News & Events

ACSO Stories: Gaz’s Grand Adventure

January 12, 2024
At ACSO, one of the things that further drives our passion for our work is hearing some of the incredible stories from clients and participants we work with. We love hearing about ACSO team members going above and beyond, and we want to celebrate it – because learning from one another’s successes only makes our programs and our team stronger as a whole.

Gary has lived in Residential Support accommodation for ten years. ACSO’s Residential Service team members work to support people who have left prison or justice system, with some of the housing services specialised to support people with particular needs, such as disability, mental health conditions, or alcohol or substance abuse issues. Empathy and genuine care are a core part of the job when you work in Residential Services, but our team members often go above and beyond to improve residents’ mental health and quality of life – and in Gary’s case, it was helping him fulfil a lifelong dream as a footy fanatic and passionate supporter of the Collingwood Football Club.

Gary had lived in various houses with family and independently for a number of years, after experiencing deterioration in his mental health and his independent living skills.

Moving into ACSO’s supported housing was a new opportunity for Gary, where he could meet new people and settle into a safe stable, supportive home and minimise his engagement with the justice system.

Gary’s funded support at the time was quite minimal, and the disability pension that he received didn’t leave much room for some of the things he really loved in life.

Despite being a man of few words, it didn’t take staff long to work out what a happy, friendly, big hearted fellow Gary was. It took them even less time to figure out his passions: cricket, tennis, athletics, soccer, horse racing, and more. But there was one thing that sat clearly at the top of the pyramid – his unwavering passion for the black and white of the Collingwood Football Club.

Each week of the footy season, Gary follows the AFL with a keen eye, but none keener than that he casts toward the Pies – never does he miss a game, and he knows every single player both past and present. When Collingwood nabs a win, which in recent times has been quite often, he sings the song loudly and proudly throughout the house, allowing team members, residents and anyone else within earshot to hear the genuine and exuberant joy he gets from his beloved club.

In a recent conversation, ACSO’s Residential team learned that despite Gary’s true love for the club, he had never actually seen them play live – a fact that took them by surprise.

Immediately, our Residential team’s minds began ticking on how they could get the great man to the MCG, so he could be in amongst the action for a very special year for the black and white.

First up was a call to the Collingwood Football Club’s Community Liaison Officer to see if there was any way they could help us to make it happen – and they were more than happy to help, and sent them five tickets! Then Gary’s support coordinator and the Residential team worked together to organise the logistics – support needed, accommodation, and travel.

Within a few days the whole thing came together – Gary would be picked up from Bendigo by his two favourite support workers Karen and Katie, and driven to Melbourne. Once he’d checked into his accommodation, they’d head to a pub around the corner for a pre-game beer, then jump on a shuttle bus to head to the grounds. Then finally, they’d enter the glorious MCG to take their amazing seats directly behind the Collingwood cheer squad to watch the Pies take on Freo.

When news broke that Gary would be booking into a hotel so that he could attend a game at the G, his reaction was the stuff of legend – he leapt up from his chair, arms in the air, whooping it up and laughing, a scene that continued for around ten minutes as it sunk in that he’d get to witness his team play in all their glory.

The day arrived and Gary was up at the crack of dawn, proudly decked out in his brand-new Collingwood beanie and scarf. The game delivered on every level: some of the very best seats in the house, immersed in the chants and songs of the Collingwood cheer squad, and Gary got to witness the Pies triumph over Fremantle the tune of forty-six points.

Big Gaz loved every moment of the trip: the pre-game beer, the sight of his beloved team powering their way to top of the ladder, the frenzied crowd, the post-game beer, the accompanying chicken parma, the hotel room with a King-size bed, the huge breakfast the following morning, the post-breakfast trip to St Kilda beach for a stroll and a coffee.

The trip was so perfect that Gary described them to Karen and Katie as “the best days ever”, and will remain with him for the rest of his life.

It can be easy to dismiss the NDIS and the opportunities it offers its recipients, it becomes apparent how these opportunities become crucial experiences and increase the quality of life for people living with a disability.

It’s due to Gary’s NDIS support package and the staff that went above and beyond that helped to create powerful moments like these for people like Gary — a guy who not so long ago was experiencing significant barriers when interacting with his community, and now feels confident that he can actively participate in the world that he once was remote to him.

Gary has now exited ACSO’s supported housing, and has comfortably settled into his forever home.

ACSO delivers a diverse range of programs to support people at risk of entering or who have already entered the justice system. These services span the entire justice continuum from prevention to rehabilitation, and our teams are dedicated to helping to break the cycle of people repeatedly entering the system.

You can learn more about our Residential Services and ACSO’s diverse range of supported housing programs on our website:

If you’d like to share your experience with an ACSO program, you can get in touch with our Communications Team at