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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2977


Senator REID(10.35) —I am pleased that the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Senator Ryan, is in the chamber tonight because I know that the matter I want to raise is one about which she is informed. I hope the Minister will use her influence to see that what I am going to talk about comes about. I am talking about a swimming pool for Malkara Special School. Malkara Special School was opened in 1970 to serve the educational and social needs of moderately and severely intellectually handicapped children aged from three years to 16 years resident in south Canberra.

There are at present about 73 pupils at Malkara, which has the largest population of primary age moderately to profoundly intellectually handicapped children in the Australian Capital Territory. In fact, it is the required school to attend for such children who live on the south side of Canberra. For three years now the school has sought funding from the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority but has not yet been successful in obtaining money for the hydrotherapy swimming facility. The honourable member for Canberra (Mrs Kelly) raised the matter in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1983 and the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) responded with an answer he had obtained from the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. The answer stated:

I understand that the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority will consider the provision of a therapy pool for Malkara when priorities are being determined for the 1984-85 financial year.

The advantage of such a swimming facility in educating handicapped children is, I believe, well documented. I do not think that tonight is the time to canvass the literature. However, I refer particularly to 'A Practical Guide for Teaching the Mentally Retarded to Swim' by the Council for National Co-operation in Aquatics and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation 1969, and also Lawrence and Hacketts 'Water Learning'-A New Adventure'.

It is clear that the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority has recognised the need for such facilities by supplying hydrotherapy pools to two special schools on the north side of Canberra. The Hartley Street Centre, opened in 1972, got its pool two years later in 1974, and the Cranleigh School, opened in 1974, got its pool five years later in 1979. At present there are slightly fewer pupils at both of those schools. As I have indicated, Malkara has been in operation for 14 years and still does not have a pool. At the very least I suggest that that would be a highly desirable facility. I suggest that it is an essential facility that ought to be provided for the children who are attending that school.

It has been suggested in the past that there are other pools nearby and available. For example, there is a hydrotherapy pool at Woden Valley Hospital and this school uses it. I ask honourable senators to contemplate the difficulty of getting handicapped children out of their natural school environment to the hospital to use the pool on a limited basis and returning them to the school. The Woden Valley Hospital pool is extensively used. In fact, there are some limitations placed on the people who are able to use it. The pool is designed and regulated principally for use by geriatric and rheumatoid patients. It is really too deep at its shallowest point and much too hot for the children of Malkara Special School. There are other problems with that pool as well. The Phillip pool is the closest but in fact services the schools in Weston, Woden and Tuggeranong and is extensively used. The Deakin pool presumably is the second closest. It was used by the school but it was excluded from using it during the time that the Institute of Sport was using the Deakin pool. Since then the entrance fee has become prohibitive. The Erindale pool, which is also used by Malkara, is some 25 minutes away by bus. It is not heated sufficiently in the winter for it to be suitable for the handicapped children at Malkara and certainly it takes much of the day to get there and back.

There are other problems. There are certain requirements of a pool for children who attend Malkara. I will not go into them all tonight, but they have been documented. The case for the Malkara School has been adequately placed before the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. I suggest that now perhaps an even greater use could be made of a pool in that Hartley Court has been built next door to the Malkara School. It will have handicapped children in residence and it is without doubt possible that a pool at Malkara could also be used by the people living at Hartley Court, certainly in the summer and at weekends. As I have said, I am glad that the Minister is in the chamber. I hope that together we can perhaps influence the Schools Authority to include this facility in the forthcoming Budget.