26 February 2016


This April I will be hosting a forum on Autism and am inviting families and service providers who have experience with Autism to participate.
If I had to rank the issues that in the last two years have been most frequently brought to my attention – Autism would have to be in the top five. This tells me that there are serious and widespread issues with service delivery in the Yarra Ranges, particularly impacting individuals with high functioning Autism.
As a result, families feel they are being ignored by policy makers and decision makers alike.
Autism rose to prominence again recently after some mothers began to question the roll of immunisation in the onset of Autism. There is no reputable evidence to support this claim. The fact is that the onset of Autism tends to emerge at around 12 months which is also when babies receive some vaccines. So to be clear, parents should not refrain from immunising their child from dangerous and fatal disease in the mistaken belief it is in some way connected to Autism.
Understanding the need to keep Autism front of mind, in early 2015 the Leader of the Victorian Opposition, Matthew Guy appointed the first Parliamentary Secretary for Autism Spectrum Disorder – Mr Bernie Finn. Bernie is also the Member for Western Metropolitan Region. Bernie’s family has been touched by Autism. As a result, he knows the obstacles parents face fighting for their children’s rights, and the feeling of doing everything you can for a child who may never be able to show their appreciation or reciprocate with “I love you”.
Bernie’s appointment gives Autism an unparalleled level of importance never before seen in Victoria. It will see the development of a dedicated Autism policy that will be taken to the next state election by the Coalition in 2018.
In order to ensure this policy is comprehensive and meaningful, we first need to hear about the experiences parents are having with service delivery – good, bad and indifferent. Only once we have the full picture can we start to zero in on where change is necessary and decide what resources need to be allocated to make it happen.
In the Yarra Ranges we are fortunate to have the Yarra Ranges Special Development School which proudly celebrates ability. By setting higher expectations for students and promoting inclusion in a fun and happy learning environment, many parents are able to get the support they need – until their child turns 18. Then they find themselves asking, “Now what?” For parents whose child is considered high functioning and doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria for the Special Development School, that question comes at a far younger age.
In the spirit of the Yarra Ranges Special Development School – let’s focus on what’s possible.

Forum: 18th April, Lilydale Lake Community Rooms, Swansea Road Lilydale.
Bookings essential. Please RSVP to

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