Pathways Program – Improve your wellbeing with Animal Therapy

Pathways zookeeper Program

Pathways Program


Running since 2019 and operating under Innovative Community Participation, the Pathways program was formed to give kids and young adults with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) an opportunity to learn the skills to become zoo keepers.

With a shared love of wildlife and nature, participants are able to get hands-on and learn how to feed, clean, handle, enrich, and care for native animals. The program also teaches valuable skills such as public speaking, presenting, effective communication and teamwork.

Since its inception, the Pathways Program has successfully assisted many participants, leading them on a journey of growth, improved well-being and the formation of life-long friendships.

In some cases, participants have gone on to study animal husbandry, have been accepted as volunteers at nature reserves or zoos.

The key areas that we focus on are:

Animal Therapy

We have some truly unique Therapy animals. Reptile Encounters house around 450 Australian native animals from reptiles to birds, invertebrates, amphibians, mammals and even marine creatures.

Zookeeping skills

Experience what it’s like to be a real zookeeper. Learn what our animals eat, how we train them, provide enrichment and take care of their general husbandry.

Everyday life skills

With 450 animals there’s always food to prepare, enclosures to clean, animals to health check and general cleaning of our HQ.

Professional skill development

Our participants are regularly involved in our guided tours of HQ. We also involve our participants that are ready to educate their peers in the classroom about our unique fauna.


There’s nothing better than associating with people that share your passion for nature.

Working as part of a team

There’s always people to work with at Reptile Encounters, from our Wildlife Ambassador team, Management, work placement students and volunteer crew. Everyone is extremely friendly and work as a cohesive team.

The Program

Pathways is suitable for people over the age of 14 that receive NDIS assistance for ASD. The program is held at our Burwood HQ from 9:30am to 3:30pm daily with a changing roster of duties based on the requirements of the wildlife and also the participants’ individual goals. The facilitators work with participants on a 1:1 or 1:2 basis depending on the capability and knowledge of the participants.

This is a long-term program with most participants attending 1 – 2 times weekly, depending on the amount of funding they have.

Our program is registered under Innovative Community Participation 04_111_0136_6_1 and the rates for the 6-hour day are:

Hourly Rate Daily Rate
Weekday $65.47 $392.82
Saturday $92.12 $552.72
Sunday $118.78 $712.68
Public Holiday $145.44 $872.64

An example of a daily pathways schedule is:

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