A mainstream school would not be right for my son
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Credit: Matt Golding
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Like other six-year-olds, my son Nissim is in prep at a government school. Unlike other six-year-olds, Nissim is unable to sit up, walk, talk, or toilet himself. He requires tube feeding and is permanently attached to an oxygen cylinder because he even requires assistance to breathe. Despite these immense difficulties, Nissim adores attending Glenallen special school, where he is tended to by incredible teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and many other specialised staff. The other children in his class are of similar abilities, and they are all delivered a modified and enjoyable curriculum tailored to their needs. Everyone in his class is school-aged but requires the same level of care as toddlers or babies. Do the experts advising the royal commission truly believe that children like Nissim would be better served by mainstreaming them? Our experience of trying and failing to have Nissim enrolled in a mainstream kindergarten suggests otherwise.
Deanna Cohen, Caulfield South
We could stop calling them ‘special’ schools
Re the debate on whether to keep special schools or not. Maybe we should do something as simple as stop calling them “special” schools. We have mainstream schools in our community already that cater for high achievers. We also have schools that offer a different way of learning such as Steiner and Montessori. Are they called special schools? No. But they are, because they are offering a particular way of learning to cater for those who either want or need it. You choose a school to fit your child’s needs. Schools for the disabled, whether it be physical, mental or both, play a very important role in society. They are giving those students an opportunity to thrive in an environment designed for them. No different to those students attending the other schools mentioned. To place those currently in “special” schools in a mainstream environment, by and large, will not work unless future governments are prepared to fund schools accordingly. One size does not fit all and never will.
Catherine Gerardson, Watsonia North
Rest of the class was largely ignored
During the ’80s and ’90s I taught at a secondary college in Melbourne. The principal decided to accept enrolment of a student with an IQ around 70, and this student was in my year 7 class. I had had no training in teaching students with learning disabilities; there was no aide for this student, and no additional resources or training were provided. The vast majority of my teaching time in that class was taken by assisting this student to understand what was required and how to do any activities. There was almost no time to help the other 20-plus students in the class, little time for others needing help, and no time for those who were more capable. Didn’t other students in the class deserve the same amount of time I was giving the special-needs student? How was this justice for the rest of the class? I don’t know how a mainstream schoolteacher can effectively deal with special-needs students while giving adequate time to the rest of the students in the class.
Angela Forgan, Docklands
Blown away by what teachers provided
I totally understand Keren Zelwer’s perspective regarding special schools and the need to offer a choice to children with disabilities and their parents (“Closing my child’s school is a disastrous idea”, Comment, 3/10). I was a volunteer in a government special school for many years. I was blown away by what was provided physically, emotionally, medically and educationally by those working in that environment. The range in capacity of the students was huge, even in each individual class of only six students. The entire staff were fully occupied every day and run off their feet. Unfortunately, I cannot see any educational, physical or financial way any government could retro-fit the buildings and staff required in all mainstream schools to accommodate such diverse needs. I am convinced the general community would be unwilling to pay the necessary increase in tax to achieve such an outcome. I cannot see anything fairer than to provide an effective choice.
Jenny Callaghan, Hawthorn
Nation’s original sin
David Marr through his discovery of his ancestors’ murderous contribution reveals Australia’s brutal history of colonisation (Good Weekend, 30/9). Many Indigenous people, even those who have attained success in the dominant non-Indigenous culture of modern Australia, live with the tragedy – personal, familial and cultural – resulting from English colonisation of Australia. The savage cruelty of colonisation has benefited the colonisers and their descendants and also the many of us who are “new Australians”. Those who have largely not benefited are the Indigenous Australians, the losers in the colonisation process. Until we learn the historical foundations of Australia and understand the ugly parts of that history, we are all tainted with our nation’s original sin. We are not to blame for the sins of Australia’s colonisers, but we are to blame if we do not take action to right the wrongs that are the product of those sins. Apology is not sufficient; action is required.
The Voice is a step to reconciliation – a first practical step of atonement for our nation’s historical sins, and a first step towards healing, hope and opportunity for all Australians – descendants of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, those who colonised this land, and also for those of us who chose more recently to adopt this country as home.
