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Lawrie and Ginny

Content Warning: These stories are about violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation and may include references to suicide or self-harming behaviours. They may contain graphic descriptions and strong language and may be distressing. Some narratives may be about First Nations people who have passed away. If you need support, please see Contact & support.

‘We have all these plans, all these strategies, but when the rubber hits the road, how are we supporting people with disability or their carer? The blunt answer is we're not doing a great job of that.’

Ginny’s son Lawrie is autistic and deaf in one ear.

‘We want him to participate in school and to feel a sense of belonging and connection,’ Ginny told the Royal Commission. ‘He's quite a bright little guy … [but] there's some challenges surrounding how he’s experiencing inclusion.’

Lawrie was born deaf and doctors didn’t diagnose autism until he started school. Ginny, a former teacher, helped his school apply for funding to support him.

‘What I've repeatedly seen both as a teacher and ... a parent is that the child isn't necessarily benefiting from the funding that they're eligible for.’

Lawrie’s support funding is spent at the school’s discretion. Ginny said the school keeps telling her that Lawrie is ‘doing great, he doesn't need any support’, so it allocates the money he gets to support other children.

‘Because there's other children in his class that are not diagnosed that … almost certainly do require additional support … the teacher's assistant is used for other children to support the other family.’

Ginny said Lawrie’s school focusses on academic outcomes, ‘not necessarily the social and emotional wellbeing of the child’. Lawrie’s doing well academically, but struggles socially at a school that doesn’t have a policy of inclusion. He needs a quiet space in the classroom as well as staff who have disability training.

‘Our school has a chaplain but they're, like, a day a week [and] again not trained in disabilities so have very limited skills to support students.’

Ginny said she shouldn’t have to move Lawrie to another school to get better support if the funding’s already there.

‘One school might be a positive behaviour school and they might have a beautiful plan and policy available, and then the next school it doesn't. So I think that needs to be mandatory for all.’

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawrie became more anxious and refused to go to school. Ginny asked her government employer if she could transition from full-time to part-time work to care for him. Her employer refused to make the adjustment and she had to resign.

‘It really goes hand in hand – education and employment, the impact on carers and families – because we as a family can't meet [Lawrie's] needs if I'm not working. But I can't work if I'm not supported in order to be able to work. Some adjustments are needed.’

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Disclaimer: This is the story of a person who shared their personal experience with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability through a submission or private session. The names in this story are pseudonyms. The person who shared this experience was not a witness and their account is not evidence. They did not take an oath or affirmation before providing the story. Nothing in this story constitutes a finding of the Royal Commission. Any views expressed are those of the person who shared their experience, not of the Royal Commission.