The Bridge News

August 2021

How to make the NDIS work for you

We all need a lot of skills in our day to day lives and most of us like to have as much independence as we can, to do the things we want and need to. The NDIS can help you build independence and daily living skills, and we have experts on hand who know all about how the NDIS works for people and how to set up services to help you achieve your goals.

Our focus at The Bridge has been on ensuring participants, families, and staff understand the NDIS, and in particular, how the different aspects of the funding work. Each year we receive a new NDIS Price Guide which our team study to help us best work with participants to capitalise on their allocated funding and make progress towards their goals. Whilst NDIS plans usually don’t stay the same but change over time as your needs change, plan reviews are an opportunity to check if your supports are working for you and how your goals are going.

For assistance with preparing for your plan review or, if you have received a new NDIS plan and would like some assistance in making the most of your funding allocation, don’t hesitate to speak to your service coordinator or contact our NDIS Support Coordinators at The Bridge via 1800 274 343.

It has been difficult over the last few months with lockdown periods. Rest assured, The Bridge continues to deliver modified services during these times such as individual support to exercise, assistance with essential shopping and online digital servicing. The Bridge remains vigilant in hygiene practices throughout lockdown periods.

If you are wanting to discuss support options in preparation for possible future lockdown periods, please contact yourservice coordinator.

Message from our CEO Mary-Jane Stolp

Hi everyone,

Despite the winter chill, there is a high level of energy and enthusiasm across The Bridge with the commencement of new staff and volunteers as our services grow.

Following lockdown number 5 we again thank our staff and volunteers and the participants and families we support for remaining vigilant in preventing the spread of Covid. We’ve been so pleased to see the uptake of the Covid vaccination across The Bridge community and urge you to get vaccinated as soon as you can.

Once again, our funding applications to Jobs Victoria and Casey Council have been successful, enabling us to continue the good work we have been doing across our Employment Services to support youth, those from a CALD background or experiencing disadvantage and long term unemployed. To hear our good news stories please visit our social media pages; Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn or Latest News on our website.

The Bridge is strongly committed to elevating the voice of people we support, and we continue to advocate to government on issues that impact the sector and people with disability, through our CEO and other external networks and our peak body National Disability Services. The aim of this work is to highlight the challenges faced by people with disability in navigating this new system of assessments, and our recommendations on how that experience might be improved. We note at the time of writing that planned NDIS Independent Assessments have been put on hold. We will continue to discuss this with our Community Voice Advisory Group, who meet monthly, and keep you informed of any changes.

We’ve been working hard to strengthen all services, based on feedback we receive, to ensure we provide the best possible services to our community into the future. We hope to launch our newest online service in September which will provide further opportunities for all people we support, around skill development and independence, health and wellbeing and social connection. These services will be available at a range of different times and days based on uptake. For a copy of the activities schedule please contact

Our property development at Park Grove (formerly Callander Rd), Noble Park is going well, and we are halfway through Stage B with many houses already being sold. We are also continuing to expand our services at our newest site, Athol Rd, Springvale South, as well as services in the Officer / Pakenham area, to meet demand. Having continued our essential services throughout Covid we are excited about the future and progressing our mission to transform people’s lives.

As many of you will be aware, Phillip Toovey recently retired as Chief Executive Officer of The Bridge, after over 30 years of wonderful service. At his farewell he said ‘Reflecting on the time I’ve spent with The Bridge…it has been my good fortune and privilege to lead and work with many great people who wanted to genuinely contribute to the organisation succeeding with its purpose. I will never forget the many participants and families that I have come to know over the journey and will take many wonderful memories with me. I wish the Board, CEO Mary-Jane Stolp, the staff and everyone involved with The Bridge, prosperity and success.’

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Phillip Toovey, Mary-Jane Stolp – CEO and Jim Hall – President

The Bridge Connects

The Avengers Slam Dunk

Craig, Support Worker with Your Supports, and Romolo (Your Supports participant and basketball coach extraordinaire) planned and put together a basketball team consisting of five participants from The Bridge and a friend. They named their team ‘The Avengers’.

The Avengers played their first match on the 6th of May 2021 at Casey Race, to a packed and excited stadium, full of family and friends. They were very excited and full of adrenaline but overcame their nerves and won their first match!
Congratulations to all involved. What a great effort!

Exploring our local community

The Monday Outing group from The Bridge Connects, Webb St, has enjoyed exploring our beautiful community every Monday, when not in lockdown.

They have had adventures to the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens, various All Abilities parks such as Livvi’s Place Casey and fishing at Frankston Foreshore.

The chance to get out and about in the community and interact with different people from all walks of life has been the highlight of this program so far. It’s great to see the development of many skills and goals through these activities including increasing social skills with each other and members of the community, road safety and building confidence in new environments.

Feedback from participants and families

We love receiving feedback from participants and families so we know when we are doing a great job but also where we can do better. We have recently received some beautiful feedback, which is so appreciated by all our staff:

‘I want to say thank you for all the opportunities you give my family member to go on weekend Getaways.

