The vision, commitment and drive of locals like Ann Armstrong and Carole Caswell was behind moves to establish what is now Rural Lifestyle Options Australia (RLOA).
Photos at end of story, below.
RLOA celebrated 30 years recently in a gathering of participants and their families, staff and former Brisbane Broncos players at The Centre in Beaudesert.
Ms Armstrong was the Vice Chair of the RLOA board and a co-founder of the organisation and is also a parent of an adult who has an intellectual disability.
She told the Beaudesert Bulletin there were 10 original clients – now referred to as participants. Mrs Armstrong’s son, Scott, and Mrs Caswell’s son, Martin, were among RLOA’s first participants.
“We got I think a $15,000 grant early in the piece to go out and see what the needs were, we got someone to do the census on that and that data ended up being in a book in 1993 called Roads to Independence: a study of the needs of people with disabilities aged 14 to 40 years in the Beaudesert Shire,” she said.
“Particularly with children leaving special school, there was a void – especially in this area, which was classed as a rural area then. There was a need for them to have somewhere to go, something to do.”
RLOA now supports 55 participants in Beaudesert and surrounds, as well as more participants further afield.
The Bulletin caught up with one of RLOA’s original participants, Gavin McLeod, at the celebrations.
Mr McLeod said he had been participating since day one, was proud to still be a Beaudesert resident and he would never want to live anywhere else.
In a speech at the celebrations, Mrs Armstrong paid tribute to everyone involved with RLOA past and present, including fellow retiring co-founder Mrs Caswell, who could not be there.
“It’s very emotional to see you all here, enjoying life. This is what it was all about – to get to where we are today. Thank you. I just wanted to thank everybody, all staff, and I’m sure we can keep it going for a long time,” she said.