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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4359

Ms JACKSON (4:09 PM) —Many Western Australian members of parliament have spoken about the Politician Adoption Scheme that is operated and coordinated by the Developmental Disability Council of Western Australia. The scheme arranges for a politician to be adopted by a person with a developmental disability in their family from within their electorate. The scheme provides a unique and valuable personal insight into the day-to-day lives of the family. It ensures that we become more effective advocates of the rights and needs of people with a disability.

I am fortunate to have been adopted by Lisa Harris and her family, who live in Kenwick in my electorate of Hasluck. Lisa’s dad and mum, Phil and Tania Harris, have three children: Lisa who recently turned nine; Matty who is six and Lizzie who is three years of age. Through involvement in their lives I get firsthand information and experience of the issues that impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families.

Earlier this month I was fortunate to spend the morning with Lisa at her school. Lisa attends Kenwick School, which is a special ed facility. There are approximately 80 students who come on five different bus services from across my electorate, extending out as far as Byford on the fringe of the metropolitan area. The kids range in age from 4 to 18 years old and have a diverse range of support needs and abilities, with moderate to severe and profound disabilities. Some children have severe and multiple disabilities, others also have vision and hearing impairments. Twenty per cent of the student body have an autism spectrum disorder. Each class has five to 11 students with one teacher and two education assistants. Each child has an individual education plan developed by the teacher and other specialists such as social trainers, swimming teachers, nurses and therapists as well as parents.

Lisa’s teacher is Marie McLaughlin. Marie is ably assisted by her wonderful education assistants, Shirley Gebhard and Rosemary Moore. There were three other students in Lisa’s class that morning. Marie led the class in a welcoming circle, a delightful singalong where each child and adult is welcomed to the room as well as identifying the date, the day of the week, the month and the season. In addition to the singing and play I was able to observe very committed teacher and education assistants working with the kids in their care. They clearly had great affinity with the kids as well as affection for them despite sometimes challenging behaviour from some of them.

I had the opportunity to go with Lisa to the school’s liberty swing. It is not a light duty to secure Lisa’s wheelchair in the swing and I was grateful for Shirley’s expertise. I had the easier task of pushing the swing. The real reward was the look of sheer delight on Lisa’s face as the swing went higher and higher. I understand the P&C raised the funds for the swing and I congratulate them for that effort. Of course, I am also delighted that Kenwick School has received funding from the Rudd government’s National School Pride program. (Time expired)