Public hearing: Education and learning, Townsville – November 2019 – Day 4
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Public hearing: Education and learning, Townsville – November 2019 – Day 4


COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Yes.
Ms. Eastman. MS K. EASTMAN SC: If the
Commission pleases, Ms Eastman. I appear for the Royal Commission
as Counsel Assisting with Dr. Mellifont, and with Mr Fraser. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Thank
you, Ms. Eastman. MS EASTMAN: My task this morning is
to deal with the evidence of Deborah Dunstone,
if the Commission pleases. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Good morning. You may take – I’m sure you’ve been
advised – the oath or affirmation as you wish. If you follow the
instructions of the associate. Thank you very much. WOMAN: I swear by Almighty God…
DEBORAH DUNSTONE: I swear by Almighty God… WOMAN: ..that the evidence I shall give… DEBORAH: ..that the evidence I shall give… WOMAN: ..will be the truth…
DEBORAH: ..will be the truth… WOMAN:..the whole truth…
DEBORAH:..the whole truth… WOMAN:..and nothing but the truth.
DEBORAH:..and nothing but the truth. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Now, I know that
there are probably some other things that you would be preferring to do today
than be here but take your time with any answers, and if you need any
break just let us know? DEBORAH: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Okay. MS EASTMAN: Your name is Deborah
Dunstone? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And you’re presently
the Assistant Director-General of the State School Disability & Inclusion Branch? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And that’s based in
Brisbane? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And you’ve made
a statement for the Royal Commission? DEBORAH: I have. MS EASTMAN: Have you had a
chance to read over the statement? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And are the contents
true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So I want to start a little
bit to help the Royal Commission have an understanding about how
you’ve come to your present role. And you’ve included
in a statement the CV. But can I ask you this: you started
your work with the department back in Rockhampton high school as a
teacher in 1990; is that right? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And your subjects were
home economics and geography? DEBORAH: Secondary, yes. MS EASTMAN: And your whole teaching
career has been in secondary schools is that right?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And on my count, you’ve
worked in about five high schools around Queensland?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And they’ve mostly been
in regional areas of Queensland? DEBORAH: In rural and remote Queensland. MS EASTMAN: And so you’ve worked
up to the head of a department, followed by an assistant principal
and then principal; is that right? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And in terms of your
leadership role in the department, it’s the case, isn’t it, that
in 2010…is that right, you assumed a director position as a Regional Director for
Far North Queensland? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And what was involved
in the role as a Regional Director? DEBORAH: At the time I
supervised the early childhood schooling and training
components of the then… the Department of Education and Training. MS EASTMAN: And then in April 2017
you assumed your current role looking specifically at disability
and inclusion; is that right? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: Can you tell the
Royal Commission what are the core duties and
responsibilities of this role? DEBORAH: This role is a new
position to the Department created as one of the recommendations of the
disability review, affectionately known as the Deloitte Review into, I guess,
implementing what was then called the every Student With
Disability Succeeding Plan. It was a new role to the Department,
and strategically, I guess, to have a really good look across the Agency at
problems of practice around our service delivery for students with a disability. MS EASTMAN: I want to take you to
the Deloitte Review in a moment but before we do that it might
assist the Royal Commission to have a sense of how education
is delivered in Queensland and the number of students. So this is a matter that you’ve
covered in your statement. So we are right in understanding
there are 1,241 state schools and education centers in Queensland? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And if we break those
down, that includes 919 primary schools? DEBORAH: 99
MS EASTMAN: 19? 919? DEBORAH: No…yeah, sorry.
MS EASTMAN: OK. That’s paragraph six.
DEBORAH: Yes, sorry. MS EASTMAN: And 185 secondary
schools? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And 43 special schools?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: Have you got that?
Paragraph six? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: In terms of the
number of students who are enrolled in full-time education
in Queensland schools, as at February this year
there were 560,922 students? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And in terms
of the teaching service, there are 53,000 teachers, thereabouts?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And 19,000
thereabout teacher’s aides? DEBORAH: A very large agency. MS EASTMAN: And I assume a
range of support staff as well? DEBORAH: Yes, they would be
factored into our workforce. MS EASTMAN: And in terms of
the organization of the work of the Department of Education,
it’s the case, isn’t it, that they’re divided into
seven regional areas? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And each
regional area has a director? DEBORAH: A Regional Director, yes. MS EASTMAN: And then the Regional
Directors report into the Director-General Is that right?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: So if we then turn to
students with disability among that cohort, this is a matter that you’ve also
dealt with in your statement. Based on the department’s records, as
at August this year, it’s the case, isn’t it, that one in five Queensland state
schools were identified through the – what’s called the Nationally Consistent
Collection of Data on Schooling Students With Disability. The abbreviation is used NCCD.
Is that right? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: So for the one in
five schools, there were students who were receiving reasonable
adjustments due to disability? COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: I think it may
be one in five students rather than one in five schools?
DEBORAH: Yes, I was going to say. MS EASTMAN: So is it students
or the schools? DEBORAH: Students.
MS EASTMAN: Students. DEBORAH: So we’ve got
about 18% of our students. MS EASTMAN: That’s what I wanted to
ask you. DEBORAH: Sorry. MS EASTMAN: So about 18% of all
students? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: That’s over 100,00
students? DEBROAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Receive reasonable
adjustments, is that right? DEBORAH: That’s
correct. As identified by our teachers
in that survey collection tool. MS EASTMAN: All right. But of that group – so that’s the total
for both independent and state schools. And in terms of the state schools. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
I’m not…sorry, is that right? I think the figure if I’m reading your
statement correctly is 103,000 students… For the… MS EASTMAN: In the state schools?
DEBORAH: Correct. And then another 35,000 or
so in non-state schools. MS EASTMAN: But breaking it down,
the majority of students receiving reasonable adjustments are
attending state schools. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Yes, sure. MS EASTMAN: Is that right?
DEBORAH: No, that’s not correct. There will be students in Catholic and
independent schools that are receiving reasonable adjustments. MS EASTMAN: But do you know whether
or not the majority of students with disability
are more likely to attend a state school
compared to an independent school in Queensland? DEBORAH: A large number, but I
would have to find that data for you. MS EASTMAN: Now, can I ask
you a little bit about the NCCD? That’s a Commonwealth program, isn’t it?
DEBORAH: That is correct. MS EASTMAN: And it’s a Commonwealth
program that seeks to collect data across all Australian schools in relation to
students with disability who receive reasonable adjustments at school?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And how does the
department in Queensland use the NCCD
data? DEBORAH: We use that to record and
to have teachers make judgments about the students in the
categories of the NCCD data. It clearly is information that’s used to
calculate our funding arrangements that we receive from the Commonwealth, and
then distribute to schools as part of our school staffing models. MS EASTMAN: So can I ask you about
paragraph 16 of your statement. You provide a breakdown of the NCCD… records in relation to the different categories of what are
described as impairment. Have you got paragraph 16?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So looking at those
numbers, in terms of the data recorded for Queensland state schools,
7.2% of students receiving reasonable adjustment
with respect to physical impairment? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: So that’s about 7,400
students? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Then 56.2% for students
who are described as having cognitive impairment?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And that’s about 58,000
students? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So can I ask you in
relation to what cognitive impairment means, what’s your understanding of how that
expression is used for the NCCD data? DEBORAH: For intellectual disability. MS EASTMAN: I would have to ask
you to speak a little bit louder? DEBORAH: Sorry. MS EASTMAN: So cognitive impairment?
