After Hours Events

Katrina Breen
At the After Hours Events held at Oakleigh Bowls Club, participants with intellectual and other learning disabilities at can enjoy partner dancing, singing and learn social and communication skills. Best of all, they can have great conversations and make new friends. Donna Gabriel uses her many talents to run this exciting program. Partner dancing is a favourite activity, which involves spending a short amount of time with everyone, using the brain with physical movement, and getting fit and active.
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Katrina Breen on 24/04/2013
Cartoon image of people dancing on a yellow background

After Hours Events gives people with an intellectual or learning disability the chance to have fun and socialise

After Hours

It's Wednesday night, and the After Hours Event (AHE) is in full swing at Oakleigh Bowls Club. The bar is open, and attendees enjoy partner dancing, singing, and best of all: great conversations and the making of new friends. Time is set aside to practise specific communication skills, like giving a short speech in front of the group, engaging in role-plays about tactfully telling someone that they are causing you a problem, and in having conversations on a set topic. All are aimed at working to improve the life skills of those who need them the most. AHE cater to a specific group of people who often miss out on these kinds of opportunities: people with intellectual or cognitive disabilities.

Being physically healthy and active can make a big difference to people's self-confidence. Donna Gabriel created AHE to address these various issues through the implementation of a diverse and entertaining social program.

At AHE, partner dancing is a particular favourite. Donna believes this is because it's like speed dating - you get to spend a short time with everyone - with the added bonus of even left/right brain activity, which stimulates cognitive function.

Mark enjoys meeting people and making new friends in the program, and hopes to eventually find a girlfriend. David finds the program to be excellent socially and appreciates having increased awareness of each other, awareness of how [we] socialise. Donna is a very strong pro-active woman, a real go-getter. I think there should be more of it.

How the program began

In 2010, Donna Gabriel and Dave Glazebrook introduced a program called Social Impact, covering dating, relationship and social skills, through Impact Support Services and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Fund. Donna says she was shocked by the positive feedback from the participants in Social Impact. Questions about their opinions, hopes and dreams, and helping with social skills, gave participants a huge boost in self-confidence, which showed that many might never have had these opportunities without Social Impact. The responses also show that those who devise programs for people with disabilities can accidentally underestimate what their clients need or are capable of.

Riki, who was a participant, found that the program helped her to improve her self-confidence; she has learned to respect herself more and be careful of whom to trust. She says that Donna and Dave were the greatest kick-arse leaders, and that they really know how to interact with the participants as equals and teach the material at an appropriate level. Riki now helps to support Donna and the participants during AHE.

The next step

In 2012, Donna developed AHE to focus on general friendship and communication skills, self-confidence, safety issues when socialising in public venues, and respect and safety regarding sexual relationships. To this mix, she added the enjoyment of music, physical fitness and movement. Some activities are also run by special guest presenters.

Unfunded program

So far, AHE is unfunded, and Donna donates her time for free. Donna is seeking funding from various sources, and Arts Access Victoria has offered to auspice AHE (this covers the legal incorporation requirement if AHE receives funding). Various other organisations have also seen the merit in this program, giving AHE publicity through newsletter articles and at festivals.

Seeking new venues

AHE is looking to extend its program to the bayside or Mornington Peninsula areas, and the northern and eastern suburbs. Donna welcomes any venue suggestions, stipulating only that the venue should have a bar (such as a bowls club, golf club, RSL) and be wheelchair accessible and close to public transport.

AHE Details:

After Hours Events is relevant for adults with a disability which affects their social or learning abilities.

Oakleigh Bowling Club
Corner Drummond & Logie St Oakleigh. Melways map 69F6
3rd Wednesday of every month
RSVP: EACH MONDAY PRIOR, Minimum numbers required.
Contact Donna Gabriel: 0414 250 932 or

Please note After Hours Events do not provide transport or 1-1 support.

For more information about Donna Gabriel and her work, see 
Or click here to visit the AHE Facebook page.

Readers comments (2)

This program sounds fantastic- are there any updates on how it is goin in 2013? I am the Disability Planer at the Maribyrnong CIty Council and our MetroAccess worker is working towards starting something similar in this Region.

Thanks Liz :) The article actually is in regard to the programme in 2013 (it began in late 2012).... I attended an event just a couple of months ago to get material for this article :)

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