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Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Page: 1017

Ms BIRD (7:45 PM) —On 17 September I was invited to attend a thankyou morning tea at one of my local schools at Corrimal. It was the Aspect South Coast School. They were having a morning tea to say thank you to a whole variety of people in the community who have undertaken activities in support of the school. The school provides educational programs for children with autism aged between four and 16. It not only services my electorate but covers the whole of the Illawarra from Helensburgh in the north to Kiama in the south and west to Appin. It provides educational services to Shoalhaven and the Riverina as well. It operates from its prime site at Corrimal in my electorate but also has satellite classes in both Department of Education and Training and Catholic schools across the region, including in the seat of my colleague the member for Throsby.

This particular school has a tremendous reputation. It is very well regarded locally and well supported. I was particularly pleased to be able to be there to celebrate with them the multipurpose library facility and two new classrooms that they had been able to put in place with the $850,000 grant under the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program. The principal, Mr Bruce Rowles, told me that this was something that they had been desperately keen to do but had had a view that it would take them years and years of fundraising before they would get to the point of building these new facilities. And we celebrated the thankyou morning tea in those facilities. It was particularly rewarding to see how important that program had been to that school and how well received it was by the students and their parents and supporters.

All of the different classes of students put on musical performances for us. Music plays a very big part in the curriculum at the school. They were all particularly enjoyable. The young children did a lot of rhythmic activities with drums and percussion instruments. Then there was a young woman called Cheyenne Mazzini who sung for us. She did an individual performance and was part of a choir performance. She is an amazing performer. Singing has given her a great deal of confidence and given her an opportunity to expand her school performance because of finding that confidence through singing. It was a tremendous performance.

I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge those from our community who were also at the thankyou morning tea who go out and do all sorts of things in order to raise money for the school or to provide activities for the students at the school. I should here acknowledge that in 2010 the school was supported by the combined Rotary clubs of the Illawarra. They fundraised for the school through the ‘Wings over the Illawarra’ event, a tremendous annual activity. Other supporters included the Wollongong Innerwheel Club; the Illawarra Police; Charity Ball—another annual event that is a tremendous fundraiser, and that was in 2010 aimed at raising funds for the school; the Woonona Women’s Bowling Club; the Kiama Leagues Club; the Wollongong RSL Bowling Club; Michael Seaman and the Goodguys, a local business; the Leisure Coast Horse Trail Riders, who are particularly involved in activities with the students; Masonicare; Gloria Jeans at Figtree; Quota International; the North Wollongong Surf Club; the University of Wollongong through the University Cares and Social Club; Paul Charlton and the Woonona Boardriders; McKeon’s Swim School, which provides activities for the students as well; Doreen O’Keefe; Interchange Illawarra; and the Illawarra Small Business Club.

I met some volunteers. As with so many schools, the volunteers are an invaluable part of it, particularly Helen Whelan. Helen this year was the Autism Spectrum Australia Volunteer of the Year for 2010. I also met local volunteers Jim Caitons and Di and Stu Pearson. I want to commend all of those who support a tremendous local school. I want to commend Bruce and his staff, who take such joy in the job that they do. I also want to commend the students for a very welcoming and enjoyable day at the school. I look forward to visiting time and time again.