Milestones in the HPA Journey

All journeys’, regardless of their direction, destination or magnitude, start with the smallest of ‘first steps’. Such is the Helping People Achieve (HPA) pathway, which started with the vision, passion and impactful determination of the late Peggy and Harold Garner.

Helping People Achieve (HPA) has provided supported employment and accommodation to Territorians with disabilities since 1963. The aim of HPA’s employment service is to benefit the community through the creation and development of employment opportunities for people with disabilities and to facilitate supported accommodation. But where did this impactful journey start and who were the people behind this visionary concept? Driven by the care and need of a son with a disability the Garners founded the current services commenced in 1963 as the Mentally Handicapped Persons’ Association and immediately opened a school for “retarded children”. In 1965, the school was taken over by the Education Department and the Association undertook to build a pre-school, hostel, sheltered workshop and training centre. The Association also underwent a name change to the Slow Learners Association. It is important to reflect that the development of more appropriate and respectful terminology around disability is a measure of our society’s success in breaking down stigma. At times, it is a little confronting to review historical terms that were used.

1967 – 1968

Slow Learners Association preschool and hostel opened.Sheltered employment and training commenced in an Adult Education Centre classroom.


Slow Learners Association’s new workshop was completed.

1973 -1974

The Associations pre-school and hostel closed in 1973 and 1974 respectively.


It was decided to change the name of the Association to Handicapped Persons’ Association of the Northern Territory (Inc)

1974 – Christmas

Cyclone Tracy completely destroyed the workshop.


A new building was funded 4:1 by the Commonwealth Department of Social Security and was named Kokoda Industries in recognition of a generous grant by the people of Papua New Guinea.


The Association opened its first “group home” which accommodated up to 7 people.


The Association purchased two small businesses, Ice Maidens and Supertube Outdoor Furniture.


To comply with Government policy to separate accommodation and employment, Darwin Accommodation Services was established.


Calico Connection was created to manufacture mining sample bags. This was the ‘seed’ for today’s Ausdesigns.


The new name of HPA Incorporated, in line with “non-labeling” trends, came.


With support from the Northern Territory Department of Housing, a small block of
units was purchased to enable Darwin Accommodation Services.


Ausdesigns opened in June by the Hon. Jane Aagaard, Minister for Northern Territory Department of Health &community services. Also in this year, the official opening of Darwin Accommodation Services. The complex was named “Garner Court” in honour of our Founding President, Harold Garner and his wife, Peg Garner