Page 3285 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 17 September 2013

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Another story I read in the media only a couple of months ago emphasises why we need an early intervention program here in the ACT. A Canberra family made the tough decision to pack up their Canberra home and move to Manchester in England to give their autistic sons better treatment. The mother said, “When he was diagnosed, my younger son was non-verbal and it was quite a battle to get speech therapy in Australia. Early intervention is key, and we weren’t getting any real assurances about the level of support he would have.”

Due to the early intervention her younger son was given in the UK, he has gone from being non-verbal to being quite a talkative and happy kid who is now able to say what he wants rather than get angry. Why would a family need to go to the UK to get this type of support? We should be able to provide it here in Australia.

New Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, who has a daughter with autism, saw the value in this policy and last year publicly pledged that all moneys raised by the Ricky Stuart Foundation would go towards this school, should it become a reality. Last year that amount was in excess of $250,000, which would have gone quite a way to helping these families.

We are hopeful that an AEIOU centre may be under consideration at the University of Canberra. I would like to congratulate the University of Canberra for the efforts they have made so far. It is disappointing that the government have not taken a bipartisan approach to this policy. They rejected our motion in April. But I now encourage the government to do whatever they can to support the university towards their undertaking.

I would very much look forward to an early intervention centre being operational in the ACT at some point in the future and I very much look forward to seeing the benefits within the Canberra community that early intervention for children with autism will provide. Thank you.

MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (4.25): I am pleased today to speak to the matter of public importance that considers the importance of providing intensive early intervention programs for children with autism in the ACT. Ms Lawder may not be aware of this—actually, I think she is aware of some of the history of this—but it was only last May that I presented to the Assembly a comprehensive report on services available to ACT families and individuals affected by autism. I am quite happy to provide that to your office.

Again, it was only a few months ago that Mrs Lawder’s predecessor, Mr Seselja, made much the same speech to this place when speaking to a motion. It is now quite ironic that Mr Seselja is aspiring to be a member of a government that does not even have a minister recognising disability. Indeed, Ms Lawder should note that at the last election there was only one community support policy offered by the Canberra Liberals, the ticket that you espoused. That was for the AEIOU school to be established here. There was no other disability commitment, no other community

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