The Parent Forums on on the Move! To Port Augusta and Berri.
“From small beginnings big things grow.” The enthusiasm shown by parents and carers of children and young people with disability and Student Support Services at the Port Augusta and Berri country forums in the first week of November 2019 have developed the strong foundation for this to occur. Interest was shown by parents attending to be part of a country Parent Reference Group to support the future planning of forums/conferences reflecting the country perspective.
Disability Policy and Programs worked together with Student Support Services team managers and school representatives to hold the two country conferences. The importance of this collaboration is essential as it combines the local knowledge and expertise of Student Support Services who provide the crucial face to face service with the children and families within the local preschools and schools. In their position they are key in partnering and advocating for children’s rights and needs and at the same time operationalising policy much of which is researched and generated through Disability Policy and Programs.
The keynote speaker from the Disability Policy and Programs September Adelaide Parent Conference “A Different Kind of Brilliance” Kirsty Russell, travelled with Kerry Parker, Assistant Director and Liz Barber, Parent Engagement to engage and support country parents in their child’s education journey. Kirsty repeated her two conference presentations in which she related her own family’s experiences with her children with disability and shared strategies that were practical and from real life situations.
Kerry Parker outlined some of the current programs and policy development that Disability Policy and Programs are undertaking including One Plan, Inclusive Education Support Program, and Inclusion and alerted them to the current Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, the State Disability Inclusion Plan and the review of suspension and exclusion.
This conference was held at the Port Augusta Regional Education Office and parents and carers travelled from Whyalla, Wilmington and surrounding areas to attend. Their children attended a range of school options and reflected the great diversity of both needs and year levels.
Kirsty shared her presentation on “Working with School, Advocacy, Relationship and more” including “How to initiate and manage difficult conversations”.
The full program allowed little time for the Q & A-session which would have given the parents more opportunity to ask questions to a panel about specific issues and concerns particularly relating to their child. To ensure all question are able to be raised the parents were:
- either linked with local support personnel, including SSS staff
- or their questions taken on notice, so information could be provided back after the day
Held at the Berri Resort Hotel Balcony Room, the program offered parents the opportunity to listen to Kirsty’s keynote that had been presented at the state conference entitled “Recognising and harnessing your child’s different kind of brilliance”. At the break the parents were able to talk with local Student Support Service staff and look at information provided by the NDIS local Coordinators.
To make the most of the invited presenters the afternoon was conducted as a Question and Answer session. A panel made up of Kirsty, Kerry and Donna Lawrence the Student Support Services Team Manager and Liz Barber listened to the parent’s range of questions that had either been submitted or were asked during the session. The interaction during this session was broadened as parents gave their examples of how they had dealt with situations or strategies they found useful. This networking between parents is a real strength of the forums and conferences. As Kirsty Russell recommends find a parent buddy to share your stories as they walk in your shoes and understand where you are coming from.
Feedback received indicated that the overall response to both regional conferences was a success and the sessions presented were relevant, meeting most of the expectations and needs of the parents. Some improvement could include more lead up time, better notification and distribution of information. Topics specific to the local area and more inclusion of local providers and services in the one place at the one time as many parents travelled some distance to attend.
Parents can follow up on the sessions or raise queries and topics that can be followed up on by emailing Education.ParentForumConference@sa.gov.au
We would like to thank everyone who attended and contributed to the day – planning for the next one is in the pipeline.