Page 162 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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Education, approached Mrs Gwen Moore, whose intellectually disabled daughter had attended the Ainslie school, for assistance in conducting a survey of intellectually disabled people in Canberra. Mrs Moore introduced Mrs Pike to several families with disabled children and together they discovered the names of others through hospitals, clergymen and mothercraft centres.

A meeting for parents was held and the Sub-Normal and Incapacitated Children’s Association was formed. The aims of the association were to work for the welfare of disabled children, to act as an advisory body for their parents and to develop an informed opinion by wiping out the notion that there is a stigma attached to any form of physical or intellectual disability. The erection of a school was approved and the Koomarri school opened in 1955. The name “Koomarri” was chosen because it is an Aboriginal term meaning “shield” or “shelter”. In 1956, the official name became the Handicapped Children’s Association.

From there, the organisation grew rapidly, expanding the school and opening an occupational centre, Koomarri House. By the mid-1960s, the association’s activities, now boasting preschool, school and workshops, had outgrown their resources. Koomarri House was remodelled as a hostel, and new facilities were opened around Canberra. The Koomarri school became a wholly government run school in 1963.

By 1969, placements of Koomarri employees into the work force were being made through the Commonwealth Employment Service. The retail chain also commenced operation, with large rag collection activities organised. The organisation became the Koomarri Association in 1987, and commenced a transition in the late eighties, with a belief that all clients would either move to open employment or remain within the business services. Over the next years the association went about identifying and developing for clients options that provided non-segregated settings, reasonable wage outcomes and, ultimately, a better quality of life for them.

The association continued to go from strength to strength and in 2000 it became a provider of community housing, with the implementation of a unique model utilising tenancy agreements for people with disabilities as well as separating the tenancy from the provision of support. Another advance for the association was the acquisition of the long-stay caravan park in Narrabundah. The park, along with the retail branch, provides revenue so that the association can fund some of its own services.

By 2002, the association had fully established itself as a leader in the provision of services for people with disabilities and their families in the ACT and surrounding districts. To continue its vital growth, Koomarri established a certified agreement with employees with a disability. The agreement addresses the inconsistency in conditions for employees with a disability; provides a mechanism for individual productivity and competency assessment with a coinciding pay rate; and achieves employment conditions for employees with a disability that are leading edge nationally.

The association has also established a quality project, which is “identifying, articulating and communicating the association’s commitment to quality in all it does, as well as strengthening the organisation’s practical approach to providing quality service”. In 2005, the association altered its corporate structure and is now referred to only as

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