flexible space. The newly refurbished building has equipped us to provide even more support for people. The AQA office not only accommodates the work of our growing staff and volunteer base, but also provides an area for the community to gather and engage with us. Though it is only down the road from our old one, the move to a new office has proved to be a beneficial change for the organisation.


In March this year, Spire once again was part of the Arnold Sports Festival held at the Convention Centre in Southbank; spending three days showcasing, promoting and demonstrating inclusive sports and activities on the exhibition floor.


The Gippsland SCI Regional Network met at the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club in Paynesville to try Sailability, a sailing program that exists to promote, encourage and facilitate recreational and competitive sailing for people living with a disability.

In February, we held an accessible beach day in St. Kilda, together with the Royal Talbot Rehab Centre, for people to come and try the various beach access facilities available - from beach matting, beach wheelchairs and accessible change and shower facilities.

Our People

Throughout 2018 -19, our staff and volunteer base has continued to work towards supporting people living with SCI and similar complex physical disability get the most out of life. Whether by assisting people with activities of daily living and community participation, or sharing lived experience to inform, encourage, mentor and coach people navigate life, our people make invaluable, diverse contributions to the lives of the people they support.

Peer Support & Mentoring

AQA understands the value of having a good support network to help one navigate life with a spinal cord injury (SCI). That’s why for the past 30 years, we have been dedicated to providing a range of peer-led supports and services.

Ourlived experience team consists of over 50 trained volunteers from diverse backgrounds in a variety of life-stages. They all have significant community lived experience with SCI and are committed to contribute their personal knowledge and experience to help others living with SCI. They are passionate in providing others with guidance in getting back into the community and doing what they love again by helping them overcome challenges similar to what they themselves have faced in their own journeys. Whether it is motivation and goal-setting, practical life skills, peer-resourced information or emotional support, our team is committed to lending a helping hand wherever possible.

Our numbers are continuously growing, with more people wanting to utilise their own experiences to make a positive impact on the wellbeing of others.

Peer Coaches

In 2018, AQA established Spire’s Peer Coaching program. The peer coaching service is an extension of peer support, but focuses on specific areas of life, such as employment or health post injury. The service is delivered by trained coaches, combining the lived-experience aspect as well as more direct advice and guidance to real their goals in these areas.

Health coaches seek to increase a person’s capacity to make informed decisions about their physical and mental wellbeing, allowing them to reach their full potential. Employment coaches focus specifically on career development or study goals, and aim to encourage people to explore their options post SCI at any stage of their life. Facilitating positive change in these areas can allow an individual to take back control of their lives and reach their full potential.

Disability Support Workers

Navigating through life with a complex physical disability can be difficult, and obstacles can present themselves at any stage of the journey. Disability Support Workers (DSWs) are there to help with such challenges that may be faced day to day. Having a strong DSW relationship can prove vital in achieving physical and mental wellbeing. In order to achieve this, AQA is committed to providing quality services to meet an individual’s needs, whether it is through domestic care, respite programs, or community access. AQA works with over 500 DSWs, who support more than 250 clients. The services that DSWs provide to people and families play a pivotal role in supporting those with SCI and similar complex physical disability live their life to the fullest.

The feedback we received from our clients this year exemplifies this:

“The support I receive enables me to be a dad to my children and a husband to my wife.”

“It’s not just what they do for me physically, it’s the relationship and trust that is important.”

“Without my support workers I would not be able to get to work each day and meet my financial obligations”


Volunteers work with AQA in many various areas, providing their knowledge and passion to us in different forms. As well as providing lived experiencd support, mentoring and coaching, volunteers also help with organising events, social nights, and community expos. We also welcome those with specific skills and interests to support our projects, in areas such as IT, media, and video-journalism. All making vital contributions to the work we do and telling our story.

Ian Baker is a journalist and author who volunteers with AQA as a content writer He also mentors staff and volunteers to improve their writing and journalistic skills.

Ian Baker - AQA Content Writer

I have had the pleasure for more than 12 months of helping AQA Victoria tell of its work. And what a pleasure it has been.

Its most memorable element has been the generosity of my sources, in revealing, from the hope of inspiring others, intimate details of how they have thrived in adversity.

