Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 June 1995) . . Page.. 831 ..
accommodation for people with disabilities more of an issue. One is the closure of John Knight Hostel. There are also a number of other requirements in this area. We are very happy to give a full briefing. It is a budget Cabinet issue. Unfortunately, as we all know, these issues are extremely expensive but ones that must be addressed.
Disabled Students - Integration Program
MR WOOD: My question is addressed to Mr Stefaniak as Minister for Education. It relates to the integration program in our schools whereby intellectually and physically disabled students are enrolled in mainstream schools. My question simply is: Does the Government have a commitment to continue this program? Is there any merit in the suggestion that the Government is looking to curtail this program?
MR STEFANIAK: The answer to the last part of the question is no. The Government is committed to maintaining the program and, indeed, to seeing whether the program can be improved. Mr Wood may be aware - he may not be aware - that currently Dr Loretta Giorcelli, a senior lecturer in special education and disability studies from the University of New South Wales, who I understand is well regarded by parents who have children with disabilities - and I was talking to some earlier today - is assisting the Government in an evaluation. She is currently doing a detailed study of the situation and will be reporting to the Government, I believe, in late August in relation to it. As you are aware, Mr Wood, the program is now in its fourth year. As I indicated, it is currently being evaluated. I understand that Dr Giorcelli has consulted with all the key groups, including principals, teachers, special teachers assistants, parents and administrators. The evaluation is continuing with the compilation of data and follow-up visits now being arranged. The evaluation document will be available, as I said, in August.
We will be able to use the findings of that evaluation in the budget context, when considering how it will provide integration options for students with disabilities in mainstream schools. I am interested in the progress of the program. I am interested in looking at ways in which the program can be improved. I am also mindful of other children with disabilities in other areas of schooling. I am very interested in looking at the whole concept. I am also happy to indicate to you, Mr Wood, that after talking with a number of parents today I would like to see regular meetings with them. They proposed one about every four months. I am happy to do that because I find that, when you meet with the key players in these types of situations, including members from the department and other people, a lot of potential problems can be prevented and a lot of progress can be made towards making things better. That is basically the position we are in at present, Mr Wood.
MR WOOD: I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I am pleased that Mr Stefaniak has used the word “improved” in relation to the program, which I suppose is what any review is all about. The key issue here, as it was for the former Government, is: Will this new Government be giving additional funds in the next budget to allow that program to expand? I recall Mr Speaker himself making a deal of this issue from this very spot not so long ago. Will there be additional funds to allow the existing program not only to improve but to expand?