A History of Real Living Options Association Inc.

Real Living Options is a unique service which involves, where appropriate, the family and the person being assisted in the decisions their life and it works towards assisting people with a disability in their own home within the community, with a lifestyle of their choosing which reflects the conditions of everyday life valued by the community. Their home may be a home of their own or the family home

Real Living Options came into being in 1996 after a long struggle by a group of parents who wished for their family member to have individual support to live a life of their own (an ordinary life) in the community in a home of their choosing and to have support to achieve this.

During the 1990’s many parents across the state were lobbying Government to provide better services to people with a disability, including individualised supports. This also included smaller community-based services being set up, which was an alternative to the larger charitable organisations across the state.

In the mid 1990’s a project called “The National Parent Initiative Project” was funded by the Commonwealth Government. A small group of parents in Cairns seized this opportunity to access some of these funds to bring parents of this region together. A two-day workshop was held that was designed to provide parents with up-to-date information regarding some of the options of service provision that had been established by parents in other parts of the State. This was about parents talking to, and inspiring other parents.

These parents heard how the different types of services functioned and how these services had made a big difference in the lives of people with a disability and their families. The main difference was these services responded to the needs of the people they provided a service for and their families could have a say in the support arrangements of their son/daughter.

One of the goals of this workshop was to encourage parents to work together to bring about change. The Cairns Regional Family Network was set up. This group met regularly to encourage and support each other and share information as well as to lobby government for better funding options. A couple of members of this group were responsible for preparing a submission to the Qld Department of Families.

In January 1996, after much hard work and lobbying of politicians including the then Treasurer who was our local member, three years and two more submission later, and after many changes to those submissions, the Department of Families approved funding to provide support for 5 people with a disability. The most disappointing aspect of this funding is that it was a third of the amount which had been applied for.

The Cairns Regional Family Network was not an incorporated body so it made a request to Leisure Connections Association Inc. (now Lifestyle Connections Association Inc) to be the sponsoring organisation for the development of the Service to follow.

The Network appointed 3 members to administer the funding and to become the initial Management committee of the organisation, which was later to become known as Real Living Options. And so began the many hours of work to set up the Service including documenting the Philosophy, associated Service Principles, Policy and Procedures and preparation of budgets prior to the employment of a Coordinator who would be responsible for the employment of support workers who would provide support.

The Management Committee made the decision that support staff will be called Lifestyle Assistants as their role was to assist each person according to their abilities to live a good life.

The fact that the funds were a third of what had been applied for meant that the support which could be offered to these families had to be re-negotiated. Real Living Options had a focus on being responsive to the needs of the people with a disability that it served.

The Service grew quickly over the next couple of years with the transfer of several service users when Centacare made a decision to no longer provide disability support services. Staff (Lifestyle Assistants) increased and an Administrative Assistant was employed.

In 2002, after operating for 6 years under the auspice of Leisure Connections Association Inc a decision was taken to investigate the benefits of becoming incorporated and the necessary steps were undertaken by the President to make this happen. Real Living Options became an Incorporated Association in November 2002.

Real Living Options continued to share office space and office equipment with Leisure Connections Association Inc. as there were financial benefits in sharing with another likeminded Service. The number of members on the Management Committee also increased after the Incorporation of the organisation.

In September 2004 Real Living Options, together with Leisure Connections moved their office to 439 Draper Street, where they remained until 2013 when they relocated to 113 Aumuller Street.

Early in 2005 three new people entered Real Living Options, taking the total number of people supported to fourteen. The number of people being assisted grew slowly over the next few years and remained stable until 2019.

The Management Committee also further increased its members in the next few years. This brought an increase of skills within the Management Committee.

The Service received its first certification under the Disability Quality System in March 2008. Since then it has received certification under the Human Service Quality Standards and now the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission and the Quality and Safeguarding Practice Standards have come into effect..

Staff numbers were increased in 2008/09 with the addition of a Team Leader position to assist the Coordinator with issues related specifically to support service to service users and family/advocates.

Not long after this time the Coordinator title was changed to Service Manager and the Team Leader role and title was changed to Support Coordinator with two part time staff members employed in this position, along with the existing part-time Administration Assistant.

Talk of the NDIS began happening in 2014 and the Service was unsure of what it’s future might look like. During 2016 Real Living Options began having discussions with Leisure Connections to consider the amalgamation the two Service under one Management Committee while still providing two separate service types. The amalgamation did not take place and the two Service continued to share office and expenses as a way of being more financially viable.

In 2017 Real Living Options Association Inc. became registered as a National Disability Insurance Scheme Provider of Supports and then began preparations for the change in funding and service delivery. At this time there were 22 service users each receiving an individualised service and from July 2018 the Service transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Since then the number of people accessing a service has increased considerably. The increase in the number of people receiving support has meant that the number of staff required to assist these people has also increased and the office premises at Aumuller St became very crowded.

The National Disability Quality and Safeguarding Commission was established in July 2019.  As a Registered Provider of Supports, Real Living Options must meet the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Practice Standards. In 2020 the Service was audited against the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Practice Standards to retain its registration.

In December 2019 the lease on the premises in Aumuller Street was due to be renewed. Real Living Options had already decided that it was best for the future of the organisation to move to alternative premises, independent of Lifestyle Connections. In November 2019 the Service moved to Shop 1/157 Mulgrave Road at the Showgrounds Shopping Centre.

The Service has continued to grow in the number of people with a disability it assists. The number of staff employed by the Service also increased in line with this. The position descriptions changed again 2020 as a result of the NDIS rollout and changed roles of the office staff members. The title of the Administrative Assistant has been changed to Finance Officer to reflect the changed role and increased and responsibilities, and an additional Office Assistant was employed. The Service also employed a fulltime Support Manager, Support Facilitator and a Rostering Officer.

In 2020 the Organisation and its Participants all felt the impact of COVID-19. During the State lockdown, the office was closed to people outside of the office staff, and for a period of time the office team was split into two groups, alternating working from home. After what seemed like two very long years things became relatively normal again and the office resumed its operating hours and is continuing to accept new participants into the service.

Another result of COVID-19 is that Management Committee meetings are now mostly held online via Zoom with only quarterly meetings being held face to face. As well as this, the majority of staff training is online, and the Organisation has adopted a fully online induction system.

In May 2022 the office expanded its office space to include more offices for the increase in the number of staff and to provide better working conditions.

The Constitution of Real Living Options states that at least 50% of the Management Committee should be family members or advocates of a person with a disability. The Management Committee of Real Living Options Association in 2022 has a Management Committee of 9 members who are a blend of family members and community persons who bring a range of skills, knowledge and experience to the governance of the organisation.

The organisation has a good future with many staff who have been employed by the Service for over 10 years and who are well placed and trained to carry the Service into the future.


Developed in 2003.

Updated 2005, 2010, 2019, 2022


Written by Elsie Butler
Founding Hon. Secretary & Current Hon. President (2022)

Contact Us

Phone: 07 4035 5886

Email: click to email

Address: Shop 1, Showground Shopping Centre, 157 Mulgrave Road, Bungalow Qld 4870

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