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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17135

Mr DUTTON (1:07 PM) —I want to speak today about a very special project that is about to take place in my electorate of Dickson. The area that it is concerned with is education for people with disabilities and special needs. That area of education has always provided a lot of challenge, not just for state governments but certainly for federal governments and local authorities. There are many success stories in my electorate of Dickson, including the Pine Rivers Special School, which provides a great deal of assistance not just to the students who are involved at that school but also to the parents and the people associated with the students. I commend the staff and the students who attend the Pine Rivers Special School at Lawnton.

Today, I also specifically want to speak about the problem of transition between school and the work force for people with disabilities. There is a success story in the making in Pine Rivers and it gives me a great deal of pleasure today to discuss some RAP funding that was recently awarded to the special school horticultural enterprise at Oxford Park. The amount awarded was $237,000 and it provides a great impetus for the work that is going on that will aid many young people who are making the transition from high school or from school into the work force.

The project, which I believe is an Australian first, will involve several dozen local students with disabilities working in a new horticulture centre and receiving training to assist in their transition from school to work. The students will tend and nurture seedlings, which have been provided by nurseries and local government authorities, into commercial sized plants for sale and distribution. At the end of the project, they will graduate with employment experience, job skills training, and an accredited horticulture certificate level I. This project is a fine example of one in which the people involved—a community organisation called Help Enterprises—have responded to a genuine need in the community and set about pursuing their goal with persistence and passion.

Help Enterprises is a community organisation with 35 years experience in training and placing disabled young people into employment. I would like to take the opportunity today to commend the executive director of Help Enterprises, Don Nicol, who has worked for several years to develop this project. Don tells me that his research shows that around 70 students with disabilities graduate from special schools in Brisbane's north-west every year. Don had the idea of starting this project after talking to the parents of those students about their concerns that so few career opportunities exist for them through traditional channels. Don and local parents conceived this idea, which will provide these local people with a vocational pathway to follow and skills to participate in the work force. In its first year, this program will provide opportunities for 24 people who are interested in working in the horticulture industry.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank a number of other people and organisations who have worked very hard to secure this funding. In particular, the Greater Brisbane Area Consultative Committee played an important role in securing funding, including obtaining the support of the Nursery and Gardening Institute of Queensland. In particular I mention David Peel, the chairman of the Greater Brisbane Area Consultative Committee, and Margaret Blade. Those two people provide invaluable service to our community, and I commend both of them to the House today as people with whom I have a very good working relationship. They have provided assistance to me in a number of other areas over the period that I have been member for Dickson. In particular, they recently supported a mail-out to local small businesses of a CD that provides a one-stop shop for government services. It was a great way of communicating with those small businesses about some of the programs that the federal government has to offer.

Also worthy of mention is the Australian National Training Authority—ANTA. ANTA has granted over half a million dollars to construct classrooms, nursery beds and education and training equipment. Grovely TAFE will also provide additional training facilities and technical expertise. Finally, I would like to mention the participants themselves, who deserve great credit for making the commitment to improve their vocational training and activity whilst they participate in the work force. I had the pleasure of visiting the centre last week and saw it as a work in progress. I want to end by congratulating not just the participants but the people who have worked so hard, including Don Nicol, to make this possible.