Our history

Novita Children’s Services has been one of the largest providers of quality services to children living with disability and special needs, and their families, more than 75 years.

Read on for a detailed history of our organisation.

1939 – 1963

Making an Impact

1939 The Crippled Children’s Association of South Australia (CCA) was incorporated, and was initially supported by the South Australian Government with a grant of £2,000 per annum. Somerton Home was established for children with poliomyelitis, more commonly known as polio. On its purchase, the home was remodelled to accommodate a maximum of 50 children.

1944 CCA now had 90 children living with cerebral palsy among its total client group, indicating the organisation’s intention of broadening its reach to children with conditions whose signs and symptoms were similar to polio.

1946 A school for children with cerebral palsy was established at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, along with a cerebral palsy clinic under the auspices of CCA.

1951 Somerton Home began to provide services to children with disabilities other than polio, for example, neuromuscular diseases.

1952 Ashford House was purchased with State Government assistance and used as a school and therapy centre for children with cerebral palsy. The estate was developed with funds received from the first Telethons in South Australia.

1956 In December, the first batch of Salk vaccine arrived in South Australia, and by the end of the 1950s, a considerable percentage of the state’s population had been vaccinated against polio.  

1957 Cases of polio dropped accordingly (with the 1956 arrival of the vaccine), seeing the end of the polio epidemic in South Australia.

1964 – 1988

Building and Growing

1970 A special committee was formed to look at the future of the organisation and, in particular, to search for new and larger premises, to ensure services remained in line with world’s best practise.

1971 The South Australian Government approved the allocation of 8.1 hectares of land at Islington for the organisation to build a new ‘state of the art’ centre of excellence, later covering this cost with a gift of $500,000.

1972 Plans for a new facility for CCA were drawn up by prominent Adelaide architects. These plans were benchmarked against some of the world’s best centres for children with a disability. Four weeks were spent examining multidisciplinary facilities in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. It was a recommendation that the architecture be provocative and stimulating, resulting in the striking design that still stands out on Days Road, Regency Park today. As a result, it was decided that the existing plans should be set aside and new ones drawn up.

Another important decision made was to provide the best possible transport for children travelling to and from the centre, so the upgrading of CCA’s bus fleet was given priority.

1973 New plans for the centre at Regency Park were finalised and tenders called for construction. Building of the new centre commenced in December.

1975 The name Regency Park was assigned to land at Islington by the Geographical Names Board. This led to CCA’s new home, still under construction, being named The Regency Park Centre for Physically Handicapped Children.

1976 Children were transferred from Somerton Home and Ashford House School to the organisation’s premises at Regency Park. Regency Park Rehabilitation Engineering was established.

1977 Enrolments at Regency Park Centre had now reached 242 children.

1986 Visits to children in country South Australia were re-established through the introduction of a comprehensive regional Outreach Program.

1988 A number of residential options were developed for children, including the use of foster families and community homes.

1989 – 2014

Unlocking Potential

1989 The celebration of CCA’s Golden Jubilee Year reinforced the integral role that the Association had played in the South Australian community since its beginning. The Association now employed 330 staff, was providing services to 196 day students and had 516 children attending outpatient style clinics at Regency Park. In addition, CCA was providing support to 118 families in their homes, 158 clients in employment and training programs and 24 people in independent living arrangements.

1992 In response to a sector-wide shift away from institutionalising children with disability, the Regency Park Centre residential facility was closed. Support and services focussed on integrating them into the community and maximising their participation in society.

1993 A regional structure for children’s therapy services was developed. Services were exchanged with the Spastic Centre of South Australia, resulting in CCA providing therapy for all children with physical disabilities in South Australia.

1995 CCA commenced the provision of additional support services, which included respite care and home assistance for clients and their families, through the creation of CCA Options Coordination.

1997 Entering into a partnership with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for the provision of medical rehabilitation services, the Association took a multi-disciplinary approach to the delivery and coordination of allied health support by enabling medical and allied health professionals to work closely together.

 CCA implemented a new Executive structure and Strategic Planning framework, paving the way for continued success in the future.

