On Thursday, Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert MP, joined Andrew Wallace, Member for Fisher, in opening the STEPS Pathways College Extension.
The first-of-its-kind College creates opportunities for young adults with disabilities and autism through its innovative and intensive learning experience, helping them to live independent lives in the community. Due to immense demand, STEPS Pathways College has undertaken three extensions: two new accommodation facilities and one new recreational area.
The recreational area, known as "Mason's place", will provide an all-weather sanctuary for the students, where they are able to relax, socialise, and further their education. The two accommodation facilities, one of which is named "The Mills Family Wing", will extend the STEPS Pathways College experience to a further twelve students and will continue to provide simulated living environments to students to teach them independent living skills while in a safe and supported environment.
STEPS Pathways College and its recent extensions are all spearheaded by Carmel Crouch, founder of the College and Managing Director of STEPS Group Australia.
"Most people will know that STEPS Pathways College is very much a passion project for me, and it has been an honour to be able to see so many of our students finding their path, achieving their independence, and moving into our community," Ms. Crouch said.
Stuart Robert MP, sung praises for the College in his official opening, specifically adding the importance of the STEPS Pathways College online program.
"What we are seeing here with STEPS is a world leading model."
"Rural and remote areas continue to not receive the services they need because of the thinness of markets. These are the continuing challenges which we need to move on.
"This is why it is so wonderful to see the online program that STEPS Pathways College is running here, so that people with disabilities have the opportunity to engage regardless of where they live," Mr. Robert said.
"Taking care of Australians is worth all of our time, it's a national endeavour.
"Together, as STEPS is showing, we can do profoundly great things in our community."
Andrew Wallace MP, who was also present for the event, added his admiration for the program.
"One of our greatest fears as parents is what will happen to our kids when we get too old to look after them; that's where STEPS Pathways College really kicks in," Mr. Wallace said.
"Places like this are really ground-breaking in Australia, a boarding College that takes young people and teaches them how to live independently.
"One of the best things that STEPS Pathways College does, and in fact STEPS does through its whole philosophy, is that it takes young people with a disability, and it trains them to be able to get out and live a fulfilling life.
"I'm very proud to be a very small part of STEPS."
Andrew Wallace MP also took the time to acknowledge Ms. Crouch personally, adding his admiration for her trailblazing for people with disabilities and autism.
"Carmel, thank you for your leadership in this space," Mr. Wallace said.
"The great work that you do in giving young people that ability to lead the lives that they should lead and also giving their parents that independence as well, is so very important."
After making their opening remarks, Stuart Robert MP and Andrew Wallace MP helped Ms. Crouch unveil a plaque marking the occasion. After the unveiling, Stuart Robert MP and Andrew Wallace MP also toured one of the new accommodation facilities, looking through the new apartment with two current students, Andrew Larracy and Caelan Drew.
While touring the space, Caelan Drew, a current student at the College, added his excitement about the extension, and his happiness that other young people with disabilities could join the same journey as him.
"I'm going to be graduating from the College soon and I'm so grateful to have been able to come here," Caelan said.
"I've learned so much here, I've learned how to be independent.
"I'm glad that more students will be able to come here and have the same experience as me; it's been life-changing."