Legislative Council: Thursday, February 09, 2023



The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON (15:06): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the parliamentary secretary to the Premier on autism.

Leave granted.

The Hon. L.A. HENDERSON: I have permission to use the family's name in the following explanation. Mrs Kirsten Richards and her daughter, who has autism and severe clinical anxiety, negotiated a One Plan for her daughter to complete her SACE this year in year 12. The plan with SACE-approved allowances was agreed by all parties in writing. Mrs Richards tells me that she understood she would have oral and email access to a SACE coordinator.

Her daughter often doesn't understand instructions or forgets tasks, so Mrs Richards needs to have access to her daughter's coordinator to ensure that she is able to support her daughter in her studies. She tells me that since school has returned, she has been told that she is only allowed to speak with the principal and no-one else about her daughter's plan. She tells me that she is only able to email the coordinator, but feels that sometimes an email is not sufficient and that she needs to speak to the coordinator directly.

Mrs Richards is very frustrated as she feels that she has been locked out of any direct involvement with the SACE program for her daughter. She is concerned that by essentially removing her from her daughter's educational support network, it will hinder her daughter's efforts in her SACE studies. My questions to the parliamentary secretary to the Premier are:

1. Will you intervene to ensure that her daughter will have every opportunity to successfully complete her SACE?

2. How many children and families have signed up to receive support from an autism lead in each state school?

3. How many children are waiting for support?

4. Given the above explanation, do you think the government is failing to deliver on their election promise to provide straightforward and additional support to families and children with autism?

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (15:08): I thank the honourable member for her question. Obviously, we take all of these stories very seriously. I would be more than happy to refer that story to the Minister for Education, who looks after One Plan. I am happy to take those details on.

In regard to the Autism Inclusion Teacher role, I just want to make it really clear about what that role is. You asked, 'Are students getting enough support?' and you referred to them as 'lead teachers' but they are called Autism Inclusion Teachers. I do want to make it really clear that the reason why we have developed this role, which started just last week, is that it's about giving knowledge to our teachers.

At the moment, we have teachers who are fantastic. They are in our schools and they are doing a really good job, but what we need to be doing is giving an opportunity for them to go off and get the training and knowledge that they need. That's why we have created these Autism Inclusion Teachers, so that they can start to get training in what is the best way to support students.

It is really about not doing one-on-one work with students. It is about the teacher becoming a pillar of knowledge in our schools, so that pillar of knowledge can be there to support other fellow teachers as well. That is the primary focus of this role. It is about teachers supporting teachers and sharing that knowledge between each other.