I have benefited greatly from the support, patience and appreciation of colleagues, as I found myself challenged to develop my skills in narration.

And I have revelled in AQA’s ethos of authenticity: at every step I have been challenged to write as honestly as I can.

My volunteering with AQA has brought me the privilege of talking with a broad range of people about what they have discovered to be most important in life, and of sharing their insights. Few writers find opportunities with so much potential for vocational fulfilment.

It has felt affirming to contribute to an organisation whose goals and methods I can promote without reservation.

I have enjoyed also the chance to help colleagues develop their own skills in story-telling, presentation, and engagement online. It amuses me to think that my title here, Content Writer, describes me as accurately as it describes my role.

Vale Nigel Steele

This year we felt a great loss following the unexpected passing of Nigel Steele. Nigel joined AQA in 2000 and over the years has played many roles in our lived experience team. Among his many significant contributions over the years, Nigel built, managed and maintained our various data bases. Of particular significance, Nigel conceptualised, designed and built our first peer support information database, which has allowed us to keep track of and coordinate over 7,200 instances of peer support and 8,000 requests for peer resourced information over the years.

Across the years Nigel had made connections with every member of our team and his loss is felt deeply by all of us at AQA.

Nigel was fiercely independent, representing that generation whose SCI experience was that if you didn’t do it yourself, then it didn’t get done. People remember Nigel’s cars and his sometimes ridiculous car transfers. He was someone who found a way, his way.

Nigel was also an ‘old dog’ who loved the challenge of learning new tricks, particularly if that involved cracking software or sourcing new information or sharing some practical wisdom.

The tributes received from far and wide all spoke to a man who made a lasting difference to people’s lives and to the qualities of Nigel as a person. We miss him, but we are so glad we knew him.


Community Networks

AQA believes that sharing personal experiences with SCI can be beneficial on the journey to recovery. However, people, particulalry those who live regionally often find it difficult to make these connections of their own accord. Working with those living with SCI, we continue to establish and support SCI community networks around Victoria. Each network controls their own agenda and priorities and organises a variety of events ranging from workshops with guest speakers; collaborating with their local councils on improving community accessibility; to community outings and social gatherings to engage with their local community. Last year we established two new networks in Mornington and Gippsland.


AQA is always active in the community and regularly hosts or participates in a range of events. We believe that being involved in the community is important for individuals living with SCI as well as those who support them. Below are a quick sample of events from last year.

NDIS Service Development

AQA believes in supporting individuals through all stages of their journey with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This is why we have developed a range of services through our extensive lived-experience knowledge. We provide pre-planning assistance and support coordination, as well as running NDIS workshops through which we provide advice specifically to people with SCI or similar disabilities.

The NDIS is transforming the ways in which people receive their disability supports and services. It seeks to help people with a disability achieve their goals and improve their quality of life. This is what we think you need to know to begin the NDIS journey.

Three forms of management are available for an NDIS plan, each with upsides and downsides. A recent case showed that you may switch to a more suitable form without applying for a full plan review.

NDIS Support Coordination helps build capacity to implement a plan, connect with services and achieve the plan goals.

“NDIS is kind of a big deal,” she says. “I know your first plan is always not going to be perfect, but you still need to know about it to be able to achieve something in it."

- Chante

AQA Spire Volunteer and NDIS recipient

Chante's Experience with the NDIS

Chante has been a volunteer with Spire for around 12 months. The 21 year old sustained a C5 injury at age 11 from a swimming pool incident. Chante has received support from the NDIS which has allowed her to plan living independently. She recalls how her first planning interview went. She went into the meeting with confidence and clear goals in her mind of what she wanted from the NDIS. This included increasing her capacity for independence in all facets of her life, such as at home, out in the community, and in her studies.

“I wasn’t just looking at short-term goals – I was also looking at long-term goals,” she says. “I want to be able to get up each day, go to work, and come home for dinner. Have people obviously to help me, to do washing and stuff, but other than that, I want to be able to do things for myself.”