Maureen Fastenau, Williamstown
We agree on a lot
I can’t understand how the debate over the Voice has become so divisive when the vast majority of Australians support most of what is being asked. The vast majority support recognition of First Nations peoples in the Constitution. All major political parties support some form of a Voice for First Nations peoples. In other words, all support the undeniable truth that for any group within society to improve their social wellbeing they must first gain a greater sense of control over their day-to-day lives. The only difference between Labor and the Liberals is on the creation and format of a Voice. The Liberals want to legislate for many regional Voices. Listening to the deceptive, dishonest, depressing, divisive debates that have raged for the last few months it is hard to believe that on the central principles there is furious agreement.
Howard Tankey, Box Hill North
Buck stops with PM
A good strategist anticipates what his opponents are going to do and acts accordingly. Surely, Anthony Albanese with his team of advisers would have known before announcing a referendum on the Voice that the Coalition was going to oppose it. He also must have been aware that referendum proposals don’t succeed without bipartisan support. So the person who should take the blame in the event of the proposal’s defeat isn’t Peter Dutton or David Littleproud, but the prime minister himself.
Ivan Glynn, Vermont
The silence of fear?
A correspondent (Letters, 3/10) suggests that referendum No voters are remaining closeted due to a sense of shame. Could it be that many No voters having genuinely held concerns are hesitant about coming out because of a fear of being unfairly vilified and called racist by strident Yes campaigners? A need for respect on both sides is warranted.
Edward Combes, Wheelers Hill
Drop the rail loop
The Grattan Institute’s Natasha Bradshaw (Comment, 1/10) is spot-on in identifying the need to drop Daniel Andrews’ Suburban Rail Loop project. At the very least, the project must be reviewed. A more modest circuit route at far lesser cost could be delivered via light rail or smart bus with limited tunnelling, at-grade integrated stations and overpasses to match topography. This would enable more frequent stops linking more activity nodes for far better connectivity and patronage across Melbourne. The expensive Suburban Rail Loop underground system with limited stops was conceived without proper planning, cost-benefit analysis, or consideration of alternatives.
Jackie Fristacky, Carlton North
There are, as Natasha Bradshaw says, many better alternatives to the high-cost, low-value Suburban Rail Loop. Melbourne’s west and rural and regional Victoria get left behind yet again. The budget-munching SRL leaves these communities with few service improvement opportunities for decades ahead. New premier Jacinta Allan needs to rid her government of the politically driven rail loop. Instead it needs to refocus on service equity and access, as there are many superior value opportunities to strengthen the state’s transport and other service networks in ways that many more people and communities benefit.
John Hedditch, Williamstown
The decline of US
Re Peter Hartcher’s piece “Can we still count on Uncle Sam?” (Comment, 3/10), I would say no. The world is changing rapidly from a unipolar world to a multipolar world and the US is yet to understand the changing world dynamics. The threatened shutdown of the US government over the debt ceiling raises a number of issues. However, one situation not discussed in the article is the impact on Americans on low incomes or reliant on government support, who are always the most vulnerable in this periodic threat. It seems unconscionable that the hard-right Republicans are prepared to gamble on the possible suffering of millions of Americans for political opportunism and self-interest.
Judith Morrison, Nunawading
A timely reminder
Is the blocking of new aid for Ukraine by the US a timely reminder to Australia that when the going gets tough, domestic politics will always trump any alliance we have with the US military? Perhaps we should consider a more reliable partner for our new submarines.
John Forbes, Port Fairy
Please turn it down
My son and I were fortunate to attend last Saturday’s AFL grand final at the MCG. We had great seats – level 4, row P in the members’ enclosure, right on the halfway line. The weather was perfect, the match thrilling throughout, and the entertainment, well, entertaining. The only discordant note(s), and there was a profusion, was the excessive level of sound emanating from the PA system.
The measurements taken on our smart devices before and during breaks in play prove that the volume of sound pumped out was ridiculously high, enough to threaten the hearing of the audience. The measurements peaked at 104.5 decibels, were sustained for significant periods above 90db, and otherwise at 78-85db. Apart from the health dangers associated with such levels it was completely intrusive to normal conversations by spectators who wished to enjoy the occasion and the excitement. Please in future, for the health and social enjoyment of your spectators, produce sound at sensible levels at AFL events.
