Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

World Down Syndrome Day

Today marks the sixth anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day, an opportunity to learn more about Down syndrome and to recognise the important role that people with this condition play in our society.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disability and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, said that today was a great opportunity for people across Australia and beyond to take the time to become more aware about Down syndrome.

“It is important that we work to create a more inclusive community that more fully embraces people with Down syndrome and welcomes their participation in society,” Senator McLucas said.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the rate of Down syndrome among infants in Australia is 11 per 10,000 births.

Senator McLucas said the Australian Government has committed $122 million to providing better services to children with disability, including those with Down syndrome, through the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

“Under this program, from 1 July this year, eligible children aged under six diagnosed with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fragile X syndrome, and sight and hearing impairments, will have access to up to $12,000 in funding to pay for early intervention services,” Senator McLucas said.

“The funding will provide more affordable access for families and carers to early intervention services such as speech pathology, occupational therapy, orthoptics, physiotherapy, audiology and psychology.

New Medicare items will also be available for children up to 15 years, including up to 20 treatment items for each eligible child.

Executive Officer of Down Syndrome Victoria, and mother of a child with Down syndrome, Catherine McAlpine, said the Better Start program is a much welcome investment that would help children with disabilities and their families.

“The importance of early intervention in the development of children with Down syndrome is paramount.”

“I look forward to the commencement of the Better Start program and the benefits it will bring many children with not just Down syndrome, but a range of other disabilities, and their families.”

Senator McLucas said the Australian Government’s Better Start program would help address the need for greater support for children with disability.

“Our initiative will help to relieve some of the financial pressure faced by families by making early intervention services much more affordable and accessible. ”

“Evidence shows that young children diagnosed with disabilities that affect their development benefit from early intervention to give them the best possible start in life.”

“Access to high quality services early in childhood is critical for helping these children to better participate in everyday life and attend school.

“This package is just one part of our Government’s commitment to providing better support for people with disability.”