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June 26, 2003

Private help offered to deaf centre

From: South Australia Advertiser, Australia - Jun 26, 2003

By Political Reporter LEANNE CRAIG

CORPORATE sponsors are expected to help the Cora Barclay Centre for deaf children if a State Government offer – requiring the sale of its Gilberton property – is rejected.

The centre's board was examining an upgraded Government offer last night.

It is believed to come close to the $150,000 the centre needs to stay open beyond December.

However, it requires the centre to sell its Gilberton site, move to the Norwood Primary School and hand over its kindergarten operations to the public education system.

After a second day of intense negotiations between Treasurer Kevin Foley and centre managers, the board met at Gilberton to discuss the offer.

The controversy over funding has prompted a large number of private and corporate interests to offer financial help.

It is understood offers totalling more than $100,000 have been made in recent days.

While the funding dilemma continues, a community services expert said the centre – which teaches hearing-impaired children to speak – had been the victim of deep divisions within the deaf community.

Consultant Margaret Hunter, who was commissioned by the former government in 2000 to review the centre's operations, said a "deaf war" had erupted over whether deaf children should learn sign language or be given aural and oral training.

Ms Hunter said there were "people in the disability funding section of the Government who strongly support 'signing' and do not support aural methods for helping children to use what hearing they have".

Former education minister Malcolm Buckby said he was aware that some people within the department "would be happy if the centre fell over".

Ms Hunter also rejected the notion the centre provided a "gold-plated Rolls Royce service" and said its programs were provided at half the cost of the Government's services for hearing-impaired children.

"They were expensive but they were a whole lot less expensive than that being spent in state schools," she said.

The issue sparked debate in Parliament yesterday when Mr Foley labelled Opposition health spokesman Dean Brown a "hypocrite" for campaigning for extra funding despite a former disability minister rejecting a funding request when the Liberals were in government.

Mr Foley released a letter from Mr Buckby, while still minister, asking Mr Brown for $110,000 over three years to help fund the centre. It had been referred to then disability services minister Robert Lawson, who said it was "inappropriate" for the Human Services Department to fund the service.

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