Therapy Focus was established as a not-for-profit organisation in July, 1998. The idea for the non-government organisation was pitched by the WA State Government’s Disability Services Commission when a need for greater therapy services for school-age children with disability was highlighted.
Before the establishment of Therapy Focus, the Disability Services Commission (now the Department for Communities, Disability Services) delivered school-age therapy services in government and non-government schools through their School Age Therapy Services Team. Prior to this, services were delivered in clinics that were visited by families.
In its first year, Therapy Focus employed 110 staff including speech pathologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, who delivered services to more than 2,000 children in school, home and community settings. In 2000 Therapy Focus moved from its first head office in East Perth to a larger space in Belmont with the help of a Lotteries Commission grant. The 1999-2000 financial year also saw Therapy Focus establish a consumer-based membership model to encourage parent and carer involvement, with 64 members joining that year.
The organisation quickly grew in both client base and the hours of therapy services delivered after becoming registered to provide early intervention services to children aged 0-6 years in 2002. After five years as Chairperson, Dr Warren Louden stepped down and was replaced by Dr Ann Zubrick, who had been a member of the Board since Therapy Focus’ inception. In the same year Therapy Focus launched its ‘Help a Child Grow’ campaign with the aim of raising the public profile of the organisation and children with disability more broadly. The campaign saw the creation of Therapy Focus’ much-loved mascot, ‘Sunny the Sunflower’, and the annual Art Competition.
In 2004 considerable growth in funding for aids and equipment saw Therapy Focus transform the service to support more children and families with urgent equipment needs. The Therapy Focus ‘Community Chest’ was also established to attract donations for the purchase aids and equipment not eligible for government funding. As the charitable program grew it was renamed the ‘Help a Child Grow Fund’, then was later redeveloped as the ‘GIVE Program’ in 2015.
After eight years at the helm of Therapy Focus, CEO Angie Paskevicius stepped down in 2006 and was replaced by Ms Lee Best. The Therapy Focus logo also underwent change with the development of the sunflower emblem and the tagline ‘Helping Children Grow’. In the year that followed Therapy Focus facilitated its first Allied Health Graduate Program, with graduating speech pathologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists invited to undertake a year-long placement of workplace learning and development.
In 2009 Therapy Focus redeveloped its private services arm, branding it ‘The Complete Advantage’. The division offered fee-for-service therapy, as well as specialist autism assessment and diagnosis services. Professional development and training programs were provided to parents, education and childcare centre staff alongside existing speech and language profiling services for school students. In this year Ms Freda Crucitti became Chairperson after Mr Ray Glickman stepped down following five years in the role.
Therapy Focus’ third and current CEO, Mr Matt Burrows, took over from Ms Lee Best in 2011. With an ever-growing and widely distributed workforce, redeveloping and embedding organisation-wide values was a priority. After much consultation; respect, integrity, inclusion and courage were selected as the four values that would underpin the way Therapy Focus employees conduct their work.
In 2012 Therapy Focus established a dedicated Behaviour Support Team comprising clinical psychologists, social workers and other allied health therapists to better support families of individuals with challenging behaviours. The following year saw the establishment of a specialist continence team known as PEBBLES to provide state-wide services to children with bladder and bowel health issues. At this time Therapy Focus’ governance was enhanced by the addition of the Parent Reference Group, while Ms Freda Crucitti resigned as Board Chair and Mr Peter Mildenhall was elected.
During the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2015, Therapy Focus was in an ideal position to help more people living with disability by expanding into adult services. With new funding models, a larger client base and more sector reforms to come, Therapy Focus was operating in a significantly different landscape to what it was at its inception some 18 years prior. To make the most of these changes, Therapy Focus changed from an incorporated association to a company limited by guarantee in 2016. Services were also expanded to the lower South West region of WA with a team established in Margaret River.
In 2017 the Therapy Focus Board was refreshed by Ms Fiona Payne’s appointment as Board Chair and Mr Tony Vis accepting the Deputy position. Therapy Focus again added to its suite of services, employing dietitians to work as part of comprehensive therapy teams and establishing a specialist mealtime management team known as the MEAHLS Team.
Today Therapy Focus is considered Western Australia’s leading provider of professional therapy services, employing over 300 staff across 20 office locations. More than 3,500 individuals’ access services throughout the wider Perth metropolitan area, in regional areas and overseas more recently, following an agreement between Therapy Focus and the Indian Oceans Territories Health Service.