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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2979 ..

Autism Association - Funding

MR WHITECROSS: Mr Speaker, my question without notice is to Mr Stefaniak in his capacity as Minister for Education and Training and also in his capacity as Minister for Housing and Family Services. Minister, will you explain why you and your department have given such low priority to the Autism Association that it has not been allocated funding by the Federal department in the latest round of funding?

MR STEFANIAK: I thank the member for the question. Mr Speaker, the Commonwealth Government provides supplementary funding for non-school organisations in the ACT through the intervention support sub-component of the national equity program for schools. This year the Commonwealth non-school organisation funds were administered by the Commonwealth through DEET. The Autism Association of the ACT initially was not allocated funding but was wait-listed. When additional funding became available to this component the Autism Association of the ACT was funded $10,000 towards the salary of a psychologist liaison officer. I understand that the Commonwealth will not be providing additional funding for 1996. For 1996 funding, the Commonwealth sought to devolve administrative responsibility for funding to the ACT Department of Education and Training. This was agreed to. However, funding allocations still had to be made within Commonwealth guidelines and criteria.

This year, Mr Speaker, in accordance with the criteria set down by the Commonwealth, the Autism Association of the ACT was ranked as low and, accordingly, it was recommended that it not receive funding. The funding advisory committee, Mr Speaker, comprises representatives of the ACT Department of Education and Training and Children's and Youth Services, the Catholic Education Office, the ACT Chapter of the Special Education Association, the Child Advocate, the Australian Education Union, the ACT Disability Services Advisory Committee, the Child Health and Development Service, the ACT Council of P and C Associations, the Independent Schools Staff Association, the Association of Parents and Friends of ACT Schools, the Association of Independent Schools of the ACT and the ACT Chapter of the Early Intervention Association.

Mr Speaker, there were 16 applicants, of whom eight were successful. The guidelines are set by the Commonwealth in terms of criteria. So, Mr Speaker, unfortunately, those funds were not available. Perhaps Mr Whitecross might like to take up the guidelines and the question of Commonwealth funding with his Federal colleagues.

MR WHITECROSS: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, as is the custom in this place when asking supplementary questions, the first part of the supplementary question is: Please answer the question I just asked, which is: Why was the decision made to apply such a low funding priority to the Autism Association? You have not answered it. You said who was consulted but you have not said why they were allocated such a low priority. What were the reasons?

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