Page 3406 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 September 2015

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MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Coe.

MR COE: Minister, how can the ACT education community have confidence in you as a minister when specialist groups express a lack of confidence in your management of children with special needs?

MS BURCH: I can go to any number of comments that have been made in support of me, particularly around disability. The Ricky Stuart Foundation has been in the courtyard here and at functions, where some of you have been, where Mr Stuart has said very clearly that if it weren’t for support from me and my office, the respite centres would not be progressing. Project Independence, Glenn Keys, nominated as Australian of the Year, has said that my support has been absolutely critical for progressing Project Independence. Let’s take education. We signed an MOU about a month ago with Catholic and independent schools. They described it as a monumental occasion where we all agreed that all schools would annually sign up to an assurance for our community. Every school, regardless of the sector or the suburb, can provide assurance to Canberra families that that school will meet all its obligations. If you are asking if the schools sector has confidence in me, this the first time an agreement of this sort has been reached and it was reached under my ministership.


MR WALL: My question is to the minister for education and Minister for Disability. Minister, I refer to a statement of no confidence in you by Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder, who state:

The members of its expert panel are at least partially responsible for the design, staff training, operation and monitoring of existing education services in the ACT so, they have a substantial conflict of interest.

They go on to say that the government shows little or no understanding of the level of systemic failure for autistic students in the ACT. Minister, how do you respond to these serious concerns?

MS BURCH: It is interesting that Bob Buckley has made such negative comments against Professor Shaddock, against the human rights commissioner for children and young people and against Sue Packer, who is a well-regarded pediatrician in this city. That is what he has done by saying they have a conflict of interest and that they are not up to the task. I will challenge Mr Buckley on that, because I would say Professor Shaddock, Sue Packer and Alasdair Roy are, indeed, up to the task. I also refer to those critical friends they have brought in to support the expert panel—people with national expertise and standing in autism. That is the group that will look into this.

The opposition should look at how the education system supports students with autism. If you wanted to look, I can give you the list of autism units across our public education system. I direct you to the Education and Training Directorate’s website which goes into great detail about the network student engagement teams. There is support out there. Can we do better across sectors? Absolutely. That is the purpose of the expert panel, and that is the advice they will bring back to me.

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