disability services awards

We are proud to present the finalists and winners across the two categories of Outstanding Organisation and Team Excellence in the 2020 HESTA Excellence Awards.

Outstanding Organisation

Team Excellence


Read the media release here



Outstanding Organisation finalists




Synapse Australia Ltd


Synapse is recognised for providing a range of services for people who have been impacted by brain injury and disability.  They promote quality of life, self-determination and choice through information, specialist housing and supports, services, advocacy and research. Their vision is to make Australia a more supportive, just and understanding place to live, for the one in 45 Australians who experience brain injury.

In 2017 Synapse built Australia’s first and only purpose-built, culturally responsive housing for Indigenous Australians impacted by brain injury and complex disability, the Warner Street Community. Warner Street provides housing and support that is spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically safe – which is critical to appropriate disability service provision and social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

Synapse is looking to build more culturally safe housing options for Indigenous Australians with disability in other locations.


Autism Mates

Autism MATES

Maroubra, NSW

Autism MATES is recognised for supporting young people with autism through organising events that give its members a platform from which to advocate and educate fostering greater inclusion and representation.

These include the Autism and Me Conference, where young people with autism can speak directly about their lives, hopes and dreams, and ModelMATES, enabling them to model Australian fashion and show the community there is room for their inclusion. Both events attract capacity crowds.

Other programs include BestMATES, a puppet show for primary schools with a powerful anti-bullying and inclusion message, and SchoolMATES - a secondary school, peer-led leadership and inclusion program.

Motivated by her son’s experience of bullying as a school student on the spectrum, founder Randa Habelrih created Autism MATES to empower young people with autism and their families.




Northmead, NSW

TAD is recognised for changing the lives of people living with a disability by providing personalised technology, equipment and services. TAD’s volunteer workforce are primarily retired engineers and tradespeople who use their skills and experience to create custom solutions to help people living with a disability to achieve their goals and live more independently.

With input from the client, their support network and an Occupational Therapist, each piece of assistive equipment produced is fit-for-purpose, personalised and safe.

From enabling someone to take notes with a mouthpiece, cycle for the first time on a custom bicycle to showering independently with the support of custom rails—TAD helps make the goals of people living with a disability a reality.



Team Excellence finalists




Sharon’s 24/7 Support Team


Maddington, WA

Sharon's 24/7 Interchange support team is recognised for their significant contribution to people living with disability, including providing support to start a new life at home and in the community after incarceration.

In Australia, approximately 10 per cent of soon-to-be released prisoners have an intellectual disability. They face a range of challenges upon their release from prison due to their needs and the complexity of the service delivery system. Many people experience homelessness, unemployment and social isolation, leading to a high risk of re-offending.

Sharon faced multiple challenges on her release, including trauma from negative experiences with a previous service provider. By building a relationship of trust and understanding, Sharon’s team helped her develop necessary life skills and independence, and the team supported her by putting everyday routines into her life and home. Sharon is now responsible for her own budgeting, shopping, cooking and maintaining her home, enabling her to live well with greater autonomy.




Spinal Cord Injuries Australia


Spinal Cord Injuries Australia’s NeuroMoves team is recognised for their work in delivering exercise and therapy services for people with neurological conditions. NeuroMoves sees exercise physiologists and physiotherapists working to maximise the functional potential of the clients they treat as well as providing a safe and supportive community in which they can reach their full potential.

NeuroMoves has 11 locations around Australia that treat over 600 individuals each month. At the outbreak of COVID-19 the service had to innovate to protect their vulnerable clients while also ensuring that all the strength and functionality gains that had been made were not lost during isolation.

In one week, the team of 52 therapists had transitioned to deliver therapy 100% online. They have now delivered over 8,000 hours of telehealth to their clients and has continued to deliver telehealth sessions to clients who feel more comfortable in the safety of their homes as clinics begin to re-open under COVID-safe plans.


Start Up

Start Up

Challenge Community Services

Wickham, NSW

Challenge Community Services’ Start Up team is recognised for delivering an innovative self-employment program designed to support people living with intellectual disability and/or autism to become self-employed. Start Up's strength lies in being led entirely for and by people with disability.

The team model gave every member, from participants to the Executive, equal responsibility to contribute to the program and its success. Participants developed microbusinesses and/or self-employment opportunities in areas including photography, pet care, Zumba, accessible sports, woodwork, car detailing and video editing.

Start Up was designed in response to feedback from clients who felt they faced an employment gap between mainstream and supported employment. All participants increased their employability, self-efficacy, confidence, self-esteem, friendships and network.



Check out the other HESTA Excellence Awards finalists

allied health | aged carecommunity services 

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Learn more about the HESTA Excellence Awards