DEBORAH: For intellectual disability. MS EASTMAN: Only intellectual
disability? DEBORAH: There’s some broader
criteria. I guess as we look at each student,
we’re attempting in the NCCD data to find the category that this represents their main area of disability, conscious
that there can be students that may have multiple areas of
need and we select one. MS EASTMAN: Then 5%
for sensory impairment. And for sensory impairment does that
include students with vision impairment or hearing impairment?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And then 31.6% for
social and emotional impairment. And what does that mean? What’s your understanding of the
description of social and emotional impairment? DEBORAH: Yes. For students it could
include students with mental health, trauma in their background requiring
adjustments to the curriculum to support them to be
successful in attending school. MS EASTMAN: Now, Queensland also
collects data as part of an EAP program. Is that right?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And what’s the EAP
program? DEBORAH: —That’s our
Education Adjustment Program, where we identify the students in our State that
require the most need for adjustments, and have teachers submit, and we look
at that and assess and verify areas of need to provide funding and
support and services to those students in our state schools. MS EASTMAN: And is the EAP data
collected by reference to the same four categories used
for the NCC data collection? DEBORAH: No, it’s not. MS EASTMAN: So what is the way in
which the data is collected and categorized for the purpose
of the EAP data collection? DEBORAH: We have been traditionally,
in the last number of years, using six areas. Typically – would you like
me to go through them? MS EASTMAN: Yes. DEBORAH: ASD, hearing impairment,
intellectual disability, physical impairment, and speech language
impairment and a vision impairment. MS EASTMAN: So ASD
DEBORAH: Autism. MS EASTMAN: A reference to
Autism Spectrum Disorder? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And is it the case
that if one uses those categories, the students in the descriptor
group who are most likely to have reasonable adjustment made
are those in the ASD category and the intellectual disability category? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: So that in that sense,
would it be fair to say roughly the EAP and the NCC data align? DEBORAH: They certainly do around
students that require the most need, yes. MS EASTMAN: And how is the EAP data
then used in a practical sense in terms of any adjustments that may need to be made for
students in Queensland schools? DEBORAH: Typically, we would
see a student get to the process, I guess, of submitting documentation
to the department about that student. We would see them have an
individual plan, articulating the needs, aspirations and goals of that student
and the adjustments are likely to be required. And we then have a good look
at that and assess that and categorize the resources that may flow, or just
simply the adjustments that may need to be – to be made. MS EASTMAN: Is the EAP essentially
used to work out a funding model, or is it used to work out the
particular types of adjustments that may need to be made?
DEBORAH: Yes. It’s used to do both, and it’s really
important that it does both because it helps us as educators really think
through the sorts of adjustments and the expertise that we need to wrap
around a student to see that they’re successful in school. But it absolutely also does and has
historically done for the last number of years determined some
resources that flow to schools. Not just students, but to the school. MS EASTMAN: Now, it’s probably
beyond the scope of this public hearing to examine
issues around funding, but perhaps can I ask you
this question – and it may be something you want to come back to the
Commission with some further information – how the two sets of funding through
NCCD and EAP work together, and why Queensland
continues to use the EAP now that you have the
model set out in the NCCD. Is that something you
can answer today or… DEBORAH: Yes, I’m happy to… MS EASTMAN: want to come back to?
DEBORAH: No, I’m happy to have a look at
that. I guess, importantly, that work sits as
part of one of the recommendations that we have articulated we’re
yet to have a good look at. And the reason that we left the
resourcing review from the Deloitte recommendations was that we really
purposely wanted to have a good look at what happens on the national
front in a couple of key areas. One is I was very keen to see the
impact of the rollout of the NDIS to have a good look at the NCCD now that it
has been moderated by the Federal Government, and all States and
Territories have signed up to that. And to then, I guess, absolutely reflect
and reform our EAP process in the Department to align that. I guess I have a goal or a desire to see
a family tell their story once, and I suspect, as we get more
confident around the NDIS, if a family was to present and
have their child, say, from birth diagnosed with a disability, then I
suspect as a department, that’s the information that
we need and we can get on board and make
the adjustments. We’ve been, I guess, historically
needing to do a system that helped us to determine the resources that flowed
to schools, but there is absolutely a recommendation on the table and a vision
in 2020 that we wanted to try and merge all of that together to see that there’s
a logical and hopefully a very strong link to support a child from their
beginning with us in the early childhood sector, through to their participation
in kindy, in throughout ECDP early years programs and then on into primary school
and graduating proudly at the end of secondary. So for some students,
clearly, across the course of their trajectory, that will change, and we
will always need to have a system that reflects and manages that. So that’s part of our thinking. It’s a very, very important
recommendation in the review and strategically, with everything that
was happening on the national front, we chose quite deliberately
to hold that. MS EASTMAN: Okay. Well, can we now turn
to the Deloitte Report. You’ve included a copy of that
report – and Commissioners, you find that in Exhibit O. You assumed your particular role
following the Deloitte Report. So are we right in understanding that
you weren’t actively engaged in the Deloitte Report work yourself?
DEBORAH: No, I wasn’t. MS EASTMAN: And in terms of the
commissioning of the Deloitte Report, that was commissioned by the
Minister in July 2016 and it was to undertake an independent review of
the education sector with a focus on State school education.
Is that right? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: Was there anything that
prompted this particular review at this time? DEBORAH: Yes, there were
probably a couple of things. And there had been – and I think some
of the HOSES yesterday referred to the national partnership program around More
Support for Students with Disability, and some of the QSIL training. I will try and be careful on
the acronyms today for you. That rolled out as part of that. There had been a very large investment
in resources and professional development, and I was a Regional
Director at the time and there was a sense of not being sure that that
had actually got the traction that we thought it should. And while there were some significant
events across the country and, I guess, a highlight on students with disability
and how they were performing in schools, there was a – I think a very bold and
brave decision by the government to do an independent review and to –
to give us, I guess, a footprint of – of what we were good at. And there’s certainly some highs in
that report, and what our challenges and future work and areas that we could
or should consider to focus on. MS EASTMAN: And it’s part of your
responsibility to implement the 17 recommendations from
the Deloitte Review; is that right? DEBORAH: That’s correct. And I think I’m fondly referred to
in one of the recommendations that a position be appointed in the agency at
a very senior level to come on board and to help reflect across all aspects of
the agency, how our service provision looked and I think it was
a very interesting move. And as you pointed out in my CV,
I have no backround in special education And I do have a very strong
background in school improvement and leadership and supporting
principals to lead the work. So I think it was an interesting
appointment at the time, and I think I can talk to some of, across the course
of this morning, the lens to which I bring to the work but I am
not the expert in disability. I am the expert in helping schools
to implement and the agency to pay attention to a piece of work that’s
critical for us as a system to move forward and see year on year improvement
for all students in the State. MS EASTMAN: So the Deloitte Report
didn’t touch on the operational organization of independent
or Catholic schools… DEBORAH: No…it was state schools.
MS EASTMAN: ..in Queensland? MS EASTMAN: Given the importance
of the Deloitte Report to the policy initiatives that have
followed in the last year or so, it might be helpful just to spend a bit of
time in understanding the methodology used by
the Deloitte researchers. So have you got a copy of
the report there? DEBORAH: I do.