Peter Evans, Bentleigh East
Of the new cabinet of Premier Jacinta Allan, 66 per cent are female. Or to put it another way, there are two females for every male selected. One wonders why, given gifts and abilities are equally distributed between men and women, and given Labor’s commitments to gender equality, there have been so few men chosen for cabinet roles? I’d say the transition from the patriarchy to the matriarchy has been an outstanding success. Maybe the Labor Party should rebrand itself as the Women’s Labor Party. It’s about time the Labor Party practised what it preached and stopped loading the deck against men.
Alan Barron, Grovedale
Block benefits minimal
Curb your enthusiasm for any perceived community benefits of The Block, Bass Coast Shire residents (“Block looks to lock in beach vibes”, 3/10). The Block has had two projects in St Kilda – the Gatwick on Fitzroy Street and The Oslo Hotel on Grey Street. Both projects delivered nicely renovated buildings. However, beware of fawning PR hype and your council bending over backwards to accommodate a commercial venture. Road closures, diminished amenity and then thousands of visitors you’ll never see again and who didn’t spend a cent was about the sum of it for St Kilda.
Geoffrey Conaghan, St Kilda
Food labels unreadable
The nutrition and ingredient labels on physical products are also often difficult to read (“Grocery giants hit over online labels”, 3/10). Food manufacturers seem to do it deliberately, such as by putting black print on a blue background. I’m sometimes forced to take a photo of the label with my phone in order to enlarge it to make it readable.
Wayne Robinson, Kingsley
The real speed bumps
Residents objecting to speed bumps and bike lanes that improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists (“Bike lane projects hit a speed bump”, 3/10) need to recognise that the most common and noisiest “speed bumps” on our roads are in fact other motor vehicles. Missing from much of the current discussion about increasing housing density in suburban areas is the key issue of how these suburbs will cope with all the extra cars that accompany higher density development.
Locating higher density developments near railway stations will do little to ease traffic congestion associated with the vast majority of our daily trips that do not involve commuting to and from the CBD. Suburban road space is limited. If we are to avoid increased congestion, we need to use this space more efficiently. Making walking and cycling safer, more convenient, and consequently more prevalent, is a tried and true solution for reducing traffic congestion in urban areas. It also comes with the added benefits of improving the health of people and the environment, and maintaining community liveability while also increasing population density.
Jan Garrard, Beaumaris
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit: Matt Golding
How simple this referendum would have been if there was bipartisan support.
Shirley Purves, Gisborne
We are also heartened by the number of Yes signs on front fences (Letters, 3/10). However, the Yes sign on our front fence was removed by someone who hopefully needed the sign and it is now placed in a more prominent position.
Geoff Gowers, Merricks North
Before voting, read the one-page Uluru Statement from the Heart. Then decide.
Dennis Richards, Cockatoo
With the price of fuel being mentioned as a possible catalyst for another interest rate rise, can anyone explain why the cost of diesel is 20¢ a litre less in Warrnambool than in greater Melbourne? Something is obviously wrong.
Kevin Drinan, Bentleigh
Is there any economist who has discovered a link between profit margins and inflation?
Gerry O’Reilly, Camberwell
Why are there so few men in Jacinta Allan’s cabinet? Looks very discriminatory. Daniel Andrews at least had more balanced representation.
Martin Newington, Aspendale
Public sentiment to climate change in 2023: Let’s wait and see. Mother Nature: Hey, Victoria, here’s some bushfires in October … oh yeah, and a flood.
Steve Haylock, Mount Waverley
Craig McRae, Ted Lasso incarnate, as sport imitates art.
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South
Since when are potato cakes stuffed? (Good Food, 3/10)
Peter Venn, East Bentleigh
With Kellogg’s change of name (3/10), will my favourite cereal still be called Just Right or now NQR?
Robin Jensen, Castlemaine
I should have thought that the sex of the London beaver (Odd Spot, 3/10) would only have been of real interest to another beaver.
Les Aisen, Elsternwick
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