Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

New autism services for young children in North-West Tasmania

Joint Media Release with:

  • Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  • Peter Garrett MP, Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
  • Sid Sidebottom MP, Member for Braddon

Young children with autism spectrum disorders can now access specialist early childhood services vital for them to reach their full potential at a new, autism-specific early learning and care centre in Burnie.

The Australian Government is providing more than $4.1 million over three years to Burnie City Council to establish and operate the centre which will be co-located with the Alexander Beetle House Child Care Centre in Burnie. The Centre will provide outreach services to families across North-West Tasmania.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas today officially opened the new centre.

The centre is one of six autism specific centres, which are part of the Australian Government’s $190 millionHelping Children with Autism package.

The centre employs six specialist staff, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, two speech therapists, an early childhood teacher and a social worker.

“As many as one in 160 Australian children have an autism spectrum disorder,” Senator McLucas said.

“Early intervention can make a huge difference to the quality of life for children with an autism spectrum disorder, which highlights the importance of this centre to local families.”

“Children with autism will benefit from playing and learning with other children in a supportive environment at the new centre, to help them grow in confidence,” the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said.

The Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Peter Garrett, said “The early years are an important time for all children, but it is especially important for helping children with autism to reach their full potential,” Mr Garrett said.

“The work done in this centre will build on the existing evidence base about autism spectrum disorders and promote best practice.”

Member for Braddon Sid Sidebottom said the Burnie centre would offer crucial support and information to parents.

“Having a child diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be an isolating and difficult experience for parents.”

“The Burnie centre will be a place where children can learn and interact with others while their parents tap into an extensive support network, as well as sharing their experiences with other parents in similar circumstances.”

From 1 July 2011, the Australian Government will provide new access to early intervention services for children with a disability under theBetter Start for Children with Disability initiative.

Children under six diagnosed with sight and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome will be eligible for services under this new program.

A maximum of $6,000 can be spent in any financial year and families will have up to their child’s seventh birthday to use the funding.

Many families of children with severe disability cannot afford to access early intervention for their children or bear a huge burden in paying for therapies and treatments from their own pocket.

The Government wants to relieve some of the financial pressure and make vital early intervention services more affordable and accessible for families.