Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

New centre opens for children with autism in Melbourne

A new Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Melbourne will give young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders access to specialist early childhood services to help them reach their full potential.

The Australian Government is investing more than $3.6 million in the La Trobe University Margot Prior Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre.

The centre is a partnership between La Trobe University and the Royal Children’s Hospital.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, today officially opened the new centre as part of celebrations for International Day of People with Disability.

The state-of-the-art centre will provide a maximum of 20 child care places for children aged up to six years with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

It will employ six specialist staff, including two early childhood education teachers, a psychologist, speech pathologist and occupational therapist to work closely with five trained child care workers.

In addition to the Australian Government’s contribution, the Victorian Government is contributing $500,000 and La Trobe University a further $369,000 to the construction of the centre.

It is one of six autism specific centres around the country being supported as part of the Government’s $190 million Helping Children with Autism package.

The partnership between La Trobe University and the Royal Children’s Hospital will also include research into early intervention services for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This will form part of evidence-based research across all six centres on how best to support children to transition to school.

As many as one in 160 Australian children have an autism spectrum disorder, and their families and carers face many challenges, including often feeling isolated and unsupported.

This is why it is important these families have access to advice and support to improve their child’s quality of life, and help them participate more fully in the community.

The centres will allow children to learn and interact with others, while their parents can access an extensive support network, and share their experiences with other parents in similar circumstances.

Each of these centres is helping children to achieve the best possible start in life, so that they can have happy and healthy lives.

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres are also operating in Burnie, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

Today’s opening coincides with International Day of People with Disability.

International Day of People with Disability is about building awareness of the important role of people with disability in our community, and showcasing their extraordinary achievements.

It is also a great opportunity to promote a better understanding of disability issues and to recognise the dignity and rights of all people with disability.

One in five Australians experience some degree of disability, and the Gillard Government is committed to ensuring they are able to fulfil their potential.

For more information on International Day of People with Disability please visit