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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - In supporting the amendment I want to make a few points about the Bill. While we welcome the Bill because it is a move in the right direction, what disturbs me is that the B il is a continuation of the Government's policy of subsidising private charities. It seems to me that we have reached the situation where the Government rarely accepts full responsibility with regard to any field of social welfare. This seems to me to be in line with the traditional Liberal philosophy that your place in life is determined at the moment of conception. If you happen to be lucky enough to be born with money that is good and you will continue as an affluent member of society, but if you are unfortunate enough to be mentally retarded that is just the way the cards tumble and you will continue in that unfortunate position without much assistance from the community.

I want to question tonight - and I hope in the future - the whole system of charity in Australia. It seems to me that charity as it is given operates unfairly in favour of those who have the best fund raising systems. This means that needy cases are often neglected. We can see this in many fields. It is easier to raise funds in affluent areas than it is in areas where there is poverty. It is much more difficult to raise funds in areas of poverty for the charity that one is trying to support. We have again a continuation of the squabble about whose responsibility it is to give this assistance. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) mentioned this aspect. He said he did not care whose responsibility it was - whether it was State, Federal or local government responsibility - so long as it was someone's responsibility to find the money to do something about it. I remember some years ago hearing the Minister for Slipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), who was then Minister for Social Services, say in a 'Four Corners' television programme that it was not the responsibility of a government to look after the needy; it was up to the community to do so. He- suggested that it was up to each little group of people to take into its fold those who were deprived. He implied that the Government could not be expected to accept responsibility for those in need.

This is the philosophy of members of the Government Parties. They, want to opt out as much as possible in this field because if the community accepts full responsibility there must be an increase- in taxes. This is something they do not want because the extra taxes will be levied from those who have the most, and they are the people who support the Government. So the Government throws the responsibility on the community. The Government says: Let the community look after them, we will give a little here and there. That salves the Government's conscience and makes it look good. We should get our priorities right. The first and fundamental need in any society is to take care of those who are physically and mentally handicapped. Surely this is fundamental, notwithstanding other needs that may exist. I forget who said that a society should be judged by the way it takes care of its physically and mentally handicapped members, but this is true. It is a condemnation of our affluent society that we do not accept full responsibility in this regard.

I want to question the whole concept of charity in Australia. Today we have in this country thousands of organisations raising funds. The honourable member tor Bendigo said that the Government seems terrified lest it upset all those wonderful souls in the community who are raising money for charity. They have button days, they conduct fetes, they hold balls, barbecues and other social functions. You name it, they do it. They conduct walkathons, swingathons, swimathons and talkathons to raise money. The Government suggests that if it accepts full responsibility in this field these wonderful souls will have nothing to do. This is patently absurd. There is so much to be done in the community. If these people no longer had to raise money for the physically and mentally handicapped there would still be an enormous amount of work for them to do. Let me refer to only a few organisations in the area in which 1 live that could do with the support and help of these well-meaning people. Take, for instance, the volunteer bush fire brigade. What a good cause that is. Then there are the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Surf Life Saying Association. If care of the physically and mentally handicapped were removed from the realm of community involvement, fund raising activities could be channelled into the areas where they are sorely needed. The people who engage in these activities have tremendous goodwill and capability and are immensely energetic.

In a community there is a basis of need. People say: T will give to those who need it most'. At the top of the list are subnormal children, spastic children, autistic children and so on. Other needy organisations, such as the surf life saving movement and the bush fire brigade, have to go to the bottom of the list and people say that they cannot afford to give to those organisations. We must accept the fact that if the Government were to accept responsibility for caring for the physically and mentally handicapped there still would be plenty for the community service organisations to do. There still would be plenty for those good souls in the community - God bless them - to do. One of the difficulties in discussing charitable activities is to gather statistics not only on the areas of need but also on. whether fund raising activities are economic. Let me expand this theme a little. I have tried to get some figures on these matters. I have placed on notice questions seeking information as to the amount of money raised by charity in Australia. I have been told that no figures are available. No estimates have been made of the amounts raised by charity fund raising organisations. I . have been informed by the Parliamentary Library that surveys indicate that the amount raised annually is between Si 00m and $200m. 1 have not been told how this money is raised and how the estimate is made of the amount raised but it seems to be generally accepted that this is the figure. 1 suspect thai the amount is considerably higher than the figure I have been given because 1 think the figure given takes into account only "the large fund raising organisations. lt does not pay regard, nor could it, to the hundreds and thousands of small fund raising activities in every community - the bottle drives, the barbecues, the rallies. How could anybody estimate the number of dollars and cents raised in those activities? The point 1 am trying to make is that this type of fund raising activity is immensely wasteful. I have been to a number of seminars dealing with fund raising and I have examined the subject fairly thoroughly. Even the most efficient form of fund raising- the eyeball to eyeball technique in which you go to somebody and say. T want you to give me $100 for a certain charity' - has a . wastage rate of between 10% and 12%. But when you take into account activities such as balls and barbecues the net wastage can bc 50% or 60% of gross turnover.

