Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

New resource to encourage greater inclusion for children with disability

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, today launched a new resource book which aims to promote inclusion of children with disability in mainstream early education and care services.

Senator McLucas said the book, Participating and Belonging: Inclusion in Practice was produced by Victoria’s largest early childhood intervention and inclusion support agency Noah’s Ark.

“Based on the latest research and literature, the book fills a gap in knowledge and practical guidance for a range of early childhood workers who work with young children with disability and their families,” Senator McLucas said.

“The book will be distributed to educators, early childhood professionals and children’s services consultants and will aim to encourage greater inclusion of children with disability in mainstream early education and care services.

Senator McLucas said the book is the culmination of Noah’s Ark’s Early Childhood Intervention and Inclusion project – a celebration of the support provided by Noah’s Ark over the past 40 years.

“Noah’s Ark provides critical support services for young children with a range of disabilities and developmental delays and their families across Victoria, ensuring they get the best possible start to life and are prepared for school.

“It is a testament to their tremendous success that Noah’s Ark has become Victoria’s largest early childhood intervention and inclusion support agency, currently working with over 1,600 families.

“And they are spreading the impact of their work further across the state by providing training and support to a range of child service providers throughout Victoria.”

Chief Executive Officer of Noah’s Ark, John Forster said it is more important than ever to make sure children with disabilities don’t miss out on the essential learning experiences they get when they are successfully included along with the rest of the community.

“There is increasing community recognition of the critical importance of the early years of children’s lives and significant Australian Government led reforms in this area,” said Mr Forster.

“The commitment to improving the quality of child care and kindergarten through the National Quality Framework and the introduction of a universal 15 hours program for all 4 year olds indicate how the learning and development of all young children is being taken seriously.”

Participating and Belonging: Inclusion in Practice will assist early childhood educators meet the needs of all children in the community, including children with disabilities, and make sure every child benefits from improved services.

“The practices in this resource show that children with disabilities can learn and develop along with their peers when they are recognised as individuals and teaching approaches, routines and experiences are adapted appropriately.”

“It’s quite achievable, but educators need to be properly supported”.

Senator McLucas said the Australian Government is working hard to improve support and care for children with disability and their families.

“We know that providing support as early as possible can make a huge difference to the development and lifelong learning of children with disability – it better prepares them for school, helps them participate in everyday activities, and gives them the best chance of reaching their full potential.

“That is why we have provided more than $220 million under the Helping Children with Autism package and more that $140 million under the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative, to help eligible children gain increased access to early intervention services and therapies.

Senator McLucas said the Government would continue to focus on supporting these children and families as it works to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“A National Disability Insurance Scheme would really focus on making sure early intervention services are available to families when they need them, so our children start on the right foot,” she said.

The Australian Government is investing $1 billion over four years for the first stage of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The first stage will launch in five states and territories across Australia – in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. This means that from the middle of next year, thousands of Australians with disability, their families and carers will start to benefit from the first stage of an NDIS.

Among the launches is a children’s cohort model which will be launched in South Australia for eligible children across the State aged between 0-14.