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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (15 November) . . Page.. 3494..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

people manage their hearing impairment so they have a better quality of life. They provide a full range of services for children and young people up to the age of 21, eligible adults, aged pensioners and most war veterans. These figures show that our clinicians are finding instances of hearing impairment. Children are being referred to the appropriate service for remedial intervention or support.

Since 2002 the program has identified a number of babies with significant hearing impairment who would otherwise have been diagnosed much later, which may have affected their language development. There are now two children with early cochlear implants because of the screening process.

The long-term value of establishing hearing in otherwise deaf babies is immeasurable and will allow these individuals to integrate into school appropriately. I believe it will provide them with choices in terms of support they may seek as they grow up and their parents decide what support they would like for them.

Hearing aids are being fitted early in other infants. Other long-term achievements remain to be evaluated once they have reached school, then university and then go out into the world. A number of other children who have been noted as at risk of hearing deterioration are being followed closely so we can intervene proactively.

Establishing the program is not an end in itself. We will continue to monitor the program to ensure that people of the ACT have access to best practice services. We also need to review the way we provide these services and the equipment used to test children, to ensure that we find all of those who will benefit from early intervention and support. We also know that the program is not the whole answer. Hearing loss can present after the neonatal period. This form of hearing loss can also result in delayed language development if not picked up early.

In summary, we are really pleased with the establishment of the newborn hearing program. Certainly the parent feedback around it is very positive. We will continue to monitor its progress to ensure that all children born with a hearing impairment are tested and that those who fail the test are referred to appropriate services.

I think this motion is worthy of Assembly support. We will certainly support the Greens' amendment. I take the point of Mr Smyth. I do not think Mr Gentleman is in any way being negative in his motion or denying choice to parents, should they want to seek other services for their children based on the screening process. But I acknowledge that there are groups within the deaf community who do not see particular medical interventions as necessary to support their hearing impairment. I acknowledge Dr Foskey's point, but I think the motion deserves the support of all of the Assembly. In the interests of agreement in the Assembly, the government is happy to support Dr Foskey's amendment.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (11.14): I was just going to acknowledge Ms Gallagher's support for the Greens' amendment. I advise that I am happy with that too.

Amendment agreed to.

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