MS EASTMAN: It’s Exhibit O in your
statement. So the way in which the Deloitte Review
was undertaken was to identify three broad policy or reform areas. Do you agree with that?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: The first was
called the Policy Environment? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And that was to
examine the legislative obligations imposed on the State in relation to
disability and education; is that right? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And also to look at
expectations with respect to student
outcomes? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And then the next
area was the practice environment. And that had a focus, did it not, on
looking at empowering the skills for the teaching staff and the
school leaders? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So that had an internal
focus in terms of school organization and capacity; is that right?
DEBORAH: Yes. We chose to set some very high
expectations, publicly announced that we wanted to have a greater partnership
with parents and families, and to have some very high expectations
for students with disability. MS EASTMAN: And then the final
area was the resourcing model. And that focused on a balance between
the need to recognise different educational needs and the costs of
delivering those particular objectives. Is that right?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: OK. And the way in which the Deloitte
exercise was undertaken was through a consultation process with parents,
students, and school staff? DEBORAH: That’s my understanding. MS EASTMAN: Involvement with the
academy, so taking advice and taking submissions of experts in the field?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN:There was a survey
process DEORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And there was also,
obviously, engagement with the relevant
teaching staff and the Department of
Education; is that right? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: In terms of the key
findings of the Deloitte Report, they’re set out in the report. And the Report indicates that
there have been a number of recent reviews and inquiries across Australia
but that process had demonstrated that there continued to be a disparity
between policy and practice, and that required to inclusively support every
student achieving the maximum of their potential. So the government accepted
that finding, did it not? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And the report
indicated that Queensland was not unique to the continued challenges
that confront recrafting a State schooling system to align with leading
contemporary policies and practice, and that finding was accepted?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And the result
was some recommendations to address those three particular areas: the policy framework, effective
practice and resourcing model? DEBORAH: Correct. We’ve got up on the screen,
if the Commissioners can see, the key recommendations and findings. And this is at the third
page of the Deloitte Report. So the process that followed the
Deloitte Report – and I will come back to aspects of the Deloitte Report as
we go through in the morning – was that there was then a task of converting,
in effect, these recommendations into policies that would be appropriate for
Queensland; is that right? DEBORAH: Policies, practices,
school improvement strategies. MS EASTMAN: And so when you
came to the task of examining, well, how do we translate some of
the Deloitte findings into policy, from your perspective, what were
the key findings in the Deloitte Report that would shape the way in which
policy would then be developed in Queensland? DEBORAH: I think it’s important to note that as part of releasing the
disability review, the Minister and Director-General at the time released
what we call the Every Student With Disability Succeeding Plan. And it was, I guess, a more user-friendly, more accessible summary of the way we saw ourselves grouping the work, and
that is that we took what could be seen to be very unfriendly language about
what it was that we were about to embark on, and we organised our thinking
into setting expectations, focusing on capability and
partnering with parents. And what’s perhaps different and is the
rub between this not being policy in the way that policy writers might interpret
policy of the department is that we combined the policy with the measures,
and very clearly and publicly what I think is really important to note and I
think is a signature piece to this work is we indicated the four measures of
success that we would judge ourselves by and hold ourselves to account. And so this was, I guess, released
simultaneously and publicly with the review, and was a way of saying to the
broader community, not only do we accept 17 recommendations that people don’t
always understand and that’s just become a language and, you know, that there’s a
lot in that, but they do understand and work in schools to support those four
success measures, which are on the second page of that document. MS EASTMAN: So I want to come
back to this document but I come back to the question?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Which was
for you taking on the role, what did you consider to be the key
findings of the Deloitte Report that would then form the basis of the work
that you have to do in policy development? DEBORAH: Yes. The policy that we took forward was the
recommendation around defining what we meant by inclusive education. MS EASTMAN: So you saw that as the
key finding? DEBORAH: I saw that as the key
finding. And it was a privileged position I
had to actually think through where to start, the…and the mind map of
how it would be that we would embark on this work. But what underpins so much of
policy is what we all fundamentally believe to be
inclusive education. And while we had an Inclusive Education
Policy in the department, it didn’t talk to the work that we needed
to focus our attention on. MS EASTMAN: So the document
that I think you’ve handed up and Commissioners may see now
the second page on the scree, this was a two-page flyer
or publication that the department released at the same time as
the Deloitte Report was released to the public; is that right?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And the purpose of this
document was, in effect, to summarize… DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: ..not only the key findings
of the Deloitte Report but this is to summarize the key commitments that the government
was prepared to make following the 17 recommendations; is that right?
DEBORAH: That’s right. And I think important to
note that this was released at a… State principals conference that we hold
every two years that the Minister and Director-General presented to every
principal in State schools in Queensland at one event and then spoke passionately
about what it would look like and the work that we would
embark on moving forward. MS EASTMAN: So this two-page
document, would you describe that document
as a policy? DEBORAH: Probably not in the technical
term of a policy, but I guess it was our… And I think it’s an interesting…
it’s the policy practice guide. And those two sit together. So it’s not a formal policy of the
agency, though it is the document to which we hold ourselves accountable for
as a summary of the 17 recommendations. MS EASTMAN: When you say you hold
yourself accountable to this document, what do you mean by that? DEBORAH: That we’re committed
to those four success measures being embedded into school performance. MS EASTMAN: And is that
commitment one that you accept might have legal consequences? Is it intended to have a
commitment at that level? DEBORAH: Legal consequences,
no, probably not. It’s about good school practice, though
many of those recommendations talk to the right of every student to be
able to attend their local school. MS EASTMAN: So this is a document
that was provided to principals. Was this document
provided to anybody else?- DEBORAH: Yes, to the public. MS EASTMAN: When was it
provided to the public? DEBORAH: That day, I believe. MS EASTMAN: And is this a document
that’s accessible from…for anybody? DEBORAH: Yes, it’s on our website. MS EASTMAN: And is this
something that has been sent specifically to the 103,000 students
with disability and their families? DEBORAH: Not explicitly in that
layout, I don’t believe, no. But absolutely publicly talked
about in all of our presentations. It’s usually the cornerstone of an
opening presentation with parents. I do know that most principals across
the State following that conference typically take back documents like this
that are released at those events and share them with their
parent and community body. Some principals may well have attached
that electronically to their school newsletters and
forwarded that out. There would have been lots of commentary
at P & C meetings about the release of that and what that would mean
in each school in Queensland. MS EASTMAN: Did any of that
commentary come back to you in the form of a report or any particular feedback?
DEBORAH: No. Certainly, the Regional Directors and
assistant Regional Directors in their visits to schools, there’s always
follow-up after our State principals conferences. If you like, they set the tone of
what it is that we’re looking at for the next couple of years. We meet together like that in a very
large event every two years, having just met for the second time this year, where
there was further work around students with disability as part of our goal
to see every student succeeding, acknowledged and commented on. MS EASTMAN: So in terms of then
other policies that were developed, this one you say may not be accurately
described as a policy, but perhaps, what, information setting out the departments…commitment? DEOBORAH: Yes.
