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Disability campaign mounts ahead of elections

September 17, 2018

Federation is responding to the joint needs of students with disability and their teachers at every campaigning level, as advocacy intensifies ahead of the state and federal elections.

At Annual Conference, members prioritised “belonging” and “rigour” in the schooling and learning experiences of children and young people with disability.

Since Conference in July, Federation has set about this crucial task from a professional, organising and political perspective.

In those months, Federation has engaged more than 200 members in the Organising for Intervention seminar in city and country Associations, with the aim of providing participants with information on what departmental procedures, funding and human resources are available to teachers in the learning support of students with disability.

The Trade Union Training seminar has been well received by teachers, consultants and principals alike. Evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive and members have valued the opportunity to connect with colleagues to identify local supports and develop strategies for when support has not been readily available.

The seminar has shown the need that exists across the state and the unique and compounded challenges faced by schools in regional and rural areas.

Lead researchers and practitioners have been confirmed for the Centre for Professional Learning’s (CPL) inaugural Mental Health of Students with Disability conference on Monday, 5 November.

Participants will hear keynote addresses from heads of developmental and child neuropsychiatry at the University of NSW and Westmead Children’s Hospital, Professor Julian Trollor and Dr David Dossetor.

Headspace will present on the National Education Initiative, launched together with beyondblue in August, while School-Link, the joint education health initiative addressing mental health in schools for almost two decades, will run a workshop and have materials available for schools.

KidsXpress will unpack a brain-based approach to emotional and behavioural challenges while Berry Street will provide a snapshot of its hugely sought after Berry Street Education Model.

To further the campaigning momentum, Federation will fund a delegate from every Association across the state to attend the Equity Matters Disability Symposium to be held at Federation House on Saturday, 17 November.

The symposium will bring together lead academics and experts in the areas of disability and Aboriginal education, refugees and trauma, early intervention and care, and mental illness.

The symposium is open to all Federation members and will provide opportunities for Association representatives to plan for local action. NSW ministers, senior Department officials and organisation representatives are being invited to hear the evidence underpinning the need for adequate investment and urgent systemic change.

To supplement these actions in pursuit of educational equity, Federation has also met with the Australian Human Rights Commissioners Alastair McEwin (Disability Discrimination) and Megan Mitchell (Children), heads of the Department’s Delivery Unit and Disability, Learning and Wellbeing directorate, and connected with advocacy organisations Family Advocacy, First Peoples Disability Network and Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Trauma and Torture Survivors.

Federation has also met with associate professors Iva Strnadova, Therese Cummings and Dr Sue O’Neill from the University of NSW regarding their extensive research on transition planning for students with disability and complex needs.

Federation has continued to carry out its shared responsibility and commitment by collaboratively engaging in the Department’s Improving Outcomes for Children with Disability and their Families initiative.

The process has brought together more than 30 organisation representatives, as the Department aims to implement the recommendations from the Parliamentary inquiry and deliver on its goal to be the best education system for children with disability in Australia.

Over the past year, Federation has taken the expertise, successful practice and needs of members to the Department planning table and ensured that adequate resourcing and teacher support remains steadfast in discussions.

While this process continues, Federation members are clear that improvements require funding and the Federal Government’s cuts must be reversed if these necessary projects are to be delivered effectively and sustainably by state governments.

During the Fair Funding Now! week of action, Federation Organisers visited specialist settings and door knocked in targeted electorates with specialist and mainstream teachers who were able to speak first hand of the difference additional disability funding would make to their teaching.

They took to the streets and social media to share the effect more teachers, collaborative planning time, professional learning and allied health professionals would make for their students.

As we intensify campaign efforts in the lead up to the state and federal elections, members are encouraged to promote the upcoming symposium and active participation in the Fair Funding Now! campaign.

These important initiatives seek to address complex system challenges, while the TUT seminar and CPL conference respond to immediate need by equipping members with knowledge and strategies to support the students in their classrooms.

Claudia Vera, City organiser

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