The Association

The Autism-Friendly House Association was formed when a support group of mothers of children with autism frequently found themselves discussing their holiday successes and disasters. Unfortunately disasters far outweighed successes and it usually came down to unsuitable accommodation. Autism is such a complex condition that a ramp or an accessible bathroom, the solutions usually offered, do not begin to address the needs. For children of all ages, the entire house has to be autism-friendly.

For many families, the only way of having a family holiday is to leave the person with autism in respite.

Exploration about the availability of suitable facilities has drawn a blank. Much thought has gone into our vision and we have sought ideas from overseas and locally. The Association has committed itself to developing a unique family holiday house based on the life experiences of real families.

Our Goals

Our goals are to raise sufficient money to:

The Autism-Friendly House Association Board comprises parents and interested professional people. Membership of the Association is open to anyone with an interest in our goals. If you would like to become a member please go to our Membership Page, download the PDF form, fill it out and follow the instructions for postage.

Our Board

man in polo with his smile is chris lewis who is also a public officer in puzzle house

Chairman: Chris Lewis

I retired from my position as Advertising Manager of The Post Newspaper just over three years ago to become a full-time carer. Click here to read more about Chris.

lady wearing an eyeglasses is donna johnson is also a board member in the puzzle house

Vice-chair: Donna Johnson

I am married with one child. I worked at Electric Lamp Manufacturers for 18 years. Click here to read more about Donna.

brown eyed lady is montana lawler who is also a secretary at the puzzle house

Secretary: Montana Lawler

I am an early childhood teacher, working part-time in a long day care centre. Click here to read more about Montana.

an oldie woman wearing glasses is anne vimpani who is also a vice chair at the puzzle house

Board Member: Anne Vimpani

I am a semi retired medical doctor and for over 44 years have worked in various places - Adelaide, Alice Springs, Edinburgh and Newcastle. Click here to read more about Anne.

the blue eyed lady is jennifer ciba who is also a board member in the puzzle house

Board Member: Jennifer Ciba

After leaving school I acquired a Bachelor in Economics. Click here to read more about Jennifer.

the girl with a shaggy hairstyle was julie lewis who is also known as the chairperson of puzzle house

Public Officer: Julie Lewis

I left school and attended Newcastle Teachers College ( now Newcastle University) with the intention of becoming a teacher of Special Education. Click here to read more about Julie.

lady in bob cut hairstyle is lee chapman who is also a treasurer in puzzle house

Treasurer: Lee Chapman

President's Report 2018

I write this President’s report with a tinge of sadness as it will be my fifth and last year in this position. I will now be handing this position over, to be decided and wish the newly elected President congratulations and the very best of luck.

Thank you to my fellow board members for their time, advice, friendship and service to our project and for supporting me in my role as president. It is quite a commitment to serve on a board and I appreciate how precious time can be to a Carer. Your dedication and loyalty is commendable.

I would also like to thank Kahibah Sports Club as the new venue for our monthly meetings. Your hospitality has been greatly appreciated.

2018 was definitely a year of surprises!
We started the year with the land offered to us by the McCloy Group being reneged, only to be offered again, subject to a builder coming on board and the Autism-Friendly House Assoc. finding a suitable operator to manage the house, once it is built. Geoff McCloy mentioned launching a media campaign headed by the Newcastle Knights, all very exciting! However, we certainly have our work cut out for us finding a suitable operator.
Variety the Children’s Charity were interested, however their hands are full at this time with their own projects.
Jason Bourke from Variety has shown a personal interest and is eager to help us source an operator with the reputation and experience needed to fulfil the McCloy Group’s requirements.

The Medowie Lions Club, a lovely, friendly group of people, have kindly agreed to oversee the maintenance of the house once it is built. We welcome their contribution to our project.

It is my great pleasure to announce, with a change in our charity’s subtype to public benevolent institution, we now have our much anticipated Deductible Gift Recipient or DGR status! This will make all donations over $2.00 tax deductible. It took awhile, but thanks to Katy Mooney at Sparke Helmore Lawyers, we got there in the end!

Once again we were able to hold our annual Carer’s Dinner at the Heng Loong Restaurant at Wallsend. Thanks to Winnie and her team for their wonderful service, food and hospitality. Eleven carers attended and reportedly, a good time was had by all. Thanks go to Samaritans and Carers NSW and Jennifer Ciba for successfully securing the grant.

This year we also had a much needed revamp of our website under the experienced and creative hand of Jeremy Dawes and Caitlin Bray at Jezweb, Wallsend. They also patiently explained how to update the website so we can continue to maintain the website ourselves. I think it looks great and would highly recommend Jezweb for any website design and services.

Our fundraising has not been as active this year as in previous years as our board has been extremely time poor. However, we did hold a very successful Bunnings BBQ and a Cadbury Chocolate Drive. Thanks to Montana Lawler for organising these events.
We also have an online fundraiser currently running through social media which is proving to be quite successful.
Speaking of social media, I would like to thank the 672 online supporters we have (up from 365 last year) on our Facebook page Autism-Friendly Puzzle House and all our members who have supported us over the years, helping out at barbecues, selling chocolates, sharing ideas and suggestions and attending events. When our energy and enthusiasm starts to wane you are always there to urge us on and it is this support that keeps us going.
I must mention one supporter, Cheryl Shannon, who kindly put in a bid on behalf of the Autism-Friendly House Association to the Novacastrian Quilters as the recipient of their annual donation. Unfortunately Cheryl was unsuccessful, however the Novacastrian Quilters generously donated one of their beautiful quilts to our charity to raffle at our next fundraising event. Thank you Cheryl for your support and tenacity and thanks also to the Novacastrian Quilters.

2019 is going to be THE year!
We have lots to do but it is all slowly coming together. I am sure under our new president we will continue to support fellow Carers and their families, lift our profile through fundraising and social media, share information and spread autism awareness and acceptance in our communities.
I feel our goal of a purpose-built autism holiday house is finally within reach.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, successful year ahead.

Julie Lewis
Autism-Friendly House Association