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August 18, 2003

Department's deaf ear leads to lawsuit threat

From: The Age, Australia - Aug 18, 2003

By Farrah Tomazin Education Reporter

The families of up to 40 deaf children are considering legal action against the State Government over the lack of support for hearing-impaired students in Victoria's south-west.

These children living in Warrnambool, Corangamite, Portland and Hamilton have been without a full-time teaching specialist for about three years.

Parents blame the Victorian Education Department for the crisis, claiming that bureaucratic inaction has left their children neglected and discriminated against. One family has removed their 12-year-old son from school and is now teaching him at home through the Distance Education Centre.

Advocacy group Victorian Services for Deaf Children has engaged a barrister for a potential class action on behalf of up to 40 families.

Chief executive Damian Lacey said that unless the department resolved the matter, a case would be lodged through the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission or other channels.

The teacher shortage in Victoria's south-west continues despite a $93,000 review - $53,000 of which was funded by the department - recommending that teaching specialists be employed in the region.

Parents from the South West Hearing Support Group campaigned for help, prompting then education minister Mary Delahunty to ask that a visiting teacher be reinstated. But no one was recruited and schools have been without a full-time teaching specialist since.

Hamilton mother Anne Bayly said her 16-year-old son Reece and 12-year-old daughter Abbi were not being supported as well as students in metropolitan areas or other regional towns.

A spokesman for Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan said the minister had asked the Education Department to deal with the matter by the end of the week.

Copyright © 2003 The Age Company Ltd