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Wednesday, 3 June 1970

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - In the first instance 1 want to say that I support this Bill. I believe that it will serve a good cause that is in very great need and it is certainly a step in the right direction. I have listened with interest to the debate on this Bill. I believe that in the main the debate has been worthy of the cause which this Bill proposes to assist. It is sometimes an encouragement to hear the type of debate that has taken place on this Bill, and we do need that type of debate. Having said that I want to make a few comments about the remarks of the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) who has just resumed his seat. In the main the honourable member based his case on the need for planning. Over the years I have heard a lot about planning. If there is one thing that is in fairly full supply in all the fields of endeavour it is planning. I. hope that I am making a fair assessment of what the honourable member had to say. I understood that he was suggesting that the Commonwealth could do all that was required in this field provided it sits down and makes the plans. There is nothing wrong with making plans but at the same time plans alone do not achieve the objective required

If one is to plan for improvements in any field provision has to be made in the Budget for the plans. Furthermore, having done this it is necessary to provide the staff required in any given field. It is very difficult in the present circumstances to get the staff needed for the medical requirements of the community throughout this country today. If anyone finds that there is no difficulty in that field, I will inform him that there is such a difficulty in my own area. Only today in this House there was comment about the difficulty of finding staff in another field. It is not just a matter of planning, although planning is something to which I do not object, but the major feature is to progress towards the end result. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), according to the honourable member for Bendigo, indicated that there was an intention on the part of the Commonwealth to continue in this field as a part of a programme.

The honourable member referred to- the position of voluntary bodies in obtaining assistance from the Commonwealth while they were receiving assistance from a State government. The Minister in his second reading speech said:

It will, of course, still be possible for a qualified body which receives a capital- or maintenance subsidy from the State, to receive the Commonwealth subsidy in addition.

There might be a slight overlapping in that case but it does show that there is room for the additional subsidy, and the Minister did make that point. I commend the Minister and the Government for introducing this Bill. I have already said that I feel that this measure is a very worthy step forward in the direction in furthering a project which most if not all honourable members in this House have very much at heart. One of the very important factors in this field was referred to by the Minister and I want to reiterate it because it is of tremendous importance. In the words of the Minister:

.   . the essential thing is to start remedial action while they are still young.

This is of tremendous importance. Most people who have had experience with handicapped and retarded children realise that there is a great need for the treatment of these children to commence as early as possible. It is a tragedy to see circumstances in which it has not been possible to provide this treatment for some reason or another. I. have seen this in my area and no doubt it has been the experience in many areas.

Something to which we should give consideration - and I am sure that the Government will give it consideration - is the fact, as was stated by the Minister, that there are some 50,000 handicapped children under 16 years of age in Australia, including those who have some physical handicap and those who are mentally retarded. The Minister went on to say that probably under half of these are adequately catered for by special facilities. This indicates that the Government and the Minister recognise the need for continuing this assistance and for helping handicapped children. The Government recognises the need for expansion of the measures to help them.

One of the problems which confront the parents of handicapped children, whether they are handicapped physically or mentally or in both respects, is the problem that this disability creates in the home. In areas such as the one I represent where large distances are involved the task of taking handicapped children from one place to another adds to the very great problems that confront parents. Social activities, employment as well as ordinary domestic living are things that frequently have to take second place. I have had ample demonstration of these problems and I agree with the Minister completely that this is the case. To show how the problems of caring for these children affect parents I would like to quote from part of a letter I received recently on this matter. This letter refers to a child who is attending The Chalet for Children at Stanthorpe in Queensland, which is in my electorate of Maranoa. The letter, in part, states:

Our child has beenat The Chalet for 3 years and 4 months, and we are extremely satisfied with the way he is looked after.

Anyone who has not been personally involved in such a heart-breaking event as a young child with incurable brain damage, would not realise the tremendous feeling of gratitude and peace of mind that a home like The Chalet for Children offers.

Further on, the letter states:

At the time when our doctors told us that for the future of the rest of our family we must place our child in a home, we made inquiries throughout Queensland and in other States as to suitable institutions.

This is the sort of strain that is placed on the parents of such children. The letter goes on to stare:

Acting on a brochure we received from the Sub-Normal Children's Welfare Association, we inspected The Chalet, and were immediately taken with the 'family' type atmosphere, and the progressive outlook of the director . . .

I can tell you, the decision to move our child from the family circle was not an easy one, and we fully examined alt aspects of his future well-being. 1 give full credit to all people who are associated with the care of handicapped children. I give tremendous creditto them. While giving full credit to those who undertake this work in a voluntary way 1 admire those who devote themselves to this work even though, because of the fact that they are giving all of their time to it. they may have to make a living from such work. They also give very sympathetic and understanding care to children who need it. so much.

It is not. my intention to take as much time as I would like to take on this subject because other honourable members wish to speak and much of. what 1 want to say has been said. But I want to quote from a copy of a letter that was sent to another member of Parliament. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, might recognise something to which this letter, refers because 1. know that you are concerned with it. The letter is from a leading psychiatrist. He states:

The children at The Chalet' -

This is The Chalet for Children - definitely qualify forthe additional benefit . . .

That is, the intensive care benefit that was previously granted to them -

The mailer is of crucial importance to very many parents, and through them the children, and indeed to the proper functioning of the home - the facilities for intensive care of the intellectually handicapped are, in general, grossly inadequate, and any private institution dedicated to this work needs constant and very full support.

Asa practising psychiatrist, I am very aware of the needs of the intellectually handicapped, and can assure you that these children do qualify as needing intensive nursing home cure.

While this is in another field it is allied to the subject matter of the Bill we are now discussing. I make the suggestion that there needs to be co-operation between the 2 Government departments which have the responsibility of providing the benefits and assistance that these children certainly deserve.

While I commend and support the Bill I trust that the Government will give consideration to a further examination of the position of the parents whose children have to be taken into homes and who have to pay for their care. 1 hope that these parents will be assisted by the Government by way of additional assistance. By giving further consideration to the position of parents the Government will enable handicapped children to benefit from the excellent care and attention that is given in such homes as The Chalet for Children at Stanthorpe. If the Government could extend the Commonwealth benefit given to these children it would be of great benefit. Such assistance would remove from these homes some of the children who have to attend them. There is a need for special consideration for these children. I believe that every aspect of this matter should be examined and I am confident that the Government has this in mind. I leave the thought with the Minister that he might consult with his colleague the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) to see how the co-operation of their .2 departments can best be used for the benefit of these children who need assistance so very much. .

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