Yes. MS EASTMAN: There was another policy. And this is a policy called
the Advancing Partnership. So this is part of Exhibit S. And there’s a policy document and then
a one-page summary for the parents. And I don’t know if
we can bring this up. So that’s Exhibit S. And the reference
number is 0471. So we’ve just put up on the screen,
Ms Dunstone, the final page of that document. And this, are we right in understanding,
a one-page summary of what’s intended to be part of the
Advancing Partnership policy? DEBORAH: Yes, this was developed
supplementary to that. And it was a piece of work that I
commissioned to, I guess, as we thought about parent advocacy in stage 2 of the
rollout of the recommendations, it was a piece of work that I sent to every
principal at the beginning of this year to really think about and have a new
frame of what engagement and successful engagement looks
like with families. We were very conscious of the feedback
and some of which we’ve heard over the course of this hearing. That typically families don’t always
feel heard and families have spent in some cases a lifetime advocating
for the rights of their children. And this was a way and a framework that
we sent to principals to help them think through all of the elements with a
recognition that you might just need to do a little bit more than what
you do with some families. And if you were to engage, here would be
a good practice guide around doing all the steps, and one of the important
messages that we had, and sometimes where I think we let ourselves down and
let families down is we can have a plan but we’ve actually got to come back and
keep improving it and sharing it and reflecting and using it as part of, you
know, parent/teacher interviews and case management meetings. And if we see the practice that we do
the full wheel around what we believe is really effective consultation for
students with disability, then we’ve got a much stronger footprint. It’s easy in some of the review and
recommendations to have what essentially to me is a one-line item about we
need to engage more effectively with families. And so as part of, I guess, what
we bring to this work for principals is to not write a policy
document but to write some practice frameworks and to give them some tools
that visually talk to the work and to best practice, and, clearly, research
and evidence-based was an important component of that. MS EASTMAN: What’s up on
the screen is a final page summary. The policy is obviously more
detailed than just the summary. But may I ask you this: was there
consultation with parents and care-givers in relation to the
development of the Advancing Partnership Policy? DEBORAH: I believe
there would have been. That wasn’t a policy that I developed
or was involved in developing. MS EASTMAN: And do you know
whether this policy is available to parents and caregivers? DEBORAH: I would need to check but
I would believe it would be on our one… ..on our external internet site. MS EASTMAN: And you’ve said this
has been provided to the principals to give them some practical
guidelines, is that right, on consulting with parents?
DEORAH: But I… would like to add or indicate that all
of the fact sheets around every student with disability succeeding,
parent and community engagement, are all publicly available. MS EASTMAN: So this went to the
principals to assist them on consultation with parents? DEBORAH: Yes, absolutely. MS EASTMAN: And was there
any training that accompanied providing them with the document? DEBORAH: It would have formed the
basis of workshops and reflection and school leadership sessions held in
regions, either by Regional Directors or ARDs in small
groups, large groups. We’ve had a very strong focus on
capability development over the last three years in a
variety of ways. And these sorts of documents –
I know I workshopped the ARDs around this suite of materials. It was also provided in a
poster format for school communities as well to reflect on. I guess at each stage and in sort of,
you know, thinking through the journey that we’ve been on, there have been
different moments across the three years where we’ve pulled out one of the
recommendations and deeply reflected on it in terms of practice, and then
provided support materials to the supervisors of schools, to our school
reviewers and to principals to say, “Let’s have a really good look at our
custom, culture and practice”, and this was a way of pulling that out. MS EASTMAN: So how would the
department know that any principal who had received this material
has not only read the material but also then applies the practice suggested? What’s the mechanism for the department
of checking or ensuring that there is compliance with these policies or
guidelines, however you want to frame them? DEBORAH: Yes. I guess we do
that in a variety of ways. And, you know, if I think about parent
and community engagement, it’s the cornerstone to the
work we do in schools. It’s – we’ve, you know,
been doing it for a long time. Not always, you know, reflecting on
every aspect of, you know, and it’s the bit to me that really stood out here was
around the feedback from families that we had had, that you can come
up with a plan but then I don’t hear anything else from you. And I’m not sure that that
plan is enacted for my child. And what is the communication
with the school. Some schools do an amazing job with
this and have very sophisticated ways of communicating apps, technology,
day books, home books, all sorts of ways that we communicate. And we allow principals as
the leader of their school to be accountable for that. When we go and do the school reviews
that you heard the principals talk about yesterday every four years, we meet
with families as part of that review and review teams talk about the experiences
at that school and recommendations are made. And I guess that’s against the
domains of the school improvement measures that we’ve articulated
in some other documents. MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you
now about a further policy which is part of a strategic plan. It’s called Every
Student Succeeding. And that’s as part of
Exhibit F to your statement. So Commissioners,
it’s tab 7 in your material. So this is across the
board for every student. It’s not just focused on
students with disability. Is that right?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And what’s the
purpose of the state school strategy which started this year
and takes us through to 2023? DEBORAH: Yes. Well, it started probably I think in
2014, and it gets updated each year as we reflect on the work
across the agency. This is the document that the state
schooling team in the Department headed by the deputy DirectorGeneral of state
schooling lead to talk to principals about the work of school improvement and
what is our focus in the years ahead. This is, I guess, the cornerstone
document for schools to consider their school planning around, and to write
their Annual Implementation Plan for school improvement. It’s a very dense document and,
I guess, talks about not only our focus areas but
actually goes to the heart of our school improvement model. MS EASTMAN: Can I just ask you on that
– one of the priority areas is to improve the participation
and achievement of students with disability?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: But it doesn’t
have as a priority the commitment to inclusive education. Would you agree with that?-
DEBORAH: I would agree with that. MS EASTMAN: Is there a reason
why there isn’t a clear commitment to inclusive education in the whole of
school strategy taking us up to 2023? DEBORAH: Yes. And, look, that’s because we are in the
process, as we speak, of rewriting the Every Student Succeeding Strategy that
we plan to release to schools and to principals next year. We recognise that this for school
leadership teams is a very dense document and while it has served us well
to focus on school improvement and the work we need to do, there’s a passion
around the table to see this reduced to a very clear one page document that
builds on our most recent work and positions us for
the next few years. If you like, this document Every Student
Succeeding Plan each year has rolled and had, I guess,
a minor little update. We’re planning, I guess, a major
refresh for the start of next year and certainly plan to make reference
to inclusive education as part of that statement. MS EASTMAN: But you’ve had the
Deloitte recommendations since February
2017? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And you have had the
carriage of implementing those recommendations? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And do you agree that in
the Deloitte Report they identified which recommendations could be
immediately implemented. There was no need to wait. You agree that there’s a…
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: ..series of those
recommendations. So why is it that those key findings and
Deloitte recommendations haven’t made its way into this strategy by 2019? DEBORAH: That’s because, I guess, quite purposely when we used that heading
to say that we wanted to improve the outcomes for students with disability,
the reference material that is highlighted further across the document
with hyperlinks referred to this document here which we saw and
knew and had been working with principals was the go-to position. So, if you like,
that was a broad heading. You know, less words, not with any
intent to not do that but to absolutely talk to, I guess,
this document being the subset. And we’ve got other respective documents
that are subsets to this Every Student Succeeding Plan. You might notice on the second page of
the Every Student Succeeding Strategy we do call out aspects and
hyperlink that to the work. MS EASTMAN: So can I now turn
to the specific Inclusive Education Policy? So you’ve provided the policy and a
range of documents related to that – the policy in Exhibit N. So, Commissioners,
this is tab 15 in your bundle. So the first document is the
policy? DEBORAH: Sorry, can you just refer to my statement there… MS EASTMAN: So that’s…so it’s Exhibit
N. DEBORAH: OK. Yes. Thank you. MS EASTMAN: So this policy has an
implementation date of 25 June 2018. And so if we look at the document, the
first five pages, that is the policy. Is that right?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. And then what sits behind it are a range
of documents that were prepared by the department to explain the policy and
provide information about the policy. Is that right?
