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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Page: 13852


Ms KATE ELLIS (AdelaideMinister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women) (09:34): I am so proud to be part of a government that is committed to making sure that every child has the best start to life. Of course, we know that that is no more important than for children with disability. We know that for parents, caregivers and families the task of caring for a child with disability is a full-time job like absolutely no other. We recognise that this is an incredibly tough job that families are doing, and that it is tough emotionally. It is also tough financially. That is why from 1 July this year our government is providing $147 million over four years for early intervention services for children with disabilities that affect their development through the Better Start for Children with Disability measure. However, our government also recognises that more needs to be done.

Australia needs a disability services system that provides care and support based on people's needs, not a lottery of what kind of disability they have, how they acquired it or where they happen to live. It should give people with disability certainty, choice and individually tailored services. That is why our government has fronted up to the challenges in this important area and taken the lead on fundamental reform of disability services. It is why we asked the Productivity Commissioner to examine reform of disability support, providing a blueprint for the National Disability Insurance Scheme—which we are so incredibly proud to be working on implementing.

We understand that the current system for caring for and supporting people with disability is not working for everyone. Sometimes we just have to face up and admit that. I know that for many people with disability and their carers providing care and support is a challenge. I am pleased today to be able to provide a voice for a local mother in the electorate of Adelaide, which I am lucky enough to represent in this place—Melissa, who is dealing with this challenge on a day-to-day basis. I want to place on the record my absolute admiration for the work that Melissa does in providing care for her son, Sebastian. Melissa is also a passionate advocate for ensuring that all Australian children with disability receive access to effective treatment and early intervention services. She has been incredibly hard at work collecting signatures right across Adelaide—in the suburbs and all of the streets—and I am pleased to be able to table that petition here today after it was considered by the Petitions Committee and determined to be in order.

We know that people with disability and their carers deserve the same opportunities, and I am pleased that our government is working hard to deliver real outcomes in this area. We know that there is more work to do, but we also know that for every story like Melissa's—the incredible courage that she displays day in and day out—there are thousands of families just like hers right across Australia. I am pleased to table this petition on their behalf.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of certain concerned citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:

The Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start) Initiative urgently requires reform. The Better Start policy excludes thousands of Australian children with developmental disabilities in need of early intervention services. These children have comparable early intervention needs and similar developmental disabilities as those with eligible conditions, and many are able to prove the beneficial impact of such treatment.

The inequalities of Better Start must be removed to allow all Australian children with developmental disabilities access to the support they need in the critical early years of development.

Your petitioners request that the House take all necessary steps to:

Act urgently and effectively to amend the Better Start for Children with Disability policy so that:

there is no longer inequality of access to effective treatment and early intervention for Australian children with developmental disabilities;

the current eligibility criteria is revised and replaced with a needs-based model whereby eligibility is determined by the functional aspects of the child's disability, the level of impairment and how the impairment affects the child.

from 2,261 citizens.

Petition received.