Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (11 November 1986)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (11 November 1986)


Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 11 November 1986 Studies all indicate that incredible stress, physical health breakdown and nervous disorders are frequent companions to the heartbreak that these families face. Is it any wonder that divorce and suicide are realities for these families? These parents not only have to cope with the child but have to spend a large part of their time chasing money. Mr Speaker, people in these desperate situations have enough to do without having to chase around the countryside fund raising. In every direction, their life choices are extremely limited. These families cannot even go to the Darwin Cinema if one of them is in a wheelchair. Even if the person could get up the stairs in a wheelchair, he could not stay in the aisle because of the fire regulations. A handicapped person without a wheelchair would have no hope of escape should there ever be a fire in that establishment. These are people who will not be paying to see Crocodile Dundee even if they could afford to. Given the limited facilities available, most of which are geared towards children, what are we going to do about the needs of these people as adults? Children have a habit of growing up and, inevitably, the handicapped child grows into a handicapped adult with a quite separate range of needs. With its current philosophy, this government would assume that the parents will go on caring forever. The minister says that it is a community responsibility, but what happens when the parents die? Whose problem is it then? It is a whole-of-life problem, it is a whole-of-family problem, and it is also society's problem. But, more than that, it is the government's responsibility to care for its citizens. Mr Speaker, social workers will tell you that these families need counselling and support as much as the children need care and treatment. If it is possible under our pedestrian system, early diagnosis is good for the child, but the diagnosis has a devastating effect on the family as the reality of the future dawns. The priority must be to support the whole family. The government must support the entire family unit. It is little wonder that babies have been abandoned, mothers have overdosed and fathers have left home when one considers the future that these people face. We have created a helplessness and a hopelessness by the current lack of funding. Desperate people find desperate solutions. We must address people's real needs. The early intervention program gives the greatest opportunity for development. But what happens to these children in our system after they are 6? Some go to special schools and units attached to schools. Some are integrated into ordinary schools. However, due to our appalling lack of therapists, and I mean the full range of therapists, we do not come anywhere near to maintaining the momentum of that necessary developmental activity. Schools can only cater for a certain number of children. They can only cater for the number of places available. There is little point in identifying children if places are not available. It would appear that the education system also is under-resourced in this area. Not only do we need therapists but specially-trained teachers also. We do not have nearly enough, and the pool of available teachers will diminish due to lack of training opportunities. There is talk that the South Australian external study course for special education will cease and, if that happens, where will we train people in the necessary skills? The high level of burnout and turnover among these teachers is another area of great concern. These people have strains placed upon them that,' I am sure, no person in this Assembly has ever had to face. In fact, the whole area of care for the disabled and for the intellectually impaired in the 792