DEBORAH: That’s right. MS EASTMAN: So if the Commissioners
turn to the Exhibit N.2, there is a brochure-style two-page document called
Inclusive Education Policy Statement. We’ve just got that up on the
screens, Commissioners. MS EASTMAN: So what was the purpose
of this policy statement in the glossy form that you’ve got there? DEBORAH: I wasn’t confident that
principals would read the word version of the policy and I wasn’t
confident that it was accessible to the entire school community more broadly. MS EASTMAN: Why was that?
This is such an important policy? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: You would agree?
DEBORAH: Absolutely. It wasn’t to make it less or more
but we produced a range of materials all released at the same time
in a variety of formats inclusive of videos and vignettes that would talk to
our high expectations and what it was that we believed defined
inclusive education. MS EASTMAN: So the document that
we’re looking at…the two-page document, was prepared for principals? DEBORAH: And parents and school
communities and is all publicly available. MS EASTMAN: And how is it…
when was it provided to principals? DEBORAH: It was part of a… when it was released it was a
special announcement, I believe. I would have to just check. I think it went out in one of either the
Director-General bulletins or the State Schooling strategy at the time. And then the suite of, I guess,
more glossy materials was mailed out to school communities
for their use. MS EASTMAN: So this document refers
to a commitment and it’s described as: The department commits to continuing
our journey towards a more inclusive education system at all levels. Just pausing there, that seems to
build in some qualifications to the commitment, 30 does it not? DEBORAH: I think it acknowledged
where we were on our journey towards
inclusive education, yes. MS EASTMAN: And was it…if you
go back to the primary policy, so back a few…pages, the policy
itself describes a commitment in slightly different way.
It says: We have high expectations of all
students recognising that with right support all students
can succeed. DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And then the
following dot points and over the page. Is there any particular reason why the
policy is expressed in its commitment in one way but the Inclusive Policy
Statement’s different? DEBORAH: No, and I don’t believe there… it was to make it, I guess, a user-friendly version and to – to pull
out the key components. There was no intent to
have that any different. MS EASTMAN: And in terms of
providing a copy of the policy statement to parents, was there a mailout to the
parents with children with disability attending the State schools? DEBORAH: No, but it was reflected in
our social media, our Facebook posts, communication like that. Once again, that sort of communication
we encourage principals to forward out to their school communities and to use
as the conversation starter for P & C meetings and school
meetings with families. We certainly had provided that to all
the heads of special education and they, in turn, would have used that with their
meetings with staff and families as well, I suspect. MS EASTMAN: Then there’s a document
N4, which is a brochure-style Inclusive Education Policy Statement.
And that’s a number of pages. So that’s a longer document. What’s that document and how does that
fit in with the two-page brochure and the Department’s policy? DEBORAH: We developed this one
for some workshops that we were doing with staff and it was designed to,
I guess, just be able to unpack it in some professional development forums,
and, if you like, take notes around it and check their thinking. There was no intent – I guess the intent
to have a variety of formats of the same material was for a variety
of audiences across the State. MS EASTMAN: And then at N3 there’s a
document which is described Frequently Asked Questions.
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And would it be right
in…to understand reading this document that these are Frequently Asked Questions
by the teaching staff and principals? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And so this was not
frequently asked questions for the parents or caregivers of students with disability?
DEBORAH: No. MS EASTMAN: And has there been a
document described something like a Frequently Asked Questions
document from the eyes of a child with disability and/or a parent or
caregiver with a child attending school? DEBORAH: Yes. We tried to capture that in a range
of films and videos and vignettes that we’ve published to talk to that. So we had also developed a suite
of posters that spoke to those four measures with children with disability
and their families as part of that story on our website and downloaded very
frequently and accessed by many, and continually uploaded, is the stories
of inclusive education across the department, both through student
voice and also through parent voice. MS EASTMAN: So just coming back to
the policy which is N.1, the policy is described by a reference
to a set of principles. That’s on the second page. And then reference is made to the nine
principles adapted from the United Nations Core Features
of Inclusive Education. What does that mean? DEBORAH: So we looked to the UN
work and to, I guess, have a very clear alignment to the nine core
features and I would have to say that the consultation around this Inclusive
Education Policy Statement was a very long and extensive process
across the department. MS EASTMAN: Sorry to interrupt you. I’m not yet asking you about…
DEBORAH: Sorry. MS EASTMAN: ..the policy…
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: ..was created or the
consultation. I really want you to focus on helping
us understand what the nine principles adapted from the United Nations nine
core features of inclusive education means. DEBORAH: Yes, it means we went to the
rights of children with disability and to General Comment N4. We wanted to define inclusive
education in terms of segregation, exclusion and integration. We wanted to make that clear that
commitment at a system level. So those nine core features were, I
guess, research evidence-based work that we wanted to acknowledge and
position Queensland to be leading in. MS EASTMAN: How do the nine core features
as you describe them fit in with the recommendations of the Deloitte –
following the Deloitte Report? DEBORAH: I think…and probably
what you’ve seen from the Deloitte review, 17 recommendations organized
in a variety of different ways. This…these principles clearly speak to
the work of schools and school leaders. It’s language that principals and school
communities understand and can work towards, and I guess we were able to
clearly articulate that and then align our school improvement tools and the
work that we could see happening to that policy behind that. MS EASTMAN: So if the Deloitte Report was
dealing with disability and the nine core features deal with disability,
this policy is not confined simply to inclusive education for
students with disability. You agree with that?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And looking at the policy,
this is also policy intended to address inclusive education for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander students. Do you agree with that?
DEBORAH: It’s not the only reference. I guess we wanted to highlight in our
Every Student Succeeding Plan that we’ve referred to earlier, and have
some connection for principals. So, I guess, talking to each of those
areas in inclusive education of a range of students was to pictorially highlight
that when we talk about every student succeeding we are talking
about every student. The Inclusive Education Policy Statement
was not produced in a way that would only talk to disability. MS EASTMAN: So it covers a range of…
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: ..areas where there
needs to be work done… DEBORAH: Yes.
MS EASTMAN: ..on the broader inclusion. Can I ask you this: was the intention
of this policy looking at a range of areas to be part of the department’s
recognition of what might be called intersectionality, that a student
with a disability might not only have disability but also be from a
different background? DEBORAH: Absolutely. MS EASTMAN: The student might
also be a student from an Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander background? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: So how does this
policy which uses, as you say, the nine core principles
from the Disability Convention adequately address that
question of intersectionality? DEBORAH: It is an organizer
and there are other departmental policies that then deeply talk to each
of the other areas in exactly the same way that I guess the every Student
With Disability Policy does. I think it’s important to remember
that 18% of our students are identified under the broader definition
– definition of disability as requiring adjustments.
So you’re absolutely right. There are students, you know, in all of
those areas that require adjustments. MS EASTMAN: So turning over the page,
you’ve got in this policy a list of legislation, both
Commonwealth and State. And then a series of related policies,
related procedures, guidelines and additional information. And they’re all hyperlinked?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: Would you agree with me
that to be able to understand the full breadth of this policy and to go in and
out of each of the related policies would take a very long time
and is very confusing. Would you agree with that?
