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August 26, 2003

Victory for deaf children

From: Warrnambool Standard, Australia - Aug 26, 2003


SOUTH-WEST parents yesterday reached a breakthrough in their desperate campaign to provide better education services for hearing impaired children.

The Department of Education (DoE) announced it would allocate an additional $70,000 to employ a specialist teacher for the south-west.

The region has battled without full-time support for almost three years.

Parents yesterday vowed to push for more resources, saying the money was only the first step to meeting their children's educational needs.

The funding boost comes after advocacy group Victorian Services for Deaf Children this month threatened to lodge a class action with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to improve services.

Peter Brain, the DoE Barwon South West Region assistant regional director, said the additional funding would pay for a full-time professional to provide support and leadership of hearing impaired services for state schools.

The new role would be fully operational by the start of the next school term.

This was in addition to services already set up in the region, he said.

The DoE provides funding to schools with hearing impaired children and employs a part-time teacher to service the Barwon South West Region.

Greg Lee, president of the South West Hearing Support Group, said parents were still concerned thousands of dollars in funding was not being distributed properly by schools to meet students' special needs.

"We are thrilled that the money is there to obtain a co-ordinator but the fight isn't over yet," Mr Lee said.

"We really think there needs to be two (full-time) teachers to adequately help our kids and the money that's already there needs to be spent on them and it's not happening."

Mr Brain said he was not aware of any major concerns over the way educational funds were being spent.

Victorian Services for Deaf Children chief, Damian Lacey, said the funding announcement followed a three-year struggle and active lobbying by dedicated parents.

"I understand parents' concerns on some issues and there are some bridges still to cross but I see this as a positive step, the first step of a best practice model that we will be heavily involved with."

Copyright © 2003 Warrnambool Standard