Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New Sunshine Coast centre for young children with autism

Joint Media Release with:

  • Curtis Pitt MP, Queensland Minister for Disability Services
    Mark Ryan MP, Queensland Member for Morayfield
    Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

Young children with autism spectrum disorders can now access specialist early childhood services at a new early learning intervention centre opened today on the Sunshine Coast.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and the Queensland Member for Morayfield, Mark Ryan, today officially opened the Sippy Downs Early Learning Childcare centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Local families are already embracing the new centre, run by the AEIOU Foundation, with 66 children attending since the centre opened on 18 July. This includes 22 children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or Pervasive Development Delay.

The centre also provides support to another 10 children living in regional areas, with staff making regular visits to children in places such as Hervey Bay and Emerald.

The Australian Government has delivered $1.8 million in capital funding to establish the centre. The Queensland Government is providing recurrent funding of $460,000 a year for therapy services at the facility, as well as supporting specialist staff to run a regional support program. The land for the centre was provided by the University of the Sunshine Coast.

“It’s wonderful to open this new centre which will help so many local children to reach their full potential,” Ms Macklin said.

“I first visited the University of the Sunshine Coast during the 2010 election campaign to announce this would be the site of the second Queensland early learning intervention centre.

“It’s already a big help for local parents, including staff and students at the university who enjoying the benefits of having a child care centre on campus.”

Ms Macklin said seven specialist staff are employed at the centre, including three early childhood education teachers, a psychologist, two speech pathologists and an occupational therapist. They will work closely with the centre’s 19 trained child care workers.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas, said as many as one in 160 Australian children have an autism spectrum disorder, and their families and carers face many challenges.

“That’s why it is so important that Sunshine Coast families have access to local services and support to make sure their child gets the best possible start at life,” Senator McLucas said.

Queensland Minister for Disability Services Curtis Pitt said the State Government was pleased to partner with the Australian Government to establish the centre.

“Early intervention is absolutely critical. That’s why the Queensland Government is committed to working with the Australian Government and the non-government sector to deliver autism support services that intervene early and encourage skills development,” Mr Pitt said.

“In the past few years, the Queensland Government has made real progress in establishing autism early intervention services in regional Queensland.

“$130,000 of that recurrent funding is targeted at outreach services and supports to ensure individuals living in rural and remote areas who can’t access the centre are still able to have their needs met.”

State Member for Morayfield Mark Ryan, who represented Mr Pitt at the official opening today, said before the centre was completed, the Queensland Government funded the AEIOU Foundation to provide therapy services at a temporary early learning centre at Nambour.

“It’s nothing short of excellent news for the Sunshine Coast community that this new child care centre is now operating here in Sippy Downs,” Mr Ryan said.

Early intervention and ongoing family support is vital in helping children with an autism spectrum disorder unlock their potential, help them attend a mainstream school and participate more fully in the community.

This centre is in addition to the six other Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres the Australian Government has delivered across the country as part of a 2007 Federal Labor election commitment.

The six other centres are operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Burnie in Tasmania.

This new early intervention centre builds on the Australian Government’s Helping Children with Autism package. More than 14,000 children have received funding to access early intervention services since the package was introduced in October 2008.

The Queensland Government is also focused on expanding autism early intervention services across the state.

The Productivity Commission has also identified early intervention and giving people more choice about the services they receive to be an essential feature of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.