DEBORAH: Yes. And I guess that was just …and the
policy team will be able to provide some more advice to you around that and I’m
happy to take that on notice, but that has been a way of organizing where
policies in the Department intersect with each other. MS EASTMAN: Let me put it to you this way: if I’m a parent of a child with disability and my child is about to start school for
the very first time and I find this policy on the website, would it be
your expectation that a parent in those circumstances would be able to read this
policy and know clearly what to expect with respect to inclusive education? DEBORAH: No, I wouldn’t expect
a parent to read that. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Can I – sorry,
may I interrupt and just ask a couple of things so I am clear
that I understand. The Deloitte Report was not specifically
or only concerned with students with disability, was it? DEBORAH: The Deloitte Report
was about students with disability but, clearly, identified
students right across our department that we required to make adjustments
for and highlighted the definition of broader disability. COMMISSIONER: Did the Deloitte Report
consider some of the other issues relating to the classes or
categories of students identified on page 3 of the policy
for inclusive education? For example, First Nations students,
students living in out-of-home care, and so on?- DEBORAH: Perhaps not but certainly in
our experience as educators, you know, we know our students and we know that
those areas come, so that, perhaps, is an interpretation that we’ve made to
make this policy talk to the work that we do in schools. COMMISSIONER: When one reads this
document, the Inclusive Education Policy, the impression is that…at least that I
get, is that it’s a document that has been adapted to cover all
categories identified on page 3. So, for example, the principles taken
from the United Nations, none of those refers expressly to
students with disability. They seem to have been adapted for the
purpose of applying generically to all these categories of students. Am I right in thinking that?
DEBORAH: Absolutely. COMMISSIONER: And that means,
does it not, that a parent with a student with disabilities would
read this document and would have some difficulty in understanding what
reasonable adjustment means since that is a term that is applied across the
board to deal with quite different categories of students? DEBORAH: Yes, but you will
also find that what we did with that policy and in our internet
presence for families have a category called students with disability where
families can go in there and read I think, the very detailed
information that you would want to know to navigate as a parent. So we have absolutely tried as part of
this work to simplify and make it easier for families to navigate. They would initially potentially go into
our internet site under the search of students with disability. This policy is referenced as part of
that but is also then simplified and goes into great detail about all the
supports that we might provide to students and the additional services
that we have with our staff, including advisory visiting teachers, nurses, etc. COMMISSIONER: And that’s a different
document than…the document that is described here as Exhibit N.3, that is,
the Frequently Asked Questions document relating to inclusive education? DEBORAH: Yes.
It’s different. And is that document to which you have
referred annexed to your statement, do you know? DEBORAH: I probably didn’t capture
the internet site presence, no, but it’s publicly available. COMMISSIONER: Thank you. MS EASTMAN: I want to now turn to the
question of reasonable adjustment. And if you still have the Exhibit N.1
open on page 4 of 5? Of the policy statement, sorry. I thank Ms McMillan. So in paragraph 23 of your statement,
it’s in response to questions asked of you by the Chair, you’ve dealt
with the resource… Sorry…yes, there’s the link. Is that what you’re referring to
DEBORAH: Yes, thank you. MS EASTMAN: And so when you haven’t…
included the actual documents in your statement, you have
included the hyperlink. DEBORAH: The link.
Yes. MS EASTMAN: So assuming that we
have an internet and our NBN connection is working well, we
may be able to get access to it, would that be right?
DEBORAH: Yes. Or I would have a stronger hope that
the family was engaging with the school community and
talking, and – yes. MS EASTMAN: So I want to come to
reasonable adjustment because this was very
much a key part of the findings in the Deloitte
Report that inclusive education had to include adjustment. Do you agree with that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And I’m paraphrasing the
findings? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So the definition used by
Queensland of reasonable adjustment in the context of its inclusion policy
is the definitions set out in the table at the top of the
page on page 4 of 5 of the report. Have you got that? And if not, I might ask somebody just to turn… DEBORAH: Of which report, sorry?
MS EASTMAN: So this is Exhibit N.1. So probably where your pen
is in your bundle? DEBORAH: Sorry.
Yes. Yes.
Sorry, thank you. MS EASTMAN: So this is a definition that’s
used of reasonable adjustment. Do you see that?
DEBORAH:Yes. MS EASTMAN: And is this a
definition that you’re familiar with? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And is this a definition
that guides the way in which reasonable adjustments are dealt
with in a policy setting for Queensland? DEBORAH: Yes.
And for the nation. MS EASTMAN: And coordination?
DEBORAH: And for the nation. MS EASTMAN: For the nation.
That’s your understanding, is it? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Just let’s have a look
at the definition so that we’re clear as to what your understanding
is of a reasonable adjustment. So it’s described as: An adjustment (being) a measure or
action taken to assist a student with disability to participate in education
on the same basis as other students. So that’s the first part of the definition?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So in terms of that
definition, the reference to “other students”, can we take that…or do we
understand that to mean other students without the particular disability? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And so when we’re
looking at a measure or an action to assist a student with a
disability to participate in education, is it right to say that the purpose of a
reasonable adjustment is to enable the student with disability to be the same
as the student without that disability? DEBORAH: To access the
curriculum at the year level in which they’re working. MS EASTMAN: What does that
mean, to access the curriculum at the year level that they’re working? Can you, perhaps, put that
in laypersons’ language for me? DEBORAH: So as part of, I guess, that
EAP process that we talked about and understanding our students and we’re
wanting them to have reasonable adjustments to access schooling and
the curriculum at the year level in which they’re working. So if we have a student
attending a mainstream setting who’s in Year 10 and
accessing the curriculum – the maths curriculum at
Year 1 or a foundation level – then we are looking at the adjustments
that we need for that student to be successful in the curriculum
according to their areas of need. MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you…when you use
the expression “accessing the curriculum”, do you mean by that
being able to pass exams? Do you mean by that being able
to understand the lessons taught in a classroom? What exactly do you mean
by “access the curriculum”? DEBORAH: I mean all of that. So what we’re wanting to do
is have students be able to participate in their learning. So a reasonable
adjustment is just that. What is the adjustment according to a
student’s need that we need to make as the classroom teacher for them
to be able to participate? Sometimes, that might be a physical
adjustment like a ramp to get into the building. Sometimes that might be about
some assistive technology to help them communicate and using
a communication board. It may be as simple as requiring – not
simple – an additional half hour in their senior exam because they have
dyslexia, and require additional time, which is a reasonable adjustment to
complete the assessment task, and they could be, you know – that’s
the limit of their adjustment. So…for some students there
would be lots of adjustments and for others there may only be a few. MS EASTMAN: So when we look at the
concept of reasonable adjustment you’re
looking at it as – for the purpose, the adjustment
is made to achieve a particular purpose which you describe as accessing the
curriculum; is that right? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So the second
part of this definition is: An adjustment is reasonable
if it achieves this purpose. So just pausing there. So that qualifier on the adjustment
is linked to it being “reasonable to achieve the purpose”,
and then you will see: That has got to take into account some
factors, being the student’s learning needs and balancing the interests of
all parties affected, including those of the student with the disability,
the education provider – I assume that means the
State of Queensland? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: The staff and the other
students. What does that mean? DEBORAH: That we teach students
in a class of 25 with resources determined at a school level to make
the adjustments for the curriculum. So when we say “reasonable”, that is
just so individualized for each student. Some parents, for any student and not
a student with disability, might think it’s reasonable that their child has a
one-on-one teacher, and that, of course, isn’t reasonable in the resources
that we have to deliver state education in Queensland. MS EASTMAN: But this definition of
reasonableness tells us that we’re not just focusing on the
child with a disability; but one has to take into account the interests of
the State, the interests of the staff, and the interests of other students in
making an assessment as to whether an adjustment is reasonable?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: So that shifts, doesn’t it,
the focus away from just looking at the child’s need to looking at the
child’s needs for the adjustment in the context of the whole of the
operation of the school and other people. Is that right? DEBORAH: Yes, for their participation
in-class in their school in their community. MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you this: in
Queensland, who decides when an adjustment will be made for a
given student at a particular school? Who makes that decision? DEBORAH: Typically the classroom
teacher, supported by some experts like the head of special
education in the way that the HOSES spoke about that yesterday. MS EASTMAN: What role does the child with
disability, assuming that they’ve reached a particular level of maturity
and understanding, what role does the child play in identifying what a
reasonable adjustment might be? DEBORAH: Yes.