2002 Demand for CCA’s services continued to grow and the redevelopment of Regency Park commenced. Providing services to more than 1000 children and their families across a growing geographical area, CCA expanded its advocacy role to raise awareness of those needs.

2003 CCA worked in partnership with the South Australian Department of Human Services to re-auspice its Adult Therapy Service (Communication and Therapy Services) to the Independent Living Centre.

2004 CCA changed its name to Novita Children’s Services after CCA members overwhelmingly endorsed the change to reflect a more contemporary view of disability. ‘Novita’ is a combination of two Latin words – ‘nova’ (meaning new) and ‘vita’ (meaning life). A new brand was created with a smiling yellow star to accompany the new name. The star was chosen as a symbol of aspiration and achievement, as well as representing a bright future and a guiding light for children with disability.

2005 Through the Australian Government-funded Inclusion Support Program, Novita yet again expanded its services. The program enabled 400 children with disabilities, indigenous children and children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to better access community-based services such as childcare, out of school hours care and vacation care through Novita. Close to 100 childcare centres each year, situated across a vast geographical region north, west and east of northern Adelaide, extending to the interstate borders, could access Novita support in equipping their staff with the skills and knowledge to create quality, inclusive environments for children with these special needs.

2006 Novita embarked on the Programs Project, an initiative to review and restructure services to ensure the organisation provides the best possible support to children and families living with disabilities.

With a focus on providing services to a broader range of children with disabilities and other special needs, Novita launched a five year Strategic Plan entitled Connecting kids with their worlds.

2007 Novita’s Board of Directors endorsed the ‘Life Needs Model’ to guide the organisation’s future work. This evidence-based model is considered the world’s best practice in supporting children with disabilities, emphasising age-appropriate services, support across key ‘transition’ stages in a child’s life and increased focus on the needs of children, families and the wider community.

2008 Novita redesigned its service delivery structure, with the Therapy Services and Family Support teams combined to form the single Client Services Division. This significant change meant Novita families would now deal with just one team to access all the services and support they need. This division is split into two age groups, the Early Childhood Service and the Child and Adolescent Service, each providing age specific programs for all clients and families.

2009 Novita celebrated the milestone of 70 years of caring for children with physical disabilities. Celebrations for the organisation’s 70th anniversary continued throughout the year, including a reception with the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSCRANR, at Government House, and a Sapphires and Stars gala dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Having operated as an incorporated association for 70 years, Novita achieved company limited by guarantee status, effective 1 November 2009. The transition enabled Novita to access more diverse funding sources, and opportunities for commercial development of its traditional services, whilst retaining its charitable status as a not-for-profit organisation.

2011 With the continued growth in demand for its services, Novita opened a new office at St Marys, enabling better support for clients in the southern area, and established a wholly owned subsidiary, CareFirst Pty Ltd, to support its entry into the fee-for-service market.

2012 With the acquisition of a new business called Community Choices, Novita continued to grow and diversify its services. Renamed Community Options SA, the business provided day options, respite, recreation and in-home care for young adults and older people with disability, as well as the aged.

2013 The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) launched in South Australia. As an established provider of services for children with developmental needs and disability, Novita was selected as a trial site for the rollout of this landmark scheme. Novita commenced the provision of services under the scheme to children aged from 0-5 years, with the full rollout to take place over a number of years.

Substantial research had been undertaken over the past 15 years into neuroscientific approaches that capitalise on the plasticity of the growing child’s brain. Novita recognises the significance of this research and its associated findings, and adopts numerous clinical practices including: the achievement of multi-model approaches embracing elements of the Life Needs Model, enriched environs, goal-orientated skill development, capacity building strategies for more inclusive children environments in the community, and regular and targeted surveillance of key physical functioning areas to optimise scheduling of allied health therapies.

2013 also saw the acquisition of Rehabilitation and Performance Health (RPH) by Novita’s wholly owned subsidiary, CareFirst Pty Ltd, which provides physiotherapy and other allied health services to the general community.

2014 Novita celebrates 75 years of supporting children with disability and other special needs. In celebration we have released our most ambitious strategic plan ever, Novita 2020, to create the pathway to become the pre-eminent children’s service organisation in Australia.

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