Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Connecting families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services

A national rollout of 150 PlayConnect Playgroups over four years will help families and carers of young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or ASD like symptoms.

Two NSW playgroups met for the first time last week in Hurley Park Hall, Campbelltown, and Lake Albert in Wagga Wagga.

Another eight Victorian playgroups will start by the end of the year in Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay and Banyule. Playgroups will also begin in Mackay, Toowoomba and Cairns in Queensland and Canterbury and Blacktown in NSW by the end of the year.

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs , Jenny Macklin, said Playgroup Australia is receiving $4.5 million from the Australian Government to establish 150 PlayConnect Playgroups across the country over the next four years. The first 50 are planned to be operating by June 2009.

The national network of Playconnect Playgroups is part of the Australian Government’s $190 million Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) package.

The playgroups will provide vital support in connecting families of children who have ASD, families awaiting a diagnosis, or families who are concerned about their child’s development,” Ms Macklin said.

It is very important that children with ASD are provided with specialist care from an early age. Playgroups are an effective way of connecting with families to provide adequate support in the child’s early years.

It links parents and carers and gives their children play-based learning opportunities, including families with Indigenous or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”

The Playconnect Playgroups are also being established to support families living in rural and remote areas.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten, said PlayConnect playgroups will connect families and carers to resources available in their local area and to other services available through the Government’s HCWA package.

The package recognises the importance of diagnosis and early intervention treatments and services for children with ASD,” Mr Shorten said.

It also provides increased access to education and support for families and carers of children with ASD, new Medicare items for diagnosis and early intervention treatment for children aged under 13 years.”

Playgroup Australia will work in partnership with State and Territory Playgroup Associations to deliver the playgroups.