Often a very active role. Typically as they get older, so very
common that students are part of. Sometimes their case management
meeting about what it is that they need, and how long they think they need
and what that adjustment might be. So it’s not… MS EASTMAN: Can we find…can we
find that situation in any of the Queensland polices that…
DEBORAH: No, that’s…- MS EASTMAN: .. give a commitment
to the child’s voice being heard in determining adjustments? DEBORAH: No, I guess that’s a given
in terms of how we work in schools. Student voice is what we do every day. MS EASTMAN: And what about the
role of parents and caregivers in determining the adjustment? DEBORAH: Yes, and that’s a critical
part of, perhaps, on enrollment. As we heard yesterday for a family with
a disability seeking enrolment at a school, they will – will typically
talk about the adjustments that are successful or are needed or perhaps
their previous school experience. It’s certainly part of the everyday
assessment that teachers make in the classroom. And the very fluid and
exciting nature of teaching is that those adjustments happen without us even
thinking about them, and if we’ve got teachers, perhaps co-teaching or with a
support person or an expert in the room, then those adjustments
can change all the time. MS EASTMAN: So if a parent says,
“I know my child very well. This is the adjustment that I think
would be appropriate for this child” in a particular school setting, what
weight is given to the parent’s wishes? Would that be determinative
of the adjustments? DEBORAH: Yes, and, you know,
our best practice… MS EASTMAN: Would that be
determinative of the adjustment? DEBORAH: It would be considered. It may not be fully met, because it may
be that it’s not within the resource capacity of the school. MS EASTMAN: And when are these decisions
about adjustments made? Is the process one of having at the
beginning of a school year, “Here will be the adjustments that are available”,
and they will continue during the year or is that process
different to that? DEBORAH: Yes. It’s – it’s the art and
love of teaching, isn’t it? We can make an adjustment for
a student at the beginning of the year, and – and we’re done. So a student, perhaps, in a wheelchair
who we’ve had to consider the placement of the whole class, and access to
rooms and libraries and science. They’re academically brilliant
going on to life at university. We’ve made the adjustment that
we need to make for that student. So we wouldn’t revisit it until perhaps
the following year when we think, “Timetabling classes,
where are we going.” MS EASTMAN: So where can a
parent find in any of the policies or the guidelines as you’ve described
them, any indication about how that process might work in
terms of who makes the decision, how the decision is made,
and what role the parent’s voice or the child’s voice has in
that decision-making process? Where can we find that
in any policy documents? DEBORAH: We wouldn’t stipulate
that as a policy document as such. So we wouldn’t find it there. We would find it in an individual
student’s individual curriculum plan or support plan that’s discussed and
typically parents sign as part of that really good case management processes
that we heard about yesterday. MS EASTMAN: And are all decisions made
about adjustments documented in some way? DEBORAH: Not all adjustments, no. MS EASTMAN: Why aren’t they all
documented? DEBORAH: Because we can make
so many of them in a given day. MS EASTMAN: So…in a given day you might
make changes to a routine and you’re describing that as an adjustment
but it wouldn’t be documented in any way?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: If even those small changes
in a given day aren’t documented, how do you have a record of working
out what adjustments work, which adjustments are successful,
and what adjustments may have been decided at an earlier point in time? DEBORAH: I think it’s the art of the
teaching and learning cycle. It’s… know our students.
MS EASTMAN: What does that mean? DEBORAH: Yes.
MS EASTMAN: What does a teaching
learning cycle mean? DEBORAH: We put the student at the center.
We know our curriculum. We know our pedagogy.
We know the strategies that we need to get to and we know the assessment and the
achievement standards that we’re looking for. And we call that, I guess, our really
good teaching and learning – there’s lots of – I think people
used the word pedagogy yesterday. There’s a whole range of – we’re
putting the student at the center of our decision-making and then thinking
about the adjustments that are needed. But, you know, for some students
the ringing of the fire alarm bell, unplanned, sensory overload, will
require that teacher to immediately make an adjustment to support that
student to transition from A to B. They’re not the sorts of things.
We just know that’s what we do. MS EASTMAN: Can I ask you this: are there
any limitations that the department has identified on what
adjustments it will make? DEBORAH: No, we don’t have
limitations, but we do work with school budgets and staffing
allocations and work with the resources that we have. MS EASTMAN: What would happen if there
was no adjustment that could be made for a particular student in
particular school setting? What happens in those circumstances? DEBORAH: I…we would use
the expertise of our workforce to think that through, and I can’t
imagine…and certainly in my role I do at times work with the most
complex of cases of students and I’ve… there’s always something more
that we may be able to do. MS EASTMAN: So how does…that fit
with the definition of the reasonableness of the adjustment? So that definition that we just
looked at which is a reasonableness limitation, would you agree,
on achieving a particular purpose? So how does that work when you say
we would always look at different adjustments. DEBORAH: Students’ needs can
change across the course of a day, a year and so it’s reasonable for
us as educators to be continually reflecting on what a particular
student might need. MS EASTMAN: Does a student…
Sorry, I withdraw that. Does the department use unjustifiable
hardship as any indicator of the limits on making adjustments
in a school setting? DEBORAH: It’s not terminology
we would use, no. MS EASTMAN: Never? You would never use reasonable
adjustments…sorry, never use unjustifiable hardship? DEBORAH: We would say to a
family that this is, you know, what we can do with the
resources that we have. MS EASTMAN: But that’s
unjustifiable hardship, isn’t it? You’re saying we’ve got
to the end of our resources, there’s nothing we can do? MS McMILLAN: With respect, I don’t
know that that’s a particularly fair question to ask this witness. I think she has answered
it as best she can. MS EASTMAN: I’m
happy to keep going. MS EASTMAN: In terms of…
COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Sarah… (INAUDIBLE) Sorry.
There’s a bit of noise. MS EASTMAN: I’m mindful of the time
so this will be the final question, if that’s convenient,
before the morning adjournment. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: That’s fine. Can I just ask something again to make
sure I understand how these numbers interact? You’ve told us, I think, that there
are something like 1,240 state schools of which 43 are special schools. You’ve told us in your statement
that the department or the Queensland Government, however you wish to put it,
allocates a certain amount of money to support students with disability. That amount in 2019…2020 is $1.59 billion?
