HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.42 pm]: I rise to make a few comments about an event last week that I was lucky enough to be invited to. That was the official launch of Kites Children’s Therapy. I was joined by the Minister for Disability Services, Hon Stephen Dawson, who opened the event. It was a lovely day, and I was very pleased to be able to be there.

Kites Children’s Therapy includes the new Kites Toybox toy library. Members may remember the previous incarnations of this toy library. Kites Toybox is the new home of the Activ Learning and Discovery Centre, formerly the Noah’s Ark Toy Library, which began in 1976 and ended up merging with the Independent Living Centre. Members may remember that this toy library has had a bit of a history. There has been quite a lot of difficulty in finding a funding model that would enable this service to continue. The toy library provides specialised toys for children with disability, as well as a number of switches that are basically a series of mechanisms that enable toys to be easily used by children with a range of disabilities. It is very fortunate that VisAbility, which is a very large non-government organisation within this state that provides professional therapy and support services to people with vision impairment, has taken it upon itself to reinvigorate this toy library. It is a very important service, and one that is very much needed to ensure that young children with disability can meet their various early childhood needs.

The service is very interesting. It provides not simply the toy library but also a range of services that specialise in early childhood intervention for children aged zero to six years. It provides various therapies, including personalised early intervention support, advice and solutions to help transform the lives of children living with disability or developmental challenges. Excitingly, it includes the use of therapy dogs. Its dog-assisted therapy program is pretty much the first of its kind in Western Australia. That means that children with a range of disabilities, such as autism and global developmental delay, intellectual or learning disability, sensory impairment and a range of physical disabilities, will be able to work with the therapy dog. The therapy dog is called Bazza. Bazza was at the launch. He is a very sweet and personable dog. The children were delighted to be able to meet Bazza, who will play a critical role. People may be aware that VisAbility incorporates Guide Dogs WA, so it already plays a really cool role in providing therapy dogs and working dogs in Western Australia.

One of the things that is very promising about Kites Children’s Therapy is that it is making a great effort to deliver a range of other services in conjunction with Curtin University’s School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology. The toy library will be connected with students from Curtin University who will take the toy library to playgroups to enable students with disability to play alongside other children in an integrated setting. The partnership will enable children to be connected with a range of disability services to ensure that their families, carers, therapists and educators are provided with the resources and support they need to better be able to assist these children. We know that it is very important that children are provided with appropriate and accessible toys in early childhood and with the necessary interventions and supports. Therefore, this service will play a valuable role, particularly for families who have children with additional needs.

At the moment, VisAbility is pretty much taking on the cost of running this service. It is hoping that some people will be eligible to apply to have the cost of the service incorporated into their individualised plans, and also that some people will be willing to pay a small fee for service to access the toy library. That is not dissimilar to the situation at other toy libraries that exist around the suburbs. It needs to be remembered that this is a unique toy library that requires a range of different types of toys and the capacity to mend them. I think it is worthy of getting block funding; I put that on the record. It provides a very important service for children who are vision impaired, blind and who have a range of other impairments. VisAbility has gone way beyond the mandate that it usually operates within—that is, working specifically for people who have vision impairment or who are blind. We are very lucky to have a large non-government organisation that has effectively been prepared to absorb the cost itself and ensure that such a valuable service is able to continue. I really hope that this time the service will be viable, because the previous incarnations were not able to continue without getting the necessary additional funding from government. As I say, hopefully it is all going to work well, but if it does not, I hope there may be an appetite to ensure that this critical service continues, because it is very important. In the meantime, I think we can all be very happy to know that this service is up and running here in Western Australia. It is very positive, and I congratulate VisAbility for putting its hand up to ensure that this service continues. It is important that if members know of constituents who have young children with disability who may be able to avail themselves of this service, they make them aware so they can perhaps get in touch.


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