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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3824


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (19:10): This Friday, 23 March 2012, I will be commencing my Canning Walk for Autism with an official launch at the Mandurah foreshore at 8 am. This event will see me walk through the electorate of Canning over 10 days. I will walk more than 100 kilometres, visiting 43 schools along the way, to raise awareness and much needed funding to support families of children with autism.

This event was inspired by my relationship with 13-year old Dermott Barnard, who has autism, and l am honoured to have Dermott as the face of my fundraising campaign. I have known Dermott since 2005 when he adopted me through the Adopt a Politician campaign. Since that time, I have seen Dermott grow and succeed despite his battle with autism. I have been so touched by Dermott's passion for life, including his passion for the Dockers AFL team, although I cannot say I agree with him on that because I am a member of the Eagles. He and I quite often joust over that issue.

I have initiated this 10-day, 100-kilometre walk to do what I can so that other people with autism have a chance to become champions, the way Dermott Barnard has. This event is being supported by the Autism Association of WA and their insurer, Zenith Insurance. All money raised will go straight to Autism WA, as they are best placed to ensure the money is used appropriately. Autism Awareness in Canberra has also been most supportive, helping to promote this event through its social media network.

During the walk, on Tuesday, 27 March, I will be visiting INKA Respite in Lake Clifton, which is also in my electorate. It is a not-for-profit farm-style respite stay for teenagers and adults with autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome. I will be able to join the staff and residents at INKA for lunch and will, I am sure, learn much more about autism and ways people can help.

Joining me on the walk will be some of my parliamentary colleagues, members of local government, business people and people from community groups and other support networks. Both state and federal members are joining me and I am very pleased to say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop, and the WA Minister for Health, Kim Hames, are among them. I would like to thank all of these people for the support they are giving me during what I expect will be a somewhat gruelling event, although not as gruelling as the challenges faced by those with autism and their families. I would also like to thank those generous people who have donated through my fundraising webpage. Those who wish to donate, please visit www.everydayhero.com.au/don_randall.

I would now like to take this opportunity to tell you more about autism and its effects. Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, describes a group of related disorders belonging to the same diagnostic category and sharing the same core symptoms. These include autism, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. Autism is a complex developmental disorder where a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships is inhibited. Autism is a lifelong disorder and is the most common developmental disorder in Australia. Today, one in 110 Australian children are diagnosed with ASD.

Early signs that can alert a parent to the concern that their child may not be developing as they should are in the manner in which their child responds to them. This is the key to dealing with autism. No-one has found a cure, but early intervention is the key. The child may have limited speech or may not learn to speak at all. The child may also have difficulty in understanding others or perhaps the child does not seem interested in playing with other children, even though the child has developed good spoken language skills. Distress with change of routine is another common feature. They love to be in the same routine and they feel uncomfortable if they are taken out of it. The good news is that with intervention, particularly early intervention, children with autism can be supported and they can go on to gain many of the skills that most of us enjoy. My good friend Dermott Barnard is a great example of this, and credit must go to his mother, Lyn, who has spent so much time making sure that Dermott gets the opportunities and the one-on-one care that he deserves.

There are programs in place so that children are able to receive the help and education they need to be able to actively participate in everyday life. Unfortunately, the cause of autism is still unknown, despite ongoing worldwide research.

It is for these reasons that I am throwing my support behind this cause. The research is ongoing and support services are still needed. I welcome everyone to join me on the walk, and I look forward to seeing those people who are already joining me out in Canning.