DEBORAH: Correct. COMMISSIONER: Does any of
that go to the special schools? DEBORAH: Yes. COMMISSIONER: How much of that money
goes to the special schools; do you know? DEBORAH: I will be able to find and
provide that information to you, yes. COMMISSIONER: So that part of
the funding that is intended to deal with reasonable accommodation
goes to special schools for that purpose as well as to mainstream schools? DEBORAH: Yes, absolutely. COMMISSIONER: And who makes
that judgment as to the division between allocation to special schools and
allocation to mainstream schools? DEBORAH: It’s made on the same
judgment as students going to State schools. So it is the same EAP
process for all students. COMMISSIONER: Can you just
explain that a little more? DEBORAH: So we use the
same process around EAP. So the Educational Adjustment Program…
COMMISSIONER: Yes… DEBORAH: ..to determine the needs of
children, and it’s that same process for all students in Queensland state schools. COMMISSIONER: And since all students
at the special education schools would presumably satisfy that
definition, then one might expect a fairly significant proportion of these
funds to go to the special schools? DEBORAH: Proportionate to
the student enrolment, yes. COMMISSIONER:
Yes. Well, proportionate to the student
enrolment with disability in eah sector? DEBORAH: Yes. COMMISSIONER: OK, I think I… DEBORAH: And typically those
students, as you’ve articulated, would more than likely fall into the extensive
category, and be receiving that pro rata of resource. COMMISSIONER: I follow that.
Thank you very much. And with the funds that go to the
mainstream schools, if I could describe them as such, those funds are distributed
at the discretion of the principal. Is that how it works?
DEBORAH: Correct. COMMISSIONER: The principal will
be presumably guided by whoever is on staff that has particular responsibility
for dealing with children with disability.
DEBORAH: Yes. COMMISSIONER: It’s a question then
for the principal as to how the funds that have been made
available are to be allocated for the purpose of providing reasonable
adjustment for such children with disabilities that are at that school? DEBORAH: That is their
accountability, yes. COMMISSIONER: And that’s…
effectively the limit on what can be done. And I’m not suggesting it’s…
anything wrong with that. Resources are finite?
DEBORAH: Yes. COMMISSIONER: So the finite resources
mark out the limit of what can be done. DEBORAH: In addition to that
allocation, and we use and have published a document
called the Targeted Resourcing. I will find that evidence
number or someone will for me. That clearly indicates to schools and
probably what wasn’t clear yesterday was that schools receive funding based on
students according to the profile, plus an additional 25% for the
students that we know perhaps will turn up during the school year, perhaps in
prep and yet to be formally assessed or it’s not age appropriate
to yet do that. So we have a very generous
in terms of the spirit of the funding model to say that we recognize the
profile of the students that are attending that school, and we provide
an additional buffer, if you like, for students that we would
know could well be present. That certainly assists schools to meet
the broader definition of disability, and the addition of the WSS-SLR funds,
the Whole School Learning Support funds. And, in addition, I think they
spoke yesterday about those in quite detail, and I would also add that
principals in Investing for Success money, needs based money to help
students in their school to make those decisions for all learners, and that
funding certainly talks to students with disability as a part of the methodology,
Indigenous students, students in out-of-home care, etc. So principals have at their disposal all
of those funding buckets plus the base allocation that all students
get attending that school. And I have been, I guess, initially –
I wanted to provide great clarity and wrote the targeted resourcing guide
because the myths and legends of the department, it’s not uncommon for a
family to say, “My child only gets two hours of teacher aide time
and that’s all they’re allocated.” That’s not true in terms of funding. That might be about how the timetable
looks but no child in a Queensland state school gets money for the child. All money goes to the school
and to the staff to make the adjustments that they do. It’s absolutely in recognition of the
adjustments that we expect that that school may need to provide but they
hold the professional privilege and accountability and judgment to do that
on a case-by-case basis with their students, with their staff, and you
heard three HOSES yesterday who clearly do a very clever job and the right work
for students to actually provide that support across classes
with their peers. COMMISSIONER: Is there information
available for each State school in Queensland that specifies the
amount of money received from these various sources? DEBORAH: Yes, that’s certainly part
of their published annual reports. COMMISSIONER: That’s part
of the annual report. Thank you.
I’m very sorry. MS EASTMAN: Not at all. It was very helpful,
thank you, Chair. So the – at paragraph 28 of
your statement, Exhibit J – and, Commissioners, this is tab 11 in your
bundle – that’s the fact sheet you just referred to for targeted resourcing?
DEBORAH: Thank you. MS EASTMAN: Is that right?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: I just want to finish just
coming back on the decisions about making
an adjustment and how that might
practically be done in a school setting. At paragraph 21 of your statement
you set out what you describe as some examples of supports and services
available to schools and teachers to make reasonable adjustments. Have you got that part
of your statement? DEBORAH: Yes.
MS EASTMAN: All right. And we might put this
list up on the screen. So first of all, the list that you’ve
set out in the statement, they are only available to the schools and
the teachers; is that right? They’re not available
to parents or children DEBORAH: They’re requested by schools
but they may well have contact clearly with students and parents as part of
their role, or conversations, or assessments. MS EASTMAN: So are we right in
understanding if we look at this list, which includes a range of
health professionals and other education professionals, if I can just
summarize it that way, that there is a pool of these experts who are available
to schools and teachers; is that right? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And the purpose
of this group is to identify what might be an adjustment that could
be made in a school setting. Is that right?
DEBORAH: Yes to provide that expert advice. I think we heard yesterday…
MS EASTMAN: No… DEBORAH: Sorry.
MS EASTMAN: Before you launch in. Wait with me. So if a principal had received, for
example, a request from a parent for a particular type of adjustment and a
parent says, “this is what I know will work for my child in a classroom
setting”, the principal could accept that request on face value,
is that right, and say, “Sure, I agree”; yes?-
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: But the principal might say,
“That sounds complex, I can’t make that decision myself so I need to
get some advice and support.” Is that right?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And in terms o what
is then available to a principal, or for that matter, a teacher in
that circumstance, these are the resources that the department makes available? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: Are the parents or caregivers
told that the resources that are set out in paragraph
21 of your statement, resources that are available
for the department? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And when and
how are the parents told that? DEBORAH: So that also appears
in that link around disability, and there is a fact sheet
on each of those services that articulates what that service is
about and how families may expect to be involved or talked through. MS EASTMAN: So practically,
how would this advice be used? Does this, for example, require one of
the professionals, say an occupational therapist, to have to come to
the school and test the child? Does it work like that?
DEBORAH: No, not always. It may be that the teacher’s not
sure, and may seek advice like that. I think we heard yesterday some
commentary about we can receive medical or clinical reports as educators, and,
you know, that’s not our skill set. And so it’s very common that this group
of specialized staff would come in and work with a classroom teacher to explain
what that means and to model to work with the student perhaps with a
particular device or seating position that that report
is referring to. So often, and particularly now as
families are coming to us with NDIS plans and have had access to a greater
range of services not dissimilar available to them outside of the school
day, then as we receive those plans this is our team of expert paraprofessionals,
professionals that work with us to actually help us understand what those
adjustments might need and what the best adjustment,
you’re absolutely right, is. MS EASTMAN: Are the members of the team
are they employees of the department? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: There are no independent
professionals included in the list? DEBORAH: In addition to this list
is some partnership programs we have with non-State organizations. So, for example, we have a relationship
and have funding agreement for specific support from, say, Guide Dogs Australia. And if a student was to present at a
school and that was the first time that school was using an assistance
animal, we would work with an expert. So we recognize as an agency that there
are other partners, absolutely, that we need to have beyond our own workforce,
and we certainly have funding support. They’re there, I guess, to provide us
with that, as you