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From our humble beginnings in the garage of some concerned parents to becoming one of Australia’s largest service providers - Scope's history is a testament to its unwavering dedication to creating a world where everyone can thrive.

Picture the year 1948. Holden had begun manufacturing the first ever Australian built car, and the world’s first Polaroid camera hit the shelves. But as Australia advanced, parents of children with cerebral palsy were facing an agonising reality – their youngsters had little to no support or resources.

Instead of accepting the status quo, a group of brave parents banded together and formed a grassroots collective to create meaningful opportunities for their children. Thus, the Spastic Children's Society of Victoria began.

The following year, in 1949, the Marathon school was born, an educational haven that championed independence and growth in a nurturing community. By 1950, the school had welcomed 56 children, eager to build their capacity and reach their potential.

Evelyn Bush, a former student, recalled the positive and fun environment at Marathon.

“We used to have lunch and play outside on the monkey bars; the teachers also used to pass us all out the window because it was fun and quicker than going the long way outside,” Evelyn said.

“One teacher would stay inside and one would go outside and they would pass all the children out the window to play outside, I liked that.”

By 1968, Scope's embrace had widened, with over 500 adults and children accessing exciting new services.

Anthony Nichols, a Marathon student and former Scope employee, said students weren’t sheltered and were encouraged to participate in mainstream activities.

“We had sports periods every Friday. A group of us used to play football - and it wasn’t a matter of just playing out the back! We travelled by bus to the local oval,” Anthony said.

“We’d play this serious game of footy with minor changes to the rules….If kids in normal schools still play footy so would we!”

Black and white image of boy reading the paper.

As the years rolled on, The Society’s influence continued to grow exponentially. The late 1970s witnessed over 1000 children with disabilities being supported, with the introduction of the Cyclone newsletter that covered topics that mattered to people with disabilities and their families.

In 1980, the organisation became The Spastic Society of Victoria, embracing a new philosophy that emphasised the right of every person to participate in life's opportunities. The Society's mission was clear - to meet the unique needs of people and support them to meet their potential.

By the early 1980s, the social attitudes towards people with disabilities were changing. The 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons was a turning point, spreading awareness and promoting normalisation and de-institutionalisation. The winds of change brought with them a shift towards home-based care, providing individuals with the comfort of their own space and increased independence.

Another milestone moment came in 1992 with the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, a vital piece of legislation aimed at eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities in various areas, including employment, accommodation, and leisure. As attitudes towards disability continued to evolve, local high schools participated in "experience programs" that encouraged interaction between mainstream students and individuals with disabilities, fostering empathy and understanding.

With the aim of enhancing communication and sharing key information, Horizon newsletter was launched in 1993, becoming an indispensable resource for people and families seeking support.

And so, in the new millennium, The Society embraced change with open arms, rebranding in 2001 as Scope. Scope symbolised unlimited potential, choice, and a wide-ranging view. Scope’s new mantra, ‘See the Person’ became organisational wide, valuing each person beyond their disability.

The following year, Scope expanded its services further, opening GoKids and the Communication Resource Centre. These initiatives breathed life into the dreams of countless children, offering expert physiotherapy and fostering communication and inclusion.

The coloured photo was taken in 2008 and shows 1 woman is in the process of painting and smiling at the camera.

In 2008, Scope unveiled a true masterpiece - the Kaleidoscope art program. Artists with disabilities were encouraged to create art on their own terms.

Greg Muir, an artist who has been supported by Scope to create for more than 50 years, said the opportunity to fine-tune his talent was life-changing.

“Scope has supported me from the very beginning,” Greg said.

“They saw my talent and helped me nurture it throughout the years. The very first time one of my paintings was exhibited was at Kaleidoscope, I felt really proud.”

By 2011, the tide was changing once more with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Scope's advocacy played a vital role in shaping the NDIS, ensuring that the voices of individuals with disabilities were heard, and their needs met. In line with the rollout of the NDIS in Victoria from 2016 to 2019, Scope transitioned its services, ensuring that individuals continued to receive the support they needed.

Amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Scope remained resolute in its commitment to keeping customers safe. Staff worked tirelessly, implementing measures to protect vulnerable people, and providing thousands of units of personal protective equipment.

In 2021, Scope embarked on exciting new ventures, welcoming new residents and staff through strategic acquisitions. The joining of hands with Disability Services Australia and Uniting Vic. Tas. strengthened Scope's position as one of Australia's largest national providers of disability services.

As Scope commemorates 75 years of empowering lives and advocating for inclusion, it stands as a testament to the power of collective action, resilience, and the unwavering pursuit of a more equitable and compassionate world.

Through its rich journey, Scope has touched the lives of countless individuals and families, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of disability services in Australia. As the organisation looks toward the future, it does so with renewed vigour, continuing to pave the way for a more inclusive society where everyone can live their dreams.

Scope 75 years

Mary-Ann reflects on her 33-year career with Scope

As Scope marks its 75th anniversary, we are highlighting the many people who have helped make Scope the organisation it is today. We spoke to Mary-Ann Stares, Manager DLO West, whose extensive and varied career at Scope started at Shannon Park, one of Scope’s flagship Day and Lifestyle Options centres.