Take, for example, the Black and White Ball held in Sydney. I do not know the exact figures relating to this activity, but we all know the spectacle created. We see 700 or 800 people bedecked in the most glamorous gowns, with hairdos costing $10, $15 or $20 - for the women that is - and thousands of dollars spent on alcohol during the evening, lt is an extravaganza. One could estimate that the cost of the function might be as high as $30,000. Tickets for such a function cost $10 or $15 a head. To raise for charity between $2,000 and $4,000 necessitates an expenditure of $30,000. This is perhaps an extreme example.

Mr Martin - It is not a bad social' evening.

Mr COHEN - A very nice social evening, but not very productive in terms of a net return to a charity. I could give other examples of waste of this kind. One, details of which have been supplied by the

Library, concerns the British Oxfam organisation, which conducted a much publicised walkathon: The target was £215,000. The amount raised was £52,664. Expenses amounted to between £28,000 and £32,000, leaving a net gain of between £20,664 and £24,664. The point I am trying to make is that expenses absorbed 55% to 60% of the total money raised. Even the very best fund raising organisations expend between 10% and 20% of the funds raised. I should think that that is a fairly conservative estimate. If $200m is raised annually by charitable organisations throughout Australia this means that at least $30m annually is expended on just raising the money. This $30m is completely wasted, unless one thinks that employing fund raisers is a profitable pastime. I want now to quote from an article in the 'Age' of Tuesday, 28th April 1970, concerning Mr David Scott, who is an executive director of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence. The article was written by Leonard Radic and' it reads:

We are still working to an antiquated system of personal-tare service. Fifty years ago it was not accepted that the Government had the responsibility of helping people who could not help themselves. So there arose groups of volunteers who took it upon themselves to help the socially handicapped.

Over the years governments have relaxed this policy slightly by giving such groups a 'modest subsidy, but without ever being prepared to accept responsibility for the organising, financing and running of the whole range of welfare services.

The dividing lines of responsibility between State and Federal governments, municipalities and the volunteer organisations have never been clearly defined.

The Federal Government has become the policy controller, as well as the financial provider. It wants the maximum amount qf control but the minimum amount of responsibility.

Its policy is a piecemeal one, lacking coherence and co-ordination, Mr Scott claims.

In England rand other countries the government's social welfare policies are constantly under review. In Australia we almost never do this. In the past 25 years there has been only one major review of any social welfare policy. That was the Nimmo report-

Later the article states:

Public support can be drummed up for causes that touch the heartstrings - sick or handicapped children, for example.

It is much more difficult to raise money for children who are mentally handicapped, or for an organisation such as the Hanover Centre, which works for derelict men, or for alcoholics,' Mr Scott says.

It is also very difficult to raise funds for family counselling services using professional social workers because you can't show touching pictures of children before and after service, or pictures of huge buildings which are monuments to the money that has been raised.

All you can show is two people seated on either side of a desk in an interview room, which moves nobody.'

I will not dwell on the question of charity but I should l:ke to. expand my remarks at a later date.. In the time that is left to me I should like to talk briefly about an Organisation in my own electorate - the Fairhaven School. I am sure that the Minister is aware of this school, lt is a branch of the Sub-Normal Children's Association. It was started in 1961 by a group of parents and friends. It commenced operations in the Kincumber School of Arts and in February 1962 was transferred to the Baptist church hall. In 1963, when it was given a grant of land by the New South Wales State Labor Government, work was commenced on a permanent home in the Point Clare district. With the help of voluntary labour, and once again depending on that good old stand-by, the community service organisations - in this case the Gosford Lions, Apex and Rotary Clubs - the organisation was able to build on the 3-acre grant of land its first permanent home. The school was opened in February 1964 by the Governor, Sir Eric Woodward. It had 20 pupils, 3 classrooms, a kitchen, washroom and toilet. Later on an activity centre was added in which was taught handicrafts, including cooking, to postschool age children. I have been out to inspect the school. One of its present activities is collecting bulk paper, wrapping it and parcelling it and selling it overseas. This is a means of raising money to help the organisation. The school now has 2 buses and is looking after 52 pupils. According to figures that are available to me we can expect that about 1 person in every 1,000 will be sub-normal, but in this area, which has a population of about 87,000, the school has only 52 pupils. At least 13 children are on the waiting list, but they cannot be accepted. It is possible that there are quite a number of children who have not applied for admission to the school and even if they did apply they would be unable to attend it. The school draws from Um:na Somersby, Warnervale, The Entrance and Terrigal - from an area within a 25-mile radius of the school. The school has 4 Association teachers, 1 departmental teacher and 2 employees who work in the day school section and who help wrap the bulk papers.

One honourable member suggested that the term 'children' is rather a misnomer because the term applies at this school, as it does in many other similar schools, to adults who could be 50 years of age but who, because they must be looked after like children, are regarded as children. I hope that when' the Minister administers this legislation he will do so with flexibility. I have talked to officers of the Fairhaven School and they have been rather frustrated. I. understand that for the last 2 years they have been seeking assistance for the school through the sheltered workshops legislation. However, the type of activity in which they want to engage does not meet the requirements of the legislation or of the Government's policy. 1 believe they are considering submitting another application for assistance for their activity centre and for other projects that they have in mind. One of their ultimate aims is to provide residential accommodation. I am not aware that they have any immediate plans but this is a long term aim.

