Our organisation

Delivering Services and Advocating for Autistic People for 50 years

Irabina is an Aboriginal word for awakening…

Irabina was created in 1970 by a group of parents in the eastern suburbs who came together with community support to set up a training program for a group of children with Autism for whom no services were available. Ever since Irabina’s inception, we’ve understood the significant role that families play in the well-being of young people with Autism and it’s an approach that we maintain every day.

Originally governed by a Committee of Management with members being Parents, Professional Community Members and the Irabina CEO, today Irabina has grown to be overseen by a Board and the Executive Management Team.

Meet the Board

Lindsay McMillan – Chairman

Lindsay has over 25 years’ experience leading complex commercial companies and for-purpose organisations centred around disability, healthcare, and community services. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to people with a disability. Lindsay is also a non-executive director and chair of a number of for-purpose organisations. He is also the lead researcher, commentator in the field of human resources and the complexities of the modern workplace.

Michelle McDade

Michelle is an experienced health service executive, having held operational roles in both the public and private healthcare sector. Michelle is dedicated to improving each patient’s experience in the health service, engaging staff in this important work, and searching for innovative solutions to the challenges in healthcare. Michelle previously worked as a Physiotherapist and holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). She completed the Dept. of Health LINK Leadership program in 2011.

Kingsley Slipper

Kingsley is a Commercial Builder and Business Development Manager specialising in the renewable energy industry with the benefit of two decades as a Project Manager across Victoria, NSW & Queensland. He is a consultant with Middleton Group which is a boutique advisory business – he is currently Commercial Lead for electrical distribution connections team at AusNet Services. Kingsley is a registered commercial builder and since 2018 has been Director at Wind Projects Australia.

Russell Pruden

Russell was originally appointed as the External Advisor to the Irabina Finance and Risk Committee prior to joining the Board. Russell comes from a Chartered Accounting environment prior to his current CFO role. Russell holds an Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and Bachelor of Commerce from Deakin University.

Sam Moore

Sam is an experienced marketing executive, with an expertise in brand – the strategy of designing and implementing effective vision, values, employee, and ultimately audience engagement. Sam is passionate about creative bravery and accurate attribution; the magic and the measurement. He has NFP sector experience, working for Shelter in London, and has held leadership positions at agencies like M&C Saatchi and DDB before his current role as Global Marketing Director of LIFX (ASX:BUD). He graduated from the University of Nottingham, UK, with a degree in Politics and American Studies (Joint Honours).

Our Executive Team

Deb Goldfinch

Debra Goldfinch
Irabina CEO

Jose Molina

Jose Molina
Chief Practitioner

Sophie Dixon

Sophie Dixon
Chief Financial Officer

Orla Murphy

Orla Murphy
Executive Relationships Manager

Melissa Webster

Melissa Webster
Executive Director Clinical Services

Irabina's History


The first Principal of the Eastern Autistic Centre was Margaret Smith.

Irabina was originally called The Eastern Autistic Centre which was started by a group of parents in the eastern suburbs who came together with community support to set up a training program to meet the needs of a group of children with autism for whom no services were available.

Jenny Coller was the first Secretary on the committee and she was the person who started the service with Joan Curtis (who had an autistic son Johnathon). The Eastern Autistic Centre was opened in Canterbury at the Congregational Church hall on the corners of Hopetoun Ave and Canterbury Road, Canterbury. The Mental Health Authority of Victoria restricted this service to Autistic children only.

The Jigsaw logo was adopted as The Eastern Autistic Centre’s autism symbol.

Initially five children were enrolled and their ages ranged from 5 to 17 years. Two Teachers and a Mother-Craft Nurse were employed to cater for the children. The program involved basic educational skills and social training.

The service grew to 25 full time students and 11 part time students. There were 11 teacher and 6 volunteers to service these students.

In May 1970, Jenny Coller purchased the land in Bayswater with funds given from Autism Early Intervention Society of Victoria.


1971: The Eastern Autistic Centre moved to Bayswater in 1971 and changed the name to Irabina Early Intervention Services.

1972: Irabina received a subsidy to cover teachers’ salaries and transport costs from the Mental Health Authority of Victoria, and was administered by Mental Deficiency Services.

1976: There was considerable expansion in child enrolments and provision of services with five teachers employed and enrolment had increased to 22. An extra bus was made available by the State Government to replace the taxi service for transportation of the children.

1979: A physical education building comprising gym and pools was opened in November 1979.


1981: A small separate building was erected to provide a more regular environment financed totally by funds raised by donations made to the Centre by various clubs, community groups and individuals.

Irabina children were being taken on regular excursions as part of the program to teach the children life skills outside Irabina.

In 1981 Irabina began to offer limited speech pathology and occupational therapy sessions together with appropriate teaching programs.


1991: In February 1991 Irabina split into two separate entities with Irabina Special Development School being established. The school opened with 16 students, a Principal, 8 teachers, and 2 aides and the Irabina Early Intervention Program changed its name to Irabina Early Intervention Program for Children with Autism and Associated Disorders.

1992: Portable buildings were transported to the land in Jasmine Road end of property to accommodate the continued growth of student enrolments.

1994: Irabina Special Development School had outgrown the buildings once again so a program was set up at Bayswater Primary school for 6 of our children in a structured and protected environment.

1998: Enrolments for the school program had increased to 55 and the decision was made to relocate the school to Mitcham.

1999: The official opening of the Administration wing in the Bayswater Building and the Irabina Early Intervention Program for Children with Autism and Associated disorders name was changed to Irabina Childhood Autism Services.



2001: Diane Bailey-Tribe was promoted to CEO, from working as an Occupational Therapist at Irabina for the past 5 years.

2006: Irabina’s funding source changed from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

2008: The Australian Government announces their commitment to $190 million up to June 2012 to deliver the Helping Children with Autism package. The funding is to help provide services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

2009: the Australian Government offers organisations the opportunity to apply for a license to become a FaHcsia provider. Irabina applied for this license and was advised of our successful application in early 2010. Irabina was 1 of 5 successful organisations to now hold a FaHcsia Provider license.

2010: Dawn Wilcox became Executive Officer, the first with a business background and not a teaching or clinical background. Irabina had 16 staff on board.

2011-Present Day

2011: Due to increased demand for services using FaHcsia funding, Irabina grew to 45 staff providing therapy and Irabina’s Education Program was introduced. The Australian Government announced the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to be implemented in 2016.

2013: Debra Goldfinch was appointed as Irabina’s new CEO, and Professor Bruce Tonge became Patron.

2014:Irabina rebranded and changed its name from Irabina Childhood Autism Service to Irabina Autism Services.

Temple Grandin presented for Irabina in Melbourne.

Feeding Clinic was introduced.

A partnership with Deakin University was established.  A partnership with RCH was also established.

Introduces Autism Specific Auskick footy program and is featured on Channel 7 Sunrise

2015: Irabina held our inaugural Super Hero Fun Run and introduced our own Superhero character “Spectro”

2016: Irabina invested in an Autism Therapy dog named Muffin. Muffin works in the groups and also in 1:1 sessions with the children.

ABA Therapy is introduced and employs a cohort of casual ABA Therapists to provide the therapy.

2017: Irabina opened its third centre in Bundoora.

Opened another centre in Henty Way Pakenham to run ABA therapy only.

2018: Irabina provided the first intake into our Severe Behaviour Program with an 8 year old child from Bendigo.

2019: The first short stay in the Severe Behaviour Clinic was enrolled.






Join our mailing list

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.