Why we matter

OUR VISION IS A WORLD THAT EMBRACES AUTISM 

OUR PURPOSE – To prove what Autistics CAN do.

OUR VALUES – We are Positive, We Enable, We are Gutsy, We are Open, We build Networks and We have Integrity.

With 33 Autistic staff mentoring 1,500 Autistic individuals nation-wide,  I CAN Network has grown into Australia’s largest Autistic-led organisation.

WHY WE MATTER

ABOUT I CAN NETWORK 

The I CAN Network story started with one family, the Varneys. Lisa Anderson and John Varney instilled an ‘I CAN’ attitude in their Autistic son Chris through a network of supportive friends and teachers. Years later, in 2013, Chris would found ‘I CAN Network’ with the help of two Autistic mates Penny Robinson and James Ong.

Our branding captures the wonder of the aurora borealis (or northern lights): a natural spectrum. Our commitment to an Autistic-led approach is so deep that Goal One of our strategy is to grow I CAN Network with a 50% difference: a minimum of half of our staff must be Autistic.  

Now in its seventh year, I CAN Network’s knowledge of Autistic young people, schools and mentoring practice has enabled it to achieve widespread influence across the landscape of children’s rights and inclusive education and employment. I CAN is an ongoing member of the Victorian Government’s Autism Education Advisory Group and Autism Plan Advisory Group, the Queensland Government’s Autism Education Advisory Group, the Australian Association for Special Education, the Child Rights NGO Taskforce and the Australian Autism Alliance.

In the past year alone, I CAN Network has mentored 1,052 Autistic kids, teenagers and adults nationwide through schools, TAFEs, workplaces, camps and online programs. Since inception in 2013, I CAN Network has employed 34 Autistic people to deliver mentoring programs.

MEET OUR CEO

CHRIS VARNEY

Chris is the founder and Chief Enabling Officer, CEO of the I CAN Network… has a background in children’s rights. Chris spent 11 years with World Vision Australia and World Vision International where his roles included Youth Ambassador, VGen Co-Director and Manager of Youth Supporters. VGen was instrumental in achieving commitments to fair-trade from big chocolate companies.

In 2009, Chris was Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. In this role Chris successfully campaigned for the closure of the Magill Training Centre and created Dear Kevin: a book of 789 handwritten letters by children and young people given to then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Chris’ efforts as Youth Representative were recognised in this letter from then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Chris used the stories from Dear Kevin to inform his work on the steering committee of the Australian Child Rights NGO Taskforce. The Taskforce successfully influenced the creation of Australia’s national Children’s Commission. In addition to I CAN, Chris is currently an advisor on Autism to the Queensland Government and is Patron of the Australian Association for Special Education. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn. 

Outcomes I CAN Circle

our impact

Many of the young people who are new to our mentoring programs join us with a sense of shame around being Autistic. Too often, they have internalised the negative perceptions of others and the deficits-based of Autism.

At I CAN, we believe in a rethink of Autism that moves young people from a mindset of ‘I CAN’T’ to ‘I CAN.’ We do this through respectful, peer-based programs that celebrate Autistic strengths, passions and shared experiences.

Since our launch in September 2013, we have helped thousands of Autistic young people develop a stronger sense of self-acceptance, confidence, optimism and belonging. In the process, we are demonstrating the high level of innovation and positive social change that comes from valuing Autistic insights and talent. It’s not just our Autistic mentees and mentors who benefit from our strengths-based approach to Autism and neurodiversity. Every day, we see more and more people embracing our hopeful, respectful rethink of Autism.

Why we matter

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about us

WHY WE MATTER 

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CONTACT US

I CAN Network Ltd. PO Box 356 Ashburton 3147, Victoria, Australia

Email: hello@icannetwork.com.au Website: icannetwork.com.au


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