Our History

Dave and Faye, founders of microboards

How Microboards began

The first microboards were established in 1984 by David and Faye Wetherow to support 3 people to leave institutional care. Circles of Support had been established around each of these people, however there were roadblocks to moving them out of the institution and into their own homes in the community because the government at the time would only fund disability service organisations.

David came up with the idea to incorporate the Circles of Support to become not for profit organisations who provided support for just the one person. He worked with the Manitoba government to develop a pathway for individualised funding with these three Microboards being some of the earliest examples of this model.

Two of the first three Microboards developed by David are still operating today, with the one which has ceased only doing so because the focus person passed away. You can read more about the early history and development of Microboards here.

Today in British Columbia, there are currently over 1500 microboards, supported in their establishment by Vela Microboards Association under the leadership of Linda Perry, who retired in 2022.


How Microboards Australia began

Microboards Australia was started by a small group of pioneer families in 2008 in partnership with the Disability Services Commission (under the leadership and vision of Eddie Bartnik, and Marita Walker then CEO of Perth Home Care Services (now known as Avivo)), with a grant from Lotteries West. CEO of Vela Canada, Linda Perry, coached the development of the model initially in Western Australia through her visits and remote advice.

Initially known as Vela Microboards Australia (an unincorporated Steering Committee), the group was also known as Youniverse for a period of time before settling on the name Microboards Australia after the microboards community approved the formation of a company limited by guarantee structure in 2015. Part of the decision for this structure and name was the vision of the group to be the lead organisation in Australia in microboard development, with a view to supporting the formation of Microboards nationally.

Microboards Australia has a Memorandum of Understanding with the parent organisation in British Columbia to uphold the principals of the microboard model, and is the only organisation endorsed by Vela Canada to develop Microboards in Australia.

The initial group of pioneer families all had sons and daughters with severe and complex disability, complex communication needs and behaviours which could be seen as challenging. Services had failed in every instance to support these families and their now adult children with disability. The microboard model successfully supported each family who went on to incorporate a microboard to achieve their goals, which for each family was independent living in the community (ie not supported/segregated accommodation) and a good quality of life with self directed connections, choice and control.

How Microboards Australia has engaged in systemic advocacy

In the process of supporting the development of Microboards since 2008, Microboards Australia recognised gaps in practice in the disability sector in Western Australia and nationally. We strategically became involved in learning about and developing better supports for all families. Since then Microboards Australia have become known for their systemic advocacy for better understanding and supports for people with disability, partially people who are often viewed as not being able to advocate for themselves.

In 2013, Microboards Australia partnered with the then Disability Services Commission in Western Australia to develop the Is There a Better Way (ITaBW) program which was designed to support families with a member who experienced behaviours of concern. ITaBW now runs online several times a year, and has been evaluated by the School of Business at the University of Western Australia twice as having a lasting positive impact for people with disability and their families. You can find out more about ITaBW here.

Initially the lack of robust support for people with Complex Communication Needs drove Microboards Australia to request funds to develop a post - graduate certificate in Complex Communication Needs at Edith Cowan University which commenced in 2014.  This course was the first of its kind in Australia and has helped to educate  hundreds of adults and students across Australia out the communication rights of people with disability.

In 2022 Microboards Australia are developing two new Post Graduate Certificates in Complex Communication Needs and Positive Behaviour Support at Curtin University in Western Australia.

Microboards Australia continues to have a voice nationally in the promotion of the Human Rights of people with disability, particularly in the areas of communication access, understanding behaviour through a human rights and quality of life lens, health access and social inclusion.

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