Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Improved services for children with disability in regional and remote Australia

Joint Media Release with:

  • Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Minister for Disability Reform
  • Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

A new service will put children with disability living in regional and remote Australia in touch with specialists in the city, through a $4.1 million investment from the Gillard Government for the Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children initiative.

The new initiative will harness the National Broadband Network (NBN) to provide video and online access to allied health and education professionals for families and children with hearing and vision impairment living in regional and remote communities.

The Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas today demonstrated the technology, putting in touch children at Vision Australia’s Headquarters in Brisbane and the Cora Barclay Centre in Adelaide.

Vision Australia and the Cora Barclay Centre are both part of the VidKids Alliance, which has been chosen to deliver the Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children initiative.

Minister Macklin said the initiative will support around 125 additional children with hearing or vision impairment in regional and remote Australia. This builds on the support already provided by the Government through a similar initiative.

“The NBN will revolutionise the way we deliver disability services. It allows allied health services to be provided into the homes, schools and communities of children with disability living in regional and remote areas, many for the first time,” Ms Macklin said.

“Children and their families will be able to meet with specialists and receive information, guidance and help to develop their life skills.”

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas said the Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children initiative will reduce the stress and pressures on families trying to access allied health services only available in large towns and cities.

“This initiative will make an enormous difference in the lives of children with disability, by teaching families strategies they can adopt in their day to day lives to help these young children meet their development milestones,” Senator McLucas said.

“We know there is a major challenge getting therapy services to people in regional and remote parts of Australia and many families have to drive hundreds of kilometres to get those services.

“This enables families to receive those services via the NBN – they can literally undertake a therapy consultation online.

“The Gillard Government is committed to reforming disability services – that’s why we are delivering $1 billion for the first stage of an NDIS.”

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy said the NBN provides the best and most reliable channel for families in regional communities to access important services online.

“Using the NBN for live high-quality video conferencing, specialists will be able to see children clearly and offer real-time advice as they undertake exercises and other everyday activities,” Senator Conroy said.

This funding is in addition to the almost $580,000 the Government currently provides to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children for the Teleschool initiative each year.

The VidKids Alliance comprises Vision Australia and First Voice who work in partnership with the Shepherd Centre, the Hear and Say Centre, Cora Barclay Centre, Telethon Speech and Hearing and the Advisory Council for Children with Impaired Hearing Victoria.


Ethan’s Story – what can be achieved with the right support

(Ethan will receive a therapy session via the remote service at the event)

Ethan is eight years old and was diagnosed with a bilateral profound hearing loss at two.

He immediately commenced intensive therapy on a weekly basis and received his first cochlear implant at two and a half. Therapy continued up until Ethan started school, when he received his second implant. The combination of bilateral implants, ongoing therapy and the tremendous dedication and commitment from his parents Matthew and Michelle saw Ethan commence school with age appropriate language and speech.

Ethan continues to receive weekly school support to ensure his language and speech continues to develop in line with his peers, and he is given access to achieving the best educational outcomes possible.

Ethan lives on a chicken farm with his family and enjoys the freedom, space and chores that go with being a country boy. He has three younger siblings, Jaiden who does not have a hearing loss, and Josiah and Sophie who are also both bilaterally profoundly deaf with cochlear implants.