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A trip of ‘firsts’ on the Gold Coast

Group shot Draculas RestaurantTwelve people experienced a trip of a life time, when they spent five days in the Gold Coast visiting the theme parks and having a holiday of ‘firsts’.

The trip was possible because of two work programs annecto Yarraville set up and manage. “We run a newspaper delivery group and a gardening group. This gives people the chance to experience working for an employer, being paid for work, and understanding how to work as part of a team,” explains annecto’s Western Region of Victoria Manager, Joan Cooney.

 “This group of people decided to save their wages over  the past year, which enabled us to plan, book and pay for them all to spend five days together, in the Gold Coast,” said Joan.

“People like to work and earn money, because it gives them independence, explains Joan Cooney, Western Region Manager. Working gives them the option to save their money and the possibility that they may be able to take another holiday, in the future,” said Joan.

The group was made up of people, aged between 20 and 55 years of age, all of who attend annecto’s learning hub in Yarraville.  

“We stayed in two houses within walking distance of each other. The Di Natale family donated their holiday house for the duration of the stay. Their daughter Gabriella is supported by annecto,” explained Helen Kowalyk, annecto’s Western Region Community Inclusion Coordinator, who went with the group, as one of five companions.

“We visited Sea World, Dreamworld, Movie World and Wet ‘n’ Wild.  We also went to see a burlesque theatre production at the famous Dracula’s Theatre Restaurant, which was an eye opener,” said Helen. 

“It was certainly a trip of firsts for all involved. First time on holidays with their peers, first time away from Mum and Dad, first time at the theme parks, first time at a theatre restaurant.  To be able to holiday with your friends, safely, is a rare thing for some of the people we support, and probably something they may not be able to afford to do again,” shares Helen.

For Jess, it will be an experience she will never forget.  “She rode all the scariest rides, and seemingly had no fear of any of them,” said Helen.  After returning to Melbourne, Helen received a text from Jess’ mum, Sandra, expressing her gratitude for Helen and the other companions, for making the trip possible. “…thank you so much for believing that these trips are worth it, because they are so worth it on so many levels.  For Jess to be able to be a normal young lady away on holiday with her friends is awesome...”

Jackie Ross, annecto’s Western Co-ordinator for Learning and Lifestyle and another of the trips companions, considered the trip to be a huge success. “Everything went well, even when things didn’t.  One of the women on the trip, was so excited to ride the Aqua Loop, a water slide at Wet ‘n’ Wild, she actually got stuck and we had to get security staff to help un-lodge her from the slide.  I thought, well, that’s the end of that! But as soon as she shot out the bottom of the slide, she was back in the line to slide again,” recounts Jackie.

Trips away for people with disability are often unaffordable. The cost of a support worker to accompany a person, 24 hours a day, plus the cost of flights and accommodation, makes a holiday financially inaccessible to many people.  annecto would like to thank the five companions Gerard McAdam, Matthew Twomey, Kim Kakoschke, Helen Kowalyk and Jackie Ross who volunteered their time to make the trip possible.

For information about annecto Yarraville’s Learning Hub call (03) 9908 0166 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..