At 53 he’s never had any opportunities like this before. Neither of our parents drove and our dad died young. All my family member has ever had is his golf and that can be lonely at times. Moving to Melbourne and joining The Bridge has opened up a whole new world to him. He loves the weekends away, the people he travels with and the new things he’s learning. I’ve never seen him so happy, and golf comes a poor second now to Getaways.

Thank you once again. Your hard work is much appreciated.’

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‘A massive thank you for dropping off a Covid-lockdown art pack. It was so thoughtful, and our family member absolutely loved it.

My family member is enjoying his days and activities, and I really appreciate all the work you have done to get activities up and running in such challenging times, plus special thanks for the online sessions during lockdown.’

‘Thank you for the care, support, compassion and understanding shown to my family member through the year, and the support offered to me. It means a great deal, and I can’t overstate the impact you have all made on my family member’s days, even the days where it may not be so apparent..’

Proudly Vaccinated

Ben has been with us for many years and loves his time with his mates at The Bridge.

He really struggled during lockdown and missed being on site and having contact with his many friends. Ben joined us on digital programs, but it just wasn’t the same.

Ben proudly let us know that he recently received his second vaccine. “No more lockdowns for me. I’m vaccinated. You’ve got me every day now I’m safe.”

Ben has not stopped smiling.

We celebrated Volunteer Week with the City of Greater Dandenong’s Mayor, Cr Angela Long. This was a dual celebration because we were joined by The Bridge’s new CEO, Mary-Jane Stolp.

L to R - The Bridge CEO Mary-Jane Stolp, Coordinator of Volunteers Margaret Campion, City of Greater Dandenong Mayor, Cr Angela Long, volunteers Mangala and Ian

Celebrating Volunteer Week

We celebrated Volunteer Week with the City of Greater Dandenong’s Mayor, Cr Angela Long. This was a dual celebration because we were joined by The Bridge’s new CEO, Mary-Jane Stolp.

Mary-Jane has been the dedicated and innovative General Manager of Connects for 6 years, and now takes over as CEO. She values staff and volunteers and enjoys great rapport with participants across all our programs.

The Mayor appreciates the ongoing partnership with The Bridge, now under Mary-Jane’s experienced leadership.

The Bridge Works

Jobs Victoria Advocates

The Bridge is the proud hosts of two Jobs Victoria Advocates, Terry and Ahmad. Covid-19 has had far reaching impacts across Victoria, with many people finding themselves unemployed for the first time. Our Jobs Victoria Advocates are taking their services into the community – engaging people and supporting them to connect with employment supports.

Since the team was formed in April this year, they have met with nearly 200 people out in the community and initiated referrals to gain vital support. Working closely with our Jobs Victoria Employment Services and Disability Employment Services teams it is great to see that some of those people they have engaged are now on a positive pathway to securing sustainable employment.

With regular spots at the Dandenong and Springvale libraries as well as ‘pop up stalls’ at large shopping centers, Terry and Ahmad are proud ambassadors of this great Victorian Government initiative.

Ahmad – Job Advocate

Terry – Job Advocate

The Bridge Employment Works

Covid-19 has been tough on many, but the entire team down at Cheltenham Road have attacked each challenge head on and worked hard to meet the continued needs of their many customers.
With 40 years’ service between them, Jolly and David are two of the super stars of our Bridge Employment Works team.

Their smiles tell a story, as well as being colleagues, Jolly and David are great mates!

The Bridge Employment Works

It’s been a busy few months in Youth Jobs Now! We welcomed the new Coordinator, Nicky Panagiotou who, along with her amazing employment coaches Aaron, Olivia, Deanne and Stephanie, has been busy developing a new style of service delivery which is hands on and interactive and already positively working towards the participants employment goals.

During a recent afternoon tea, families and carers had the opportunity to meet the team and hear firsthand about some of the fantastic work being done.

With many exciting new initiatives being developed, including the introduction of a micro-business, participants have had the opportunity to explore what it is like to start a business from the ground up.

As we go to press the Youth Jobs Now Team are also excitedly waiting to hear the results of four employment interviews attended by participants in the last week, good luck team and good luck to our amazing participants!

Disability Employment Services

Anna (Senior Employment Consultant) is not good, she is outstanding! A great marketer, but more than that, Anna genuinely cares about her participants and understands their needs. We recently received this feedback via our new website:

‘I want to tell you about an amazing staff member, Anna. I suffer from COPD Emphysema and anxiety. Had a hard time through 2020 and left work. I turn 60 in December not knowing if l could handle getting back into work. Anxiety extremely bad. How extremely lucky l was to be assigned to Anna. From the moment l met her she made me feel comfortable. Anna gave me the confidence to know l could get back to work. I cannot thank her enough for the way she treated me. Because of Anna l will be starting back at work next week.’

We are extremely proud of Anna and the amazing work she does every single day.
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