Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

NBN delivers disability support services direct to doorstep

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

More children with hearing or vision impairment living in regional and remote Australia will soon have access to specialist services and therapies through the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Visiting Aitkenvale Library in Townsville today, the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas, met with local families and children with disability to launch the new Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children Initiative and see the NBN technology in action.

The Government is investing $4.9 million over three years to deliver the online video-based initiative which will improve access to qualified allied health and education services for families and children with disability in regional and remote communities, where such expertise may otherwise be scarce.

The initiative will deliver services to about 125 additional children in regional and remote Australia, building on the 100 children already supported by the Government.

Ms Macklin said the NBN was breaking new ground in service delivery for young children with disability.

“The NBN gives children with disability and their families the opportunity to get the best possible start to life, regardless of where they live,” Ms Macklin said.

“If there is no specialist close to where they live, a child with disability can access ‘real time’ support and advice through these new online services.

“For example, a child will be able to meet with a speech pathologist in Brisbane and have a therapy session online through this new video conferencing service.

“This will make a real difference in the lives of children with disability and help reduce the stress and pressures on families trying to access specialist services that are only available in large towns and cities.”

Senator Conroy said the NBN will provide the best and most reliable channel for families in regional communities to access health and educational services online.

“Through rolling out the NBN the Government is able to deliver new and improved services that will make a real difference to people’s lives, right into their living room,” Senator Conroy said.

Senator McLucas said the funding would deliver early intervention for children with disabilities, giving them the best chance of reaching their full potential.

“We know it’s critical that we support children with hearing or vision impairment as early as possible, because without it, they are more likely to fall behind at school and miss key development milestones,” Senator McLucas 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.

Ms Macklin and Senator McLucas announced there will be a competitive tender process to deliver these new services shortly.