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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3704

Mr HALVERSON(10.54) —Tonight I make a plea for the provision of proper teaching environments for disabled people. Over a year ago, it became apparent that the Federal Government was effecting regionalisation of the rehabilitation service of the Department of Community Services' disability program. This year, an acceleration of this program was announced. To this end, the Coonac Rehabilitation Centre in Melbourne has already been sold. The Payneham Rehabilitation Centre in Adelaide is closing. The Rehabilitation Centre, Taringa, in Brisbane is to be auctioned later this month. The Queen Elizabeth II Rehabilitation Centre in Sydney is to be auctioned in February-March 1987 and the Mount Wilga Rehabilitation Centre in Sydney is to be auctioned also in February-March 1987. In my electorate of Casey there is a facility called Yarra Me which is a training centre for quadriplegics. The Government's stated intention is to dismantle and sell such specialised centres and replace them with a variety of regional units. These are to be rooms, halls, sections of hospitals, parts of technical and further education colleges and anywhere deemed to be appropriate to the bureaucrats. The educational elements are to be provided mainly through TAFE colleges. This is totally impracticable and in fact unworkable. The TAFE colleges are not equipped to handle and teach the handicapped, who require special desks, chairs, various aids, et cetera. Many TAFE colleges do not have wheelchair access throughout, especially those with multi-level facilities.

The people also require trained teachers who are psychologically suited. Honourable members must realise that here we are considering pupils who may be deaf or blind, or both, paraplegics, quadriplegics, who may have psychological problems or who may have one hand or no hands. I ask: How many TAFE colleges have people capable of teaching one-handed keyboarding? Not only does the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Sydney have two such experts, but one of them has published the only textbook available on the subject. Over 60 one-handed keyboarders have passed through QEII. These days high technology keyboarding provides an increasing opportunity for employment as well as being a communication mode for many disabled who can no longer handwrite without fatigue and legibility loss. Records show that a huge proportion of the QEII Centre successful graduates are former TAFE failures. This is not a reflection on the TAFEs, as the philosophies behind the two teaching concepts are by necessity so different. It merely points up the proposed scheme's inappropriateness and inadequacies.

Centres such as the Queen Elizabeth II were equipped specifically to cater to these highly individualistic and demanding conditions. The QEII Centre has developed, over its 10 years, a pool of experts working in a variety of disciplines. It is vocationally oriented and endeavours to place its sometimes severely disabled clients in the work force. It has physiotherapists, occupational therapists and hydro-therapists-and the large hot pools that this attention demands-speech therapists, and psychological and rehabilitation counsellors. For example, a teacher finding a problem such as, say, the early tiring of a client, has immediate access to the appropriate therapist for seating adjustment. Such interaction between disciplines is essential for success in teaching under such difficult circumstances.

One does not need to be a systems analyst to appreciate the efficiency of containing all of these facilities and skills in one central location. On examining the Government's proposal, it becomes obvious to anyone not only that it will not work as satisfactorily, but that it will not work at all. In fact, it is obvious that, despite the honeyed promises of the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes), it is not intended to work at all.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.