Growing a cross sector community of practice to better support children and young people with disability and complex support needs

Ms Bethany Hooke1, Mrs Sarah Baggio1

1Children’s Health Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

The interface between health, education, disability and child safety is complex and dynamic. Navigating any one of these systems can be fraught, yet families of children and young people with complex support needs may be navigating multiple service systems simultaneously.

There is evidence that disability sector consumers who are well supported by mainstream services are more likely to be confident in their navigation of interfacing systems and receive services and supports that better meet their needs. This is so very important when working with children and families. Yet there is little support for the workforce to grow the skill set and mind set required when working with children and young people with disability who require an integrated cross sector approach to care.

Children’s Health Queensland partnered with the Department of Education, the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, a lead support coordination organisation, and a local Aboriginal Medical Service with a view to building a community of practice that is both cross sector and inter-professional in focus.

The Navigating Paediatric Disability Network was launched in October 2020 and is Allied Health led using an ECHO platform. Project ECHO is an online, interactive model of case-based learning, delivered via videoconference. ECHO encourages an environment of “all teach, all learn” as participants share knowledge, discuss cases, and develop new skills. The Network coordinator, facilitator and panel members are all Allied Health professionals, and the participant group encompasses a diverse mix of professionals from health, education and human service fields.

This network is unique in how it expands the ECHO model to a cross sector context. Interest and participation in the network has been strong, and a qualitative evaluation of the first series of the network indicates value for participants and panel members alike.


Bethany trained as a Speech Pathologist in the 1990s and has worked in paediatric public health services for more than 20years as a clinician, team leader, project officer and program manager across metropolitan and regional settings. Since the beginning of 2016 she has been working to get Children’s Health Queensland NDIS ready, and to support children with a disability and their families access and engage with a dynamic and evolving disability sector. Bethany has a particular interest in how our systems link to improve the health and life outcomes of all children.

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