Chante attributes the success of her NDIS appointments to organisation and her keenness to learn about the program beforehand. “NDIS is kind of a big deal,” she says. “I know your first plan is always not going to be perfect, but you still need to know about it to be able to achieve something in it.”

Chante is now helping others prepare for their NDIS interviews.

Services Snapshot

Online Presence

AQA’s goal for our online platforms is to mirror the vision of the organisation, as we strive to facilitate community connections as well as improve access to services.

Our websites provide a multitude of resources for individuals living with SCI, those around them, and the wider public. Continuously striving to evolve our online platforms, in 2020, we aim to create a unified web presence, integrating the Spire, Qualcare and AQA websites in order to streamline the online experienceand make it more user-friendly.

Our social media aims to provide an online community space for people to connect with us and each other and continues to progress reach and engagement. Across last year we saw an average post reach of 700 people per month, with an engagement rate of 30%.

Looking Forward

Digital Transformation

Implementation of Phase 1 of AQA's Digital Transformation Program is already underway and is expected to go live in May of 2020.

Built on the ZOHO One platform, Phase 1 will incorporate and integrate systems for

  • Customer Relationship Management

  • Finance & Accounting

  • Payroll

  • Rostering

  • Time & Attendance

with staff and contractors able to access the system via a self-service portal.

Phase 2 - covering marketing, community engagement and human capital management is expected to be implemented in the second half of 2020.

Workforce Engagement

Moving into 2020, AQA is dedicated to exploring new, creative ways to engage our workforce. Our goal is for employee life cycle systems and processes to be efficient, effective, and streamlined, so we can provide a more positive experience for those who work with us.

The foundation of this effort is to gain a better understanding of our disability support workers (DSWs). Recognising and acknowledging their differences will help us design an appropriate environment, allowing us to provide more personalised, relevant support for our DSWs to ensure that our workforce is proficient and appropriately skilled. To achieve this, we aim to produce data and metrics to inform future decision making and plan exciting developments for AQA. Applying the new information acquired will help our DSWs make the best out of their time at AQA while providing an enhanced experience for our clients.

This will also be balanced with tighter regulations. We ensure the systems, policies, and procedures that AQA has in place reflects best practice, while we continue to embrace the opportunities presented to us. These same principles apply to our office staff and volunteers. In particular, we need to enhance the way that we keep track of volunteer engagement processes.

We have commenced work on redesigning recruitment for all staff and support workers.

Looking Back

With all the changes we've begun this year from new office to new business systems; a whole of organisation business transformation; reimagined purpose and strategy; we thought it would be good to have a look at our beginnings over 30 years ago and the journey we've been on across the ensuing three decades.

We asked volunteer journalist Ian Baker to interview key people who were part of AQA's beginnings and 30+ year history to capture some insights and snippets of our origins and journey to date.

How AQA Victoria got it's name is the first of a series of resulting articles of AQA's history as recounted by the people who were involved at the time.

Board and Committees

Our Partners

o Funding bodies:

Department of Health and Human Services – individual support packages to people with disabilities

Department of Social Services – Australian Disability Enterprise - employment supports for people with disabilities and innovation project funding

Transport Accident Commission – individual support packages to people with disabilities and innovation project funding

Department of Health and Human Services (Tasmania) – information & referral services to people with spinal cord injury

Department of Health – peer facilitated support services to Victorians with SCI

National Disability Insurance Agency – individual support packages to people with disabilities

o Industry and Project Associates

Austin Health - Victorian Spinal Cord Service

Alfred Health - Caulfield General Medical Centre

Transport Accident Commission Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research

Independence Australia

Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (NSW)

Spinal Life Australia (QLD)

Paraquad NSW

o Industry and Project Associates cont.

Paraquad South Australia

Paraquad Tasmania

Spine & Limb Foundation (WA)

Spinal Cord Injury Network

Disability Sport & Recreation

LaTrobe University

Monash University

Swinburne University

o Legal Services

Clayton Utz

o Event sponsors

Miles Real Estate


o Procurement Services


A1 Office Fitout

o Corporate Supporters


Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Financial Report

The Full Financial Reports for the financial year 2018/19 including a summary of significant accounting policies, other explanatory notes and declaration from Directors and Auditors are located on the AQA website.