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Neurodiversity and Substance Use – Symposium

September 21, 2023 @ 9:30 am - 4:30 pm

There is a growing body of research that suggests that neurodivergent people may be at an increased risk of developing problematic substance use. This is likely due to the increased burden on neurodivergent people trying to function in a world not designed for them.

This event is for AOD workers who are interested in learning more about the intersection of neurodiversity and substance use, and how to support neurodivergent people to achieve their goals.

This symposium will focus on two areas; ADHD and Autism and feature a series of keynote presentations and interactive workshops. We have invited leading experts, including people with lived experience, to share their insights and experiences. We encourage all attendees to actively participate in the discussions and ask questions.


Date: Thursday, 21st September,

Time: 9:30 AM – 4:30PM

Address:  Catholic Leadership Centre, 576 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne

Booking: via Eventbrite

See Program

See Venue Floorplan



Dr Eddie Mullen is a youth psychiatrist and has been at Orygen Specialist Program in Melbourne, Victoria for over 9 years. He is the Co-Lead of the Orygen Youth Addiction and Dual Diagnosis Stream as well as working with the Orygen Substance Use Research Group as a Principal Investigator on several studies looking into novel treatments for cannabis, methamphetamine and tobacco misuse in young people.

Dr Mullen has a strong interest in understanding developmental perspectives of substance use from early adolescence into adulthood and how this can inform our approach to screening, assessment and offering evidence based treatment as well as the intersection of youth, neurodivergence and addiction. He also works at Turning Point as an Addiction Fellow in Training.

Dr Dianne Grocott MBBS FRANZCP

Dr Grocott is a psychiatrist with 30 years experience in public and private practice, who has specialised in ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and Addiction Psychiatry. In 2015 she co-founded the Victorian Adult ADHD Interest Group (VAADHDIG), a multidisciplinary group of clinicians who share expertise and resources to improve the lives of their patients with ADHD. VAADHDIG members are developing an accredited GP Training Course on ADHD and are collaborating in the design of best practice models for ADHD assessment and holistic management.

Mel Spencer OAM, Chief Executive Officer of Different Journeys 

Mel Spencer OAM is a fierce Autistic advocate. As a parent to 3 Autistic teenagers and identifying as Autistic herself (Mel realised this as a result of her own children being diagnosed ), she is committed to ensuring that the world is more accommodating and accepting of the Autism community, which includes supporting both the Autistic individual and their family, including parents and carers. She is very passionate about making a difference and finding creative ways to overcome the challenges and obstacles that present along the way.
Her background is 18 years with the Victoria Police Force, predominantly in the area of investigations and support of victims of sexual, physical and domestic violence. She has completed a Certificate IV in Disability and Small Business Management. She has, for the past two years been the proud recipient of the State Government Women In Boards Leadership program, which connected her with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In 2020 she was inducted into Victorian Women’s Honour roll that supports outstanding achievements by women.
Mel is the co-founder and current Chief Executive Officer of Different Journeys which she started with Merrin Ayton to ensure that her children had the opportunity to connect with a wider world than their bedrooms. Her vision for Different Journeys is to provide opportunities for our Autistic community to find meaningful ways to connect and empower both themselves and their families, ensuring they have every opportunity that is afforded to them so they can lead a fulfilling life.

Professor Edward Ogden PSM

Professor Edward Ogden PSM is the Principal Research Fellow, Centre for Mental Health and Brain Sciences at Swinburne University of Technology, a staff specialist in addiction medicine at Austin Health in Melbourne and the Addiction Medicine Specialist at Goulburn Valley Health.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, a Fellow of the Chapter of Addiction Medicine of the Royal Australian College of Physicians and a Fellow of the Faculty of Clinical Forensic Medicine of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. He was awarded the Public Service Medal for services to Forensic Medicine on Australia Day 2005.

His research interests focus on the role of alcohol and drugs in traffic safety, and the development of treatments for alcohol and drug abuse. He is working with academic and clinical colleagues to form a centre for ADHD research with particular interest in ADHD and Substance Use Disorder.

Tim Ridgeway ADHD Coach and AOD Clincian

Tim is an ADHD and Recovery Coach, who operates ‘ADDAPTIVE COACHING’, a specialised coaching service that supports clients who have co-morbid ADHD and Recovery needs. He has designed psychoeducation programs being utilised in rehabilitations, as well as working with a local institution ‘The Cottage’ as a facilitator. An experienced therapeutic clinician with a lived experience facing the challenges of ADHD, addiction, homelessness, justice interaction and mental health. With professional experience as a practitioner working independently, in addition to residential and community rehabilitation experience. He specialises in working with Substance Use Disorder and Co-Morbid ADHD. Tim has worked for some of the local leaders in AOD Treatment: GV Health, Odyssey House Victoria and The Cottage Shepparton. He has qualifications and experience in Community Services, AOD. As well as being ICF Coaching and Mentor Coach trained.

Aaron Gilhooley, General Manager, The Cottage Shepparton

Aaron Gilhooley is the General Manager of The Cottage—a privately funded, not-for-profit organisation located in the heart of Shepparton. Recognising a vital need in the community, The Cottage was established to provide a life-skills residential facility. It operates on the therapeutic community model, offering a holistic and participative group-based approach to address long-term mental health challenges, personality disorders, neurodiversity, and addiction.

Neurodiversity and Substance Use – Symposium

Training Mode Face to Face
Catholic Leadership Centre
576 Victoria Parade
East Melbourne, VIC 3002 Australia

VAADA acknowledges the support of the Victoria Government