Noah’s Inclusion Services has a proud history of supporting local children and families since 1981. From a small group of families to the thriving service we are today, our core focus remains the same – to help children of all abilities to make the most of all opportunities in life.
Our beginnings in Nowra
Noah’s Ark first opened as a small Toy Library and Playgroup for children with disabilities and special needs in Nowra. It was originally connected to Noah’s Ark in Canberra but soon became its own entity in 1981. Families appreciated the chance to connect with others in similar situations and access toys and equipment that helped their child’s development. Community support began to grow as it was recognised how beneficial this service was to local families.
Therapy brings positive change
Recognising the difference that therapy could make for a child living with a disability, Noah’s began offering therapy services including Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology in conjunction with NSW Disability Services. This was in addition to the early intervention already being offered by Early Childhood Teachers. Being able to access these services from the one place was very beneficial for families. Not only did this save them time but it meant that services were coordinated and provided in the best way for each individual child.
Family support model emerges
The Parent 2 Parent Program was launched in 1990, a Peer Support Network for families with a child with a disability. This was a family-driven initative that was sustained by a Government grant and community support. Volunteers matched families dealing with similar challenges, allowing valuable support networks to form. This family support model has continued on at Noah’s over the years, represented through programs including the Parent Room, Peer-to-Peer Mentoring and My Time.
Community helps us to thrive
From our very beginnings, community support for Noah’s was strong from local groups, businesses and individuals. Paediatricians and health services immediately saw the value of our work and began advocating for us at a local and state level. Disability Assistance for the Shoalhaven Inc (DASI) has also been a valued ongoing advocate and supporter from our early days. Shoalhaven City Council provided significant support, especially through low-cost rental agreements. The Navy base located at HMAS Albatross has assisted us greatly, with 816 Squadron adopting Noah’s as their chosen charity.
Positive behaviour support
Noah’s launched the Managing Children Program in 2000 to help families struggling with the challenges of managing their child’s behaviour. The expertise of a range of early childhood specialists from Noah’s and beyond combined to give parents strategies to positively manage behaviour and make daily life run more smoothly. Parents immediately saw the benefits of this program and found that positive changes improved their own wellbeing. This program continues to offer guidance and support as the Be My Best Program.
Events supporting Noah’s
Community support continued to grow through local events. The Noah’s Challenge continues to be a favourite local event for families with many generous sponsors helping to raise funds for Noah’s programs. The Annual Berry Noah’s Cup was a much-loved annual race day that brought the community together for fun and fundraising. Many generous community supporters have used their events over the years to help raise the profile of Noah’s and give programs a funding boost.
Connecting to our Aboriginal community
Noah’s has always worked hard to be connected and responsive to the local community we serve. Through invitations to work with our local Aboriginal Communities, we have tailored services that promote child development over many years. Through partnerships with local Aboriginal organisations we have developed playgroups and programs which play a role in respectfully preserving, teaching and advocating for Aboriginal culture for future generations.
Expanding our reach
Seeing demand for our services grow across the Shoalhaven, Noah’s opened our service in Ulladulla in 2003. This allowed us to make therapy and family support services more accessible to families living in the southern Shoalhaven region and gave a base for Noah’s staff visiting children at home, pre-schools and schools in that area. This was followed by Noah’s providing services in the Illawarra, beginning with a program known as Kids Together in partnership with the University of Wollongong.
The start of Start-Up
Our Noah’s Start-Up Multidisciplinary Assessment Clinic revolutionised the way that developmental disorders in local children are diagnosed in conjunction with each child’s healthcare providers. Utilising a team of Noah’s professionals to assess and diagnose children in a play setting, our program is recognised as unique in NSW and possibly Australia-wide. Local health professionals value this program highly for its effectiveness and local families appreciate the family-centred approach.
NDIS changes disability services
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was first introduced to the Shoalhaven in 2016, transforming how disability services were provided to improve wellbeing and outcomes for people living with a disability. Noah’s began offering services under this scheme and expanded our age range to 18 years, giving more children and young people a chance to access Noah’s programs and support. Noah’s has continually worked closely with the Government to ensure the wellbeing of children and families is paramount.
Noah’s on the move
In 2015, Noah’s moved from our location in Central Nowra to the University of Wollongong (Shoalhaven Campus). This move allowed an expansion of our services and our team of professionals and placed us in beautiful bushland surrounds. This location also encourages greater collaboration with the tertiary sector to ensure our work is research-driven and best practice. Facilities allow for children to visit us for therapy or playgroups or for staff to visit children in the community.
Early and inclusive learning
Mundamia Early Learning Centre opened in 2016, offering a stimulating and individualised curriculum designed and delivered by outstanding educators for children 0-6 years old. We also work with educators from other early childhood education services to model and promote inclusive teaching practices. Our bushland setting allows us to have a strong focus on teaching children appreciation and care for the natural environment.