Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Milestone for deaf and blind children

Joint Media Release with:

  • Julie Owens MP, Member for Parramatta

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, and Member for Parramatta, Julie Owens, today visited the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in North Rocks, Sydney, to help celebrate the enrolment of their 1000th child in their core education and therapy services.

The visit also coincided with the commencement of the Gillard Government’s new $147 million Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

Meeting with staff, parents and children at the Institute today, Ms Owens said the Better Start initiative will be a big help for local families of children with disability.

“We know that early intervention can make a big difference to the quality of life for a child with disability but one of the biggest hurdles for families is the high cost of early these services.”

Better Start is making these services more accessible to local families by providing up to $12,000 for early intervention services and therapies they can choose themselves,” Ms Owens said.

Children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and moderate or severe vision or hearing impairments including deafblindness, under the age of six years, will be eligible.

Senator McLucas said eligible children will be able to access a range of early intervention service providers, including speech pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, orthoptists and psychologists.

Registrations for Better Start opened to families on 1 July.

“Families can register through Carers Australia over the phone or in person at the Better Start Registration and Information Service based in every capital city and in regional centres across Australia,” she said.

Ms Owens said “I really encourage local parents of young children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and vision or hearing impairments to register for Better Start.”

During the visit to the RIDBC, Senator McLucas met Zakariyah Whatham, the 1000th child enrolled in their core education and therapy services.

“Congratulations to the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children on reaching this special milestone. I look forward to continuing to work with their team to improve the lives of children with disability.”

RIDBC Chief Executive, Chris Rehn, said “We know that intensive early intervention greatly maximises the outcomes for children with a disability and we are delighted the Government is investing in such a critical area,” said Mr Rehn.

For more information on Better Start, contact Carers Australia by phoning 1800 242 636 or the Office of Julie Owens MP on 02 9689 1455.