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Deliver funding promised to the Special Development School in Warrnambool

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Dear Minister for Education, Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, and representatives of the electorate of Western Victoria,

I’m writing in regard to the Andrews Labor Government’s recent decision to exclude the second stage of funding required to relocate Warrnambool’s Special Development School.

In the 2015-2016 Victorian budget, your government committed $5 million to fund the first stage of the relocation project, including purchasing land and planning the new site.  Local people applauded this long overdue decision, which Mr Merlino also acknowledged:
“For too long Warrnambool Special Development School has been bursting at the seams.  I am proud that the Andrews Labor Government has delivered on this important commitment.”

Can you explain why, in the 2016-2017 budget, there is no allowance for stage two of this crucial funding?  How can you acknowledge the overcrowding issue yet not deliver on your promise?

For children with a disability, life is a constant struggle.  Basic skills we take for granted, such as feeding, communication and movement, are often a major challenge for children with a disability.  It is imperative for you to understand that, in the omission of these funds, you are directly impacting the wellbeing and education of hundreds of Victorian children.  These are among the most vulnerable people in our society.  These children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect equal to that of their peers in mainstream schools.

The current Hyland Street site was first opened as the Special Development school in 1992 for 30 students.  It is now crammed with 130 students on a very steep site which is not ideal for wheel-chair access.  The current yard space is inadequate. The continual increase of enrolments speaks volumes about not only the quality of education and care at the school, but also reaffirms the need for a facility for those unable to attend mainstream school.

From a planning perspective, Warrnambool’s population is approximately 32,500.  Including outlying towns within bus distance of Warrnambool, this population increases to at least 40,000 people.  The overcrowding issue will worsen over time unless action is taken now. 

Children with additional needs require an advocate to communicate their rights.  

We, the undersigned, are advocating for more than just accommodations for students of the Warrnambool Special Development School (such as adequate yard space).  

We are advocating for children’s quality of life, now and in the future.

“Education is the aspect of our lives that has the greatest impact on our future, as individuals and as a society”.  This quote from Mr Merlino's website acknowledges that our futures are impacted strongly by our education opportunities.  

We urge you to honour your promise to fund the second stage of the funding for the Warrnambool Special Development School. 

Looking forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Mrs Nicole Elliott
Port Fairy, Vic, 3284

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