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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12642

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (21:30): I would like to take this opportunity to commend a fantastic organisation in my electorate which provides early intervention programs for children living with a disability. KU Starting Points Macarthur is an education support program that has helped children with additional needs and their families in my electorate for the past 20 years. At present, the service supports more than 300 families in Macarthur through programs run at its centres in Airds and Camden.

KU offers a range of early intervention programs for children with additional needs, as well as support for siblings through integrated play sessions and parents through practical advice, guidance and emotional support networks. The play based program has been designed to enhance the development of children living with a disability or developmental delays. KU also runs a transition to school program that is specifically designed to prepare children for preschool or school through a range of fun activities.

Local families who take part in the program are given access to professional support services including a dedicated speech pathologist, psychologist, childcare workers and teachers. The organisation also offers opportunities for families to connect with other families so they can share their experiences and knowledge in a safe and friendly environment. Social activities organised throughout the year are a great way for these families to connect and provide each other with a vital support network.

In Macarthur, I spend lots of time with families who have children living with a disability. The children are beautiful kids with big hearts and big smiles and the parents are committed to giving their children a life that is full of hope, joy and endless possibilities. I am continuously inspired by their positive attitude and dedication to bring down barriers and raise awareness of their children's condition. But no matter how amazing these parents may be, raising a child with additional needs can be extremely challenging and isolating. KU Starting Points Macarthur has become a lifeline for these parents, offering advice, guidance and support for siblings and parents whilst their children participate in the intervention programs. Mum's from The Right Start, a group dedicated to giving children with Down syndrome the best start in life, are always praising KU and the support they are given by the organisation.

But it is not just children with Down syndrome or autism who can access the services and support network at KU. Last year I spoke in parliament about Brittney McKenna, a young girl from my electorate who lived with spinal muscular atrophy and sadly passed away in 2008. In total, of the nine years of her life, Brittney spent more than five years in hospital. I cannot imagine how stressful this would have been for Brittney's family, who had no choice but to pass their son Liam between family and friends to give him any hope of a routine and a normal life. When Brittney was born, it was KU Starting Points who gave that initial support to her family and helped them to realise that they were not alone. After Brittney's death, her mum Debbie returned to KU Starting Points as a staff member to help other families doing it tough.

I am very proud to stand here today to thank a service that has supported families in my community for 20 years. Two decades of providing much-needed services for children with additional needs and their families is something that coordinator Larraine Brown and all of her staff and volunteers at KU should be very, very proud of. The thing I like most about this program is that the child's entire family is supported by a huge support network. This is why on Saturday I will attend the KU Starting Points 16th Annual Charity Auction at the Campbelltown Catholic Club, who have given them great support. The annual charity night is a very special event in my community. Local residents and businesses support the cause by donating money and auction items to help raise money. The parents who have received help from KU over the years also play a great part in the success of the fundraiser by calling on all their family, friends and contacts to support the cause with donations and to buy tickets for the evening.

The money raised this year will help KU to extend its building at Airds to include two new therapy rooms and more space to accommodate the increasing number of children in the program. It is a great cause that I am sure will continue to be supported by many people in my community. KU Starting Points is a fantastic example of the community spirit we have in Macarthur. While government funding and medical advancements will always be needed and welcomed by these families, it is the emotional support network that means so much to them.

I am proud to live in a community where people support each other through the good times and bad. KU Starting Points is a great example of this and one of the reasons why Macarthur is such a wonderful place to bring up a family. I commend the organisation for its great work in my community over the past 20 years. And I congratulate all of those parents in Macarthur who refuse to let their children be defined by a disability. Rather, they choose to focus on the bright future ahead and the endless possibilities in store for their beautiful kids. I am extremely proud of the way these parents and families support each other and I am continually amazed, but not surprised, by the way they rally the Macarthur community to support their wonderful cause. (Time expired)