The history of the CPSN spans almost two decades, beginning in 1995 when it started out as a monthly cerebral palsy support group made up of parents whose children had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Such a group was vital for these parents, all of whom were looking for some form of support from other people that understood the issues and challenges they faced. Clearly they were far from alone, as the group rapidly grew to almost 50 families over the next few years.
By 1997, the support group had evolved into a membership-based not-for-profit organisation and officially became the Cerebral Palsy Support Network (CPSN). The group continued to meet the growing demand for its services by running regular support groups and information sessions for members as well as presenting at conferences.
Cerebral palsy is the most common childhood physical disability, and this was reflected in the constant growth of the organisation. Families wanted and needed what was being offered. So much so that two years later the CPSN launched its mainstay program – the CP Respite Brokerage Program (which would later become Cerebral Palsy Innovative Choices – CPIC). This program was singularly unique in that for the first time, a flexible approach for respite became available to families, something which had never been done before.
As part of CPSN’s growth strategy, it was important to get out into the wider community and let people know that this service existed. This was achieved through awareness events such as the “Melbourne’s Longest Cake” (launched in 2005) and CP Awareness Week. Coupled with recurrent government funding which was obtained a year later, the CPSN continued to develop programs supporting people living with cerebral palsy and their families.
Today there are more services available than ever before. Total membership has exceeded 1500 and will continue to increase for as long as there are people with cerebral palsy.