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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2502..


MRS BURKE (continuing):

Disorder. I believe that children within this and other categories have been overlooked by the Governments 2020 proposal.

The letter goes on to state:

... our challenge has been that our children grow to achieve all that life can give them, without stigmas of social boundaries and reliance on welfare systems. This involved placing them in schools that gave them experience with mainstream children to help them cope with everyday situations that they will encounter throughout life but we also needed to be mindful of their heightened anxiety in many social situations that mainstream children take in their stride. On our return home from England we sought out assistance with the Education Dept, and they were extremely helpful in advice and guidance. We were offered a number of schools to visit but Village Creek was highly recommended. They already had programs in place for children with my children's difficulties and they had a range of highly skilled teachers with lots of enthusiasm. The school was small enough that their anxiety was kept to a minimum but gave them enough diversity to keep them engaged. We were never sorry with our choice and have never grumbled about the 40 minute round trip every morning and afternoon to take them to and from school.

We were blessed and our life improved every year. When it was time for Corinne to move on to high school, we went through the process again of where to go and what were our options. Kambah high was the natural selection. Again the school was a small, community-minded school that already had programs in place that suited my children. The school's size ensured that every teacher was aware of my child's disability and what difficulties were involved. Obviously there were teething problems but with the dedication of the teachers and a good working balance with parents, these problems were kept to a minimum. Obviously we still have problems, but the ethos of the school keeps parent relationships as a priority. I feel involved in my children's education ...

The letter then states:

Children with disabilities need to have a balance that schools like Kambah and Village Creek can provide ...realise that we need to have the answers to all of our questions before we can agree with this proposal. To date, we have been given no assurance that this government understands the complexities of children with special needs and the difficulties that transition to other schools will create, not only within the school environment but in their home life ... The last few weeks have been rather difficult and my youngest son Tom is currently being assessed ... for depression. The ACT Governments 2020 proposal is hurting families NOW.

Members are well aware of the many problems arising in the community. This brave family continues to speak out for and on the behalf of many other parents who are involved. It is not a question of small schools versus larger public schools, but I know the minister is aware that the needs of small schools are extremely high. The minister is compassionate and this is a difficult issue for him.

Mr and Mrs Bucton made some strong points in their letter. I ask the minister to have regard to those comments. We must ensure that we do not disrupt children with disabilities any more than we have to. I will continue to call on the minister and I will work with him, but I will lobby him as hard as is necessary to ensure that children with disabilities, particularly autism spectrum disorder, are not put out anymore or set back


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