Legislative Council: Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Autism Services

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (15:21): Supplementary: just confirming that the autism inclusion teacher is responsible for teaching teachers, rather than providing direct support to children?

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (15:22): I feel I have explained this quite a few times. The autism inclusion teacher—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE: I will slow it down a little bit. When our teachers come out of university, the problem we are finding is that there is no basic teachers degree that necessarily covers anything about disability studies, inclusive studies and what is autism. This is what we have been advised through our consultation. Obviously, we need to be doing something as a government to step in and start to make that cultural change and start to really build up that knowledge.

This is the largest network that is happening anywhere in the nation. This is an incredible thing that we should all be really, really proud of. We are taking a teacher out of the classroom and giving them that knowledge. We are training them. We are giving them face-to-face knowledge. That face-to-face training has already been undertaken, I am advised, for many of our teachers. That is an incredible achievement. Only seven months ago, these teachers didn't exist. Now we are taking them out of the classroom to train them up and give them that knowledge.

It will take time because we can't be saying to teachers, 'Go and support every autistic child in the classroom right now,' if they don't have that knowledge. We need to be making sure that they can get the knowledge so they can support their students in the best possible way. We also need to be making sure that our teachers are getting the knowledge so they can share it with their peers because we want one teacher at least to be that pillar of knowledge in our schools so that peers can go to them and say, 'What can I be doing to best support kids in my classroom?' Then we can start really changing on the ground that cultural understanding and that knowledge base of what autism is.