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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 11 Hansard (23 September) . .

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Schools—autism

MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, you would be aware of an email sent from Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder, SOfASD, advising that they have passed a motion of no confidence in you as minister for education and for disability. The organisation states that the matter is not an isolated incident and that there is systemic failure for autistic students in the ACT. Given that this organisation works closely with families with autism spectrum disorders, how can you be so certain that the cage response was an isolated incident?

MS BURCH: I am aware of Mr Buckley's email. Mr Buckley and I go back a long time. He is a very passionate advocate for his family and for families with autism. But let us be very clear; he does not speak on behalf of or represent the entire autism community. He has particular views; he is particularly wedded to the applied behavioural analysis approach.

I looked with interest at his comments saying that this was an isolated incident. My comment was around the inappropriate structure being an isolated incident. If you listened to any of the commentary last week or what has been put out in the public arena, we are assured that that construction was a one-off incident.

In regard to how we support our children with autism and children with challenging behaviours across our school sector, it is for the expert panel to come back and provide us with further advice for government and non-government schools alike, because they have all contributed to that view about how school systems as a whole can respond to increasing challenging behaviours and the increasing expectations of families for children to have an inclusive education in our city.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Doszpot.

MR DOSZPOT: Minister, were other schools investigated as part of the inquiry conducted under the framework of the EBA?

MS BURCH: I think you are trying to ask me: did we check other schools to ascertain if they have inappropriate structures, Mr Doszpot. That has been answered. Yes, we did and no there are not.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Coe.

MR COE: Minister, how can you be confident that it was an isolated incident given the limited scope of the EBA investigations?

MS BURCH: I have answered the question. It was an isolated incident. Again, I refer you to the letter that was in the Canberra Times yesterday from the school community themselves. They are saying, "Can the school and the family now be left alone to get on with what they need to do?"—which is nurturing and teaching the kids in that school.


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