Benalla Ensign

Huge demand for local autism support services

- By Simon Ruppert brickbenal­

When Benalla’s Karina Walker decided there might be a need for local autism and mental health support she thought she could do something to help.

So, using her own money she found a vacant shop at 73 Nunn St, and opened Brick by Brick.

“We offer one-on-one support services for autism and mental health for youth through to adults,” Ms Walker said.

“We also have social groups and classes. We’ve got our pizza and pool on a Friday night.

“We do a whole heap of things and it’s a safe-place for people to come and hang out.”

Since opening its doors demand has been high and Ms Walker recently welcomed Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines to discuss ways to secure some funding.

“At the moment we’ve already got around 120 clients,” Ms Walker said.

“We’ve got 14 support workers and we’re delivering around 250 hours a week of one-on-one support.

“But we do have a waiting list. It’s been overwhelmi­ng and it just shows the need is there.

“We have families come in and they’re in crisis because they’ve been waiting so long.

“I often hear the same story where

they’ve waited years and years to get their diagnosis.

“Then waited years to get their NDIS funding. Even when they’ve had plans (funded) they’ve had nowhere to spend it because they’re on waiting lists, or they didn’t understand how it works.”

Brick by Brick’s waiting list alone, proves there is a need for this service and Dr Haines Spoke of its importance.

“In the world of autism support, and mental health support, it’s confusing,” Dr Haines said.

“You get given lots of numbers, lots of websites, but you rarely get to make a connection with a person.

“That’s what Karina provides, that personal connection. That mentorship approach is a powerful one and its local.

“This is a way to find that right here in Benalla and I congratula­te

Karina for her work.

“She’s really engaged in suicide prevention as well as autism support.

“It’s a practical approach and I think it’s a beautiful environmen­t she’s created. You can see the people coming through and how much fun they’re having as well.

“But it’s not just about fun, it is about learning, and it is about connection to services.”

Ms Walker said, while there was a waiting list, she encouraged local people to get in contact.

“NDIS funding is available if someone is lucky enough to have got on the scheme and got allocated funding for support,” she said.

“Otherwise we are privately funded and I start at $40 for a session one-on-one or $15 for a session in a group.

“I’ve funded Brick by Brick out of my own pocket from a desire to make something that works. Something that is sustainabl­e, but government help would be amazing.

“However, at the same time I wanted something now, not a promise for something in the future. I felt the need was now and thought I’m going to give it a go.

“And hopefully, if I build it they will come. Autistic people are here, we’ve always been here.

“We’re getting more visible and just need help to make the world a more accepting place for the neuro diverse.”

And there would be very few people who have done so much in as little time as Ms Walker.

To find out more search Brick by Brick on Facebook. Alternativ­ely you can phone Ms Walker directly on 0466 524 234 or email brickby

 ?? ?? Inclusive: Ethan McIntosh, Elliot Waterman and Karina Walker explain what brick by brick does to Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines.
Inclusive: Ethan McIntosh, Elliot Waterman and Karina Walker explain what brick by brick does to Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines.

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