In his second reading speech the Minister said that he- will use flexibility in his approach to this legislation, and 1 hope he will do so when the time arises. I pay a tribute to the officers of the Fairhaven School. As- is the case with other organisations mentioned by honourable members, the major problem at Fairhaven is not in respect of capital buildings, although the school will ' have needs in that direction shortly.- Its major problem concerns running costs. 1 did have figures with me, but I seem to have mislaid them. My memory is that the school's running expenses exceed by some $4,000 annually the amount it receives by way of government subsidies. These are rather expensive ways of raising money.

In the time that is left to me I would like to talk about one. aspect of handicapped children that has not been dealt with specifically by any honourable member this evening, as far as f know, and that is the problem of autistic children, f want to draw the attention of the House to a form of illness suffered by children which until recently was not known widely in Australia, or for that matter around the world. My first introduction to autism was 2 or 3 years ago when I witnessed a television programme known as 'Seven Days'. It described the plight of the autistic child and also the suffering of all those associated with it, primarily the parents, brothers and sisters of autistic children. Autism was first described by Professor Kanner of the Johns Hopkins University in 1943. He referred to it as infantile autism because he meant it occurred mainly in children under 3 years of age. The word 'autism' is derived from .........: meaning self-involved or cutoff. Very little was known about autism until recently and a great deal more is still to be learnt. The cause of it is still a mystery; the symptoms of the illness are many and varied and not always applicable to all children.

I have been amazed when 1 have spoken about autism to a few honourable members - and I am just as guilty as anyone - to learn just how little people know of this particular disease. The size of the problem is difficult to define and is closely dependent upon fairly calculated guesswork. Research in England has shown that there are approximately 4.5 autistic children per 10,000. However, it is not known whether these figures are applicable here, lt may well be that climatic conditions or ethnic differences may create a higher incidence of autism in children in England than in Australia. But again a great many of these unknown questions will remain unanswered until effective research has been done. Most of the information that is available has resulted from extensive research or from voluntary organisations directly associated with the illness, such as the Autistic Childrens Association of New South Wales and other similar State bodies.

I would like to define as best 1 can as a layman what is meant by autism. As I said before, it is extremely difficult to diagnose because there are no set symptoms but a pattern of symptoms that exists and it can only be recognised in a child when a conglomeration of these symptoms occurs. It appears that there are about 14 major manifestations of infantile autism and it is generally accepted that if a child shows 7 or more of these symptoms he is likely to be austistic. Taken out of context these symptoms can occur in other diseases or in perfectly normal children. I want to outline briefly the symptoms that do occur in an autistic child. The child is not as cuddly as a baby and tends to hold itself, stiff or alternatively hangs rather limply. It often has a stand-offish manner and finds it difficult to communicate with people. One of the great problems with the autistic child is its inability to communicate. This seems to be one of the most notable features of autism. They have great difficulty in playing with other children and they also look past or away from the person to whom they are talking or who is talking to them. They are physically over-active and can' go without sleep for incredibly long periods. They may remain awake nearly all night, yet have tremendous energy the next day.

They are restless children, rushing from one thing to another ali the time and they often act as if deaf. Noise seems to upset them and they will frequently hold their hands over their ears to cut out sound. They rarely speak before 5 or 6 years of ace and mostly indicate (heir needs by gestures. They develop attachments for particular objects and will' play with them for hours at a time without becoming boret!. They have a passion for spinning objects and can develop extraordinary skill at spinning some unusual object which will keep them facinii ted for long periods. They show strong resistance to change in their routine and will become extremely upset if any attempt is made to change particular clothes they like or introduce a new type of food. They will resist learning new skills or behaviour and will show a complete lack of fear of danger. This final aspect is a great worry to parents who have to watch the children constantly as they may run out onto a street and under a car where there is heavy traffic passing. There are many other dangers of which the child is not aware and with which it will become involved. This very, often causes loss of life.

One other symptom of an autistic child is the swaying or rocking that occurs very often during the evening- for teng periods. lt can be very unnerving for those in close association with it. 1 am not aware whether autism has been mentioned in this House' before. It has had a great deal more publicity in the last few years than it had previously. I pay tribute to the organisations in Australia that have brought autism to the fore.

Mr Armitage - We saw the film that Senator Fitzgerald showed recently.

Mr COHEN - That is right. 1 am aware that this Bill will help these autistic bodies. One of the reasons I have brought this matter forward is that my very dear old friend, Dr Andrew Vern-Barnett, is the New South Wales President of the body. He was most anxious that this matter should be aired in the Federal Parliament. If in any way we have learnt something this evening about this tragic disease, if we are at least aware that 300 children in Australia suffer from it, raising the matter has been worthwhile. Finally, I hope the Minister will give consideration in the future to enlarging the scope of this Bill so that not only will capital1 funds be available for physically and ' mentally handicapped children but also assistance will be given to relevant organisations to help them with their running costs.

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