vote of no confidence - Letters to Mr A Barr MLA

Following are several letters/emails to the ACT Chief Minister. His response can be downloaded below.


Ministers Andrew Barr MLA and Joy Burch MLA
ACT Legislative Assembly

Dear Chief Minister and Minister,

This letter is to inform you that the Committee of Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) in the ACT passed a motion of no confidence on the 17/9/2015 in:

  • the ACT Minister for Education and for Disability, and

  • the ACT Government

over events relating to the recent boy-in-the-cage “incident”.

The matter is not an “isolated incident” and the Minister's attempts to portray it as such show little or no understanding of the level of systemic failure for autistic students in the ACT. This attitude is unlikely to deliver improvements or reduce risk of abuse and neglect of autistic students in education or disability services in the ACT.

Clearly, the ACT Government's goal in its handling of the event is about trying to avoid further damage to the Government's image. The members of it's Expert Panel are at least partially responsible for the design, staff training, operation and monitoring of existing education services in the ACT: so they have a substantial conflict of interest.

We are disappointed that the Government is using the Expert Panel's existence as an excuse to avoid engagement with the ASD community. We notice that the Directorate is recruiting staff ahead of advice from the Expert Panel or any community consultation (see http://www.jobs.act.gov.au/jobs/education-and-training/permanent/02163).

Please feel free to contact SOfASD if you wish to discuss how the ACT Government can help improve outcomes for people diagnosed with ASD in the ACT.

Yours sincerely,
--

Bob Buckley
Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD)
a voice for people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the ACT

email: chair@sofasd.org.au
website: sofasd.org.au

19/9/2015


Dear Mr Barr MLA
The article, Joy Burch discussed partial release of boy in cage inquiry with director-general (SMH 23/9/2015), says:

Ms Burch also described an autism group who moved a motion of confidence against her on Tuesday as not representative of the entire community.

Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder chairman Bob Buckley raised concerns about the government's response to the cage once it was reported.

Mr Buckley said he was worried the expert panel had a conflict of interest and would not be able to provide a satisfactory resolution.

"The members of its expert panel are at least partially responsible for the design, staff training, operation and monitoring of existing education services in the ACT so, they have a substantial conflict of interest," he said. "We are disappointed that the government is using the expert panel's existence as an excuse to avoid engagement with the autism spectrum disorder community."

Ms Burch said Mr Buckley was a passionate advocate for his family and for families with autism.

"But let's be very clear, he does not speak on behalf or represent the entire autism community and he is particularly weathered to the applied behaviour analysis approach," she said.

Ms Burch said she took exception to Mr Buckley's suggestion the expert panel had a conflict of interest.

"It is interesting that Bob Buckley has cast such negative comments against Professor [Anthony] Shaddock, against the Human Rights Commissioner for Children and Young People, and against Sue Packer who was a well-regarded paediatrician in this city," she said.

"I will challenge Mr Buckley on that because I would say Professor Shaddock, Sue Packer and Alasdair Roy are indeed up to the task."

I presume this material is based on a statement from Ms Burch MLA. I have not seen what she wrote or said. I wasn't given a chance to respond to any of this, so please let me respond here ...

Ms Burch also described an autism group who moved a motion of confidence against her on Tuesday as not representative of the entire community.

SOfASD may not represent "the entire [autism/ASD] community" just the same as Minister Burch's Labor Party does not have all the votes of the ACT population. Is there another community group that represents people affected by ASD in the ACT? Does Minister Burch prefers to get "community opinions" about autism issues only from service providers that the ACT Government funds and ignore other voices in the community, especially the voices of people who live with ASD?

Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder chairman Bob Buckley raised concerns about the government's response to the cage once it was reported.

Yes, guilty as charged. Mostly, we are concerned that the Minister's claim that inappropriate treatment of an autistic child with ongoing behaviour problems is an "isolated incident". Incredibly, she chooses to ignore a wide range of voices, including that of the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

Mr Buckley said he was worried the expert panel had a conflict of interest and would not be able to provide a satisfactory resolution.

Yes,  I said I believe members of the Expert Panel have some serious conflicts of interest. I don't recall saying they "would not be able to provide a satisfactory resolution" ... though that is a reasonable conclusion when there is a conflict of interest.

"The members of its expert panel are at least partially responsible for the design, staff training, operation and monitoring of existing education services in the ACT so, they have a substantial conflict of interest," he said. "We are disappointed that the government is using the expert panel's existence as an excuse to avoid engagement with the autism spectrum disorder community."

Does the Minister dispute the first sentence of the above? Are those the reasons why the ACT Government considers those individuals are experts?

The Minister said she didn't want to meet while the Expert Panel review in underway. This is just the Minister's latest convenient excuse for not meeting to discuss our concerns. This Minister simply refuses to discuss or progress anything to do with addressing the behaviour (and other) issues of autistic students.

Ms Burch said Mr Buckley was a passionate advocate for his family and for families with autism.

Yes, guilty as charged.

"But let's be very clear, he does not speak on behalf or represent the entire autism community and he is particularly weathered to the applied behaviour analysis approach," she said.

Note: the SOfASD descriptions say "a voice ...", it has never claimed to be "the voice ...".

I have never claimed to "speak on behalf or represent the entire autism community". However, I am chair of a grassroots autism organisation in the ACT ... and I'm Convenor of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4) which is the national grassroots ASD group that is a member organisation of Disability Australia, the consortium of nation disability specific groups associated with the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

In relation to "he is particularly weathered to the applied behaviour analysis approach", I wonder what Minister Burch knows about behaviour science. In the time I've known her, I've not heard her suggest using any approach at all to tackling behavioural issues for people with ASD. Her policy is to do nothing. Most people believe that if a child develops "broken" behaviour, then it should be treated. If a child breaks a leg, we don't leave it untreated using medical science. Broken behaviour should be treated with behavioural science, it cannot be left untreated. The Minister's policy that results in a school putting an autistic child with behaviour problems in a cage is not a policy we accept ... we've been raising this issue for years but the Minister doesn't offer anything to tackle the problem. She refuses to even discuss the matter.

Notice that the boy-in-the-cage story is a result of this leadership position. Based on the report that has been release so far, neither the principal nor any other teachers involved sought advice from a behaviour specialist ... they were never taught (in their training) or advised by their employer that they should call in behavioural expertise ... and there seems to be no process for them to do so.

The Minister likes to portray me as having an unusual, maybe irrational, view that's all my own. But from what I understand, clinicians generally recommend using Applied Behaviour Analysis, or it's newer offspring PBS, for challenging behaviour in young or severely autistic people (though CBT may be a better option for some older autistic people).

Ms Burch said she took exception to Mr Buckley's suggestion the expert panel had a conflict of interest.

Other people seem to understand the conflict of interest.

"It is interesting that Bob Buckley has cast such negative comments against Professor [Anthony] Shaddock, against the Human Rights Commissioner for Children and Young People, and against Sue Packer who was a well-regarded paediatrician in this city," she said.

My concern with Prof Shaddock in this matter relates to the conflict of interest. My concern with the Children's Commissioner is that the report as released by the Minister indicates that no one contacted the Commissioner's office in relation to the cage and its use, so that part of the Commissioner's processes didn't work ... is it really appropriate for the Commissioner to review her own processes and role in the "incident"? I think most people would regard that as a conflict of interest. 

"I will challenge Mr Buckley on that because I would say Professor Shaddock, Sue Packer and Alasdair Roy are indeed up to the task."

I think they may be up to the task if they weren't personally involved in this particular case.
 --

Bob Buckley
Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD)
a voice for people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the ACT
phone: 04XX XXX XXX

email: chair@sofasd.org.au
website: sofasd.org.au

24/9/2015


Dear Chief Minister Barr MLA
While I understand your need to protect and defend your Minister for Education and Disability, I would like to raise several issue with her conduct.

  1. While we can all agree that putting autistic students in cages to address their behaviour issues is inappropriate, Minister Burch also decide years ago that behaviour science, or Applied Behaviour Analysis, is also not appropriate in the ACT. So far, she and her Directorates have not articulated or implemented a viable alternative. It is time the ACT Government did something to tackle properly the needs of increasing numbers of autistic students in the ACT's public schools.
  2. Minister Burch has not been having honest conversations with representative of people living with autism spectrum disorder. There have been few meetings and the ones we had were  clearly a waste of time. The Minister has delayed meaningful discussion of the issue for years.
  3. The Minister prefers to get advice from the people around her. Those people are the architects of the current system where the boy-in-the-cage was an example of what happens when appropriate approaches are not available. Her Expert Panel are the people who have not progressed the matter in years.
  4. The Minister's Expert Panel does not include anyone who identifies as living with autism spectrum disorder: it is not inclusive and not respectful.
  5. The Minister publicly questioned my role as a representative. If you need it, I can provide you with a list of some of the roles I have or had in relation toe the autism community.
yours sincerely
--

Bob Buckley
Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD)
a voice for people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the ACT

email: chair@sofasd.org.au
website: sofasd.org.au

25/9/2015

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