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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 28 October 2010) . . Page.. 5310 ..


The latest data shows that the vast majority of hearing impaired children who graduate from The Shepherd Centre to a mainstream school will score in the ‘normal’ range for vocabulary (79 per cent) and language (71 per cent) as they enter school.

Meanwhile around 84 per cent of the general population of children will be in the normal range for language and vocabulary skills.

Why would we deny these children those skills at an early age, and why would the minister force this problem downstream so the teachers in mainstream schooling classes will be faced with this problem? When we intervene early, we get better outcomes. If there are good outcomes, this reduces any additional costs that might be required later in life, especially in relation to those caring for students as they move through life. Working with these students at the earliest possible point also assists the families of these students. Better outcomes for the students would be expected; hence, there would be less call on the families’ resources to provide the best possible opportunities for these students.

Mr Barr’s attempt at micro-economic reform which he told us was being taken to make the Department of Education and Training more efficient would in fact end up costing the community and the department even more in resources. It would simply transfer the cost of working with students with a disability onto teachers working in upper primary schools, high schools, colleges and tertiary institutions. Some sort of economic reform! All Minister Barr was doing was cost shifting, which would have resulted in greater disadvantage for some of our most vulnerable people.

The decision to remove teachers of students with disabilities was not efficient micro-economic reform; it was very, very bad policy. It was inefficient policy and it was a dismal failure. Mr Barr, for all his claimed economic credentials, should have known better. The proposal to remove or reduce teachers from a range of services for students with a disability was a thoughtless act by this minister, an unkind act by this minister and a lazy act by this minister. Ultimately, it was an act that he has had to recant through the pressure of this place. What is more, the hypocrisy demonstrated by this act was compounded by the words used by the minister in his statement made on Tuesday and the document released on Tuesday. There is clearly no commitment from this minister to those words, and it is a wonderful thing for this place to have held him to account.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (3.33): I thank Mr Smyth for bringing on this matter of public importance this afternoon. As Minister for Education and Training I am determined—as, in fact, I have just been quoted—to ensure that every young Canberran gets the best possible start in life. I am determined that every Canberran reaches their full potential and has the best possible chance to lead a happy, healthy and productive life.

This sometimes involves making tough decisions. It sometimes involves steering reform and change that some may find difficult. It often means copping flak, not least of all from the ill-informed who sit opposite. Clearly, this afternoon it also involves


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