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A small group of local families concerned about the lack of support decided to do something about it and proved that where there’s a need there’s a community ready to help. Forty-five years later their vision and commitment has evolved into Mpower, taking the lead in providing quality services that build the capacity of people to reach their potential and empower them to have have meaningful connections to their communities.
Initially known as South West Region Support Group for the Handicapped and later South West ACCESS Network (SWAN), Mpower has grown and diversified but has remained true to its roots.
Despite the name changes and mammoth growth from a one person operation to an agency employing more than 75 qualified and experienced staff providing a wide range of services to more than 1200 clients and families across the region, Mpower is still committed to helping children and adults to lead the best possible lives and achieve their goals.
Like many community-minded organisations, Mpower sprung from the hearts of local people. In early 1975 West Warrnambool Kindergarten director Sue Henry became aware of three families in the area who had young children with Spina Bifida and thought they could benefit from meeting each other.
A meeting was arranged in August 1975 at the Warrnambool home of Jean and Bryan O’Keeffe. The parents had two things in common - a child with a disability and a concern about the lack of support services in the region.
They believed that other families would be in a similar situation and decided to hold a public meeting.
The meeting was called by then Warrnambool Mayor Cr Jack Daffy and the first local self-help group was launched. A steering committee was elected to draw up a constitution and the objectives of the group. After another public meeting a 12-member committee was elected, with Ruth Symons as the first president and included people with disabilities, their carers and other interested people.
The strength of Mpower and its predecessors has been built around the expertise and dedication of the volunteer Committee of Management. From the early years until today, Mpower has grown under the guidance of these community minded people who pursue the vision to create `a community inspired and empowered by people of all ages, abilities’.
From humble beginnings Mpower has evolved and expanded into a broad-based service that continues to take the lead in providing quality services that build the capacity of people to reach their potential and empower people to have meaningful connections to their communities.