Speech by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Opening of Insight Specialist Primary School

Location: Berwick, Victoria


Thanks Alan Lachman and members all of the Insight family. I can well remember the first time I sat down with Alan in 2010 when I was the Shadow Minister for Disabilities. Alan presented me with a pretty straightforward proposition. He said that there were half a dozen schools for hearing impaired students in Victoria but there were no specialist schools for blind and vision impaired students. And he said that there were students who were blind and vision impaired who were at risk of growing up illiterate. He represented the love and concern of a parent. The case made itself.

For those who know Alan, you know one thing, if Alan asks you to do something you should not treat it as a request. It is an order. And you should just say yes, because it will save time.

But Alan and Maria Franca are both truly forces of nature and this school would not be here without their dedication, without their commitment. They do not see obstacles. They do not see challenges. They do not see hurdles. They only see opportunities and that is the way that they see the world for their kids and that is the way that they want the world to be for all blind and vision impaired students.

Today is a great partnership between the various levels of government and the Insight organisation. But I think more than anything, what today represents is the power of parents and the fact that parents are in the best position to know what is right for their kids.

And I’ve got to say, what I find as the Federal Disabilities Minister, one of the most arid and pointless debates is the debate whether individuals should have a mainstream support, a mainstream education or whether they should have more intensive support in a specialist setting. It’s got to be what works for the individual. I think for some individuals, they can get the support they need in the mainstream setting. And that’s good. But for other students, they need more intensive support. It might be only for a brief period of time. It might be periodically. Or it might be for a longer period of time. But you need to have those options there. Parents are in the best position to know what is right for their children.

And today really is an affirmation of parent power. So to everyone who has been part of this journey, congratulations. For me, as the Minister for Disabilities, this is the best thing that I have been involved with to date. Alan, Maria Franca, everyone here, congratulations.