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Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

$4.8 million for new autism care centre in Burnie

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Kate Ellis MP, Minister for Early Childhood Education Childcare and Youth
  • Sid Sidebottom MP, Member for Braddon

A new Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in north-west Tasmania will give young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders access to specialist early childhood services so they can reach their full potential.

The Australian Government is providing almost $4.8 million for the construction and operation of the Burnie-based centre.

Burnie City Council is the preferred provider to operate the centre with funding of more than $3 million over three years.

The centre will be co-located with the Alexander Beetle House Children’s Centre in Burnie, with satellite services extended to families across north-west Tasmania.

Construction will begin early next year and will cost around $1.8 million.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten and the Member for Braddon Sid Sidebottom today visited the main campus site in Burnie.

The centre will employ six specialist staff, including an early childhood education teacher, psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists to work alongside five trained child care workers.

This is one of six centres to be delivered as part of the Australian Government’s $190 million Helping Children with Autism package in conjunction with the Government’s commitment to deliver up to 260 Early Learning and Care Centres nationally.

‘We know that as many as one in 160 Australian children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their parents and carers face many difficult and complex challenges. There is a risk of feeling isolated and unsupported which is why it is so important for these families to have access to professional advice and support,’ Ms Macklin said.

‘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.’

The Minister for Early Childhood Education and Child Care, Kate Ellis, said the centre would help children with autism to reach their full potential.

‘The early years, between birth and six years, are vital for assisting children with autism,’ Ms Ellis said.

‘This centre will deliver at least 20 child care places for children up to six years old with autism, providing local parents with the support they need in caring for their children.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten, said the centre would offer crucial support and information to Tasmanian families.

‘Having a child diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be an isolating and difficult experience for parents,’ Mr Shorten said.

‘This centre will help these children get the best start in life – making it easier for them to attend school and participate in every day activities.’

The Member for Braddon Sid Sidebottom said it was important for local families to have easy access to specialist support.

‘Prior to the 2007 election the need for a designated Autism Centre for the north-west region was raised with me by a number of local families,’ Mr Sidebottom said.

‘This centre will see children with Autism Spectrum Disorders receive dedicated early intervention and care – services which have been sorely missed in our region until now.’

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Burnie is expected to open in mid-2010.

An autism specific centre is already operating in Adelaide and centres will also operate in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.