BUSHkids Conference 2017 Opening

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I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land of which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders – past, present, and emerging – and indeed elders of any culture who have joined us today.

I would also like to acknowledge BUSHkids for hosting the conference today, and inviting me to open it.

As Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services and Patron of the Friends of BUSHkids, I am honoured today to open the BUSHkids conference. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a major reform, giving choice and control to people with disability, and our Partners in the Community, such as BUSHkids, play a key role in implementing it.

BUSHkids has a long and proud history in Queensland, being established over 80 years ago, in 1935, to provide health care for children living in regional areas of Queensland. Initially, it focused on providing healthcare to children living in regional areas of Queensland, setting up coastal homes that children were transported to for care.

Since then, it has continued to adapt to meet the needs of Queenslanders. As Queensland Health regionalised, and met general medical needs of children in regional areas, BUSHkids moved to early childhood intervention programs and community programs to meet other areas of need in Queensland communities. This long-standing involvement, alongside its experience in early intervention work, makes it a valuable partner for the roll out of the NDIS, and one that the NDIS is proud to work with.

From the 1st of July, BUSHkids will provide Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) services in Bundaberg. Participants will begin transitioning from state-based schemes from the 1st of September, while new participants will be entering from October.

BUSHkids has already recruited staff for these roles, most of whom are from the Bundaberg region, who are currently undergoing training in preparation for the roll out in the region.

The NDIS ECEI approach recognises that children learn and develop best in their natural environment, in the home and in the community. As such, it focuses on providing supports to children within this environment, providing access to mainstream and specialist services as needed, while also supporting community participation and inclusion.

The ECEI approach focuses on children aged 0-6, as intervention in this age group will help significantly in helping to give them the best possible start to life, and have implications for their later development.

ECEI staff have expertise in a range of areas, including speech pathology, occupational therapy, and family health, to ensure that a holistic approach is taken in developing plans, taking into account varying areas of need.

The long-standing involvement in their communities that BUSHkids and the other NDIS partners have means that they are specially placed to implement this approach.

Their knowledge of the community means that they are effectively able to recommend local activities that aid with social development and community inclusion. Their knowledge of early childhood development will help them to recognise what specialist services are likely to be effective, and recommend them to the parents or carers of children with disability, and in creating appropriate and effective NDIS plans.

I am proud of what the NDIS will achieve, enabling participants and their families living in Bundaberg and throughout Australia to live an ordinary life, and be able to fulfil their potential. Our Partners in the Community, such as BUSHkids, will be an enormous part of making that happen, and I am proud to open their conference.