ISAAC Australia 2015 awards announced

The winners of this year’s ISAAC Australia awards were announced at the AGOSCI conference on 14th May.  Congratulations to all winners!

School/organisation awards: Malkara Specialist School (ACT)

Information Award: Jack White (WA)

Community awards:

  • Sue Stephens (Vic)
  • Eli Dickenson (WA)
  • Janelle Sampson (SA)

Watch the next few blog posts for more information about the winners.

Call for participants – leadership program in Melbourne

Dear friends of Opening Doors,                                                                                                                          

I am thrilled to report that applications for the 2015 Opening Doors Program are now open! This year we will be celebrating 7 years of Opening Doors making a real difference in local communities. Please forward this e-mail on through your networks – we would be delighted to hear from anyone who is interested in applying for our 2015 Program. Applications will close in early May, with the program to commence on May 18t

Would you like to become more involved in your community?

Do you want to meet like-minded people who are passionate about making a difference?

Are you passionate about a particular issue, such as mental health, disability or positive aging?

Are you willing to take the lead in making your community more inclusive?

The Opening Doors Program is currently seeking community members from Monash, Boroondara, Whitehorse and Manningham who are passionate about their local area, and would like to make a difference in the lives of people who may be socially isolated.

The 2015 Program will run for 6 months with a graduation ceremony to be held in December. Over the course of the program, you will meet and work with a passionate group of like-minded people, learn about your own talents as a community member and leader, and develop the skills to make a real and lasting difference in your local community.

The program is provided FREE to community members in the Inner-East of Melbourne.It is open to people of all ages, cultures, backgrounds and abilities.

Places in the 2015 Program are limited, so if you would like to apply, find out more, or know someone who may be interested, please don’t hesitate to contact Project Officer, Alex Mills on 8822 8489 or at We are always happy to discuss ways we can support you to get involved, or answer any questions you might have!

Warm regards,

Alex Mills | Project Officer

Opening Doors – A Community Leadership Program For Social Inclusion

Phone: 8822 8489 E-Mail:

Breaking news – Martin Pistorius featured on 60 Minutes Australia

Martin Pistorius – a high profile member of the AAC community in South Africa and the UK will be featured on 60 Minutes Australia this Sunday evening.  Martin, who is a survivor of locked-in syndrome, is the author of Ghost Boy (with Megan Lloyd Davies).  60 Minutes airs on 8:00pm Sunday 22nd March.  According to the 60 Minutes Facebook page, Martin’s story will screen at 8:30.

ISAAC Australia awards 2015

Do you know someone who has improved in their use of Augmentative Communication?  What about someone who has helped build the profile of AAC in the community?  Have you come across a school or organisation that supports people to communicate using a range of different methods?  Have you seen somebody promoting or fostering understanding of different ways of communicating?

All these people and organisations could be eligible for an ISAAC Australia award.  Nomination is easy.  Just complete the attached form and return it to us.  Nominations are open now and close on 31st March.

Please note that you must be a current member of ISAAC Australia to make a nomination.

Awards Nomination Form 2015

Lisa reflects on the ISAAC 2014 conference in Lisbon Portugal

Thanks in part to receiving a scholarship from ISAAC Australia to attend ISAAC2014 in Lisbon, Portugal, and saving for two years (we ate a lot of rice and pasta). I was fortunate once again to expand networks around the world after attending the biennial conference in Pittsburg in 2012; I was determined to attend future conferences. Then I was invited to run a pre-conference workshop on AAC and intimacy, of course I accepted this opportunity! I was not expecting the number of participants this attracted, and must admit I was a little out of my depth with the various languages. It was during this, I saw a true international community of people supporting each other. People started translating for one another, and became engaged with each other with the common passion of allowing everyone’s right to communicate without judgment.

There were many highlights to the conference, from the amazing dance troop at the opening ceremony, the consumer lecture – which was truly outstanding – presented by Fiona Given made all Australians very proud. At the conclusion of her presentation the stage was over taken by Australian delegates, making for a great photo opportunity.

I saw many great sessions, besides the outstanding consumer lecture, our Australian delegates stood out once again, from the insightful session on how AAC and technology is being used to engage students. The session delivered by Adelaide west special education centre principal, Silvia Flato and support teacher Leanne Shane gave practical examples of engagement, backed up by academic statements around student engagement and success.

Again Meredith Allen presented a deeply thought provoking session on how people with disability and particularly those who use AAC are perceived as less equal in supporting other family members through grief and hard times, when quite the contrary is our reality. This session has sat with me since returning home, as the day after I arrived home my great-nephew who was born prematurely whilst I was in Portugal for the conference passed away suddenly. My family as were all quite devastated by this loss, we rallied around my niece and her partner and I took responsibility for sorting out leave for my sister and other business, as my sister and I are quite close she has shared much of her grief with me.

Another stand out for me was my now life long friend Ingé van Gils from the Netherlands, we first met in Pittsburgh, and have remained in contact, with our friendship being enriched further by spending time together both at the conference and socially. Her presentation at isaac2014 was a cautionary story of merely being a statistic for boards and committees to ‘make up numbers’ so they’re seen to be inclusive. Her experience rang true to my personal experiences in the past also, whereby there is no consideration of time given for AAC users to communicate in meetings, nor access to information in alternative formats were considered. Leading to the feeling of and obvious ‘tokenistic’ approach of inclusion.

Although I had personal things happening at home, and I was torn between my commitment to attending the conference and my family needing me, I did have amazing experiences at isaac2014, the host city turned on the great summer weather, the social events were full of culture and great opportunities to network, and learn from peers and professionals. The calibre of social events was superior to ISAAC2012, with class, culture and a deeper sense of belonging and community years conference was certainly higher for me personally, I am looking forward to seeing how ISAAC2016 can possibly match the spirit that was captured in our hearts at ISAAC2014. The organizing committee did a fantastic job, the staff both paid and volunteers were all amazing, I hope the Toronto team can take some lessons from the Lisbon crew!!

For those of you who know me, and know I lost my passport, I got that sorted the day after the main conference ended. I am obviously home now, we didn’t get ‘banged up abroad’ but we sure had one big adventure – my travel companion and I fondly labeled the trip ‘the hardly normal’ European summer adventure’.

In reflecting on the theme of ‘discover communication’ for me is best summed up by Australian band The Cat Empire song ‘How To Explain’ with the lyric – music is the language of us all… For all the cultures, and nations represented, the artistic performances were all connected by the amazing music throughout the conference and social events.

Here’s a a link small ‘flipagram’ I made of some my highlights and memories from ISAAC2014.

ISAAC 2014 conference in Lisbon, Portugal

38 Australian delegates attended the ISAAC international conference in Lisbon this year along with a handful of Aussie parents and support workers.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn and share what is new in the field of AAC.  Highlights included the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Professor Stephen Hawkng (in absentia) and the Consumer Lecture by our own Fiona Given.  We wee glad to be joined at our chapter meeting by some of our NZ cousins.  Here are some photos of the action:

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 Australian Chapter meeting
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Melinda Smith shares her thoughts on the 2014 ISAAC conference in Portugal

Mel Smith was one of the scholarship recipients supported by ISAAC Australia to attend this year’s conference in Lisbon.  Here are her impressions of the conference.

ISAAC 2014 – Lisbon Portugal.

Thanks ISAAC Australia for the scholarship, I was able to attend the conference in Lisbon, Portugal. I always love to travel and experience other countries, though it is particularly good when you get to reunite with friends, colleagues and other interesting beings, you know from previous conferences. The atmosphere is magical and emotions begin to stir when I start spotting the people I realize are there.  As  much as I love going to different presentations and hearing about the many projects that are happening, to enhance on the lives of those of us who use AAC – I also love to hang out at the trade displays and the meeting foyer where the coffee brews, the time for trivial talk is just as important to me. It was fabulous to present my paper around my mentor research project, and to hear about other mentor projects in schools and community groups. Some of my highlights were, the presentation from India, about the support and mentorship they have developed for young people who use AAC and living with Cerebral Palsy… I still remember the video they showed on role playing as a form of practicing their interaction skills, to face in the community – very powerful. My other being, talking with young people  about the concern for limited reading skills which led to wanting to start online bookclubs, as a way to motivate and inspire reading with the support of other AAC users, within a supportive timeframe and interest. Since the conference in July this has started, and has most definitely encouraged interaction and a social aspect purpose.  So the conference was busy in various ways, though there were still some nice moments of social events, traditional Portugese dance lessons and singing along to playlist while the buses took us to the next sight see. Getting around Lisbon was a challenge on wheels and the access in general was somewhat disappointing, but it has encouraged me to do more research in future to ensure I travel with a bag of brilliant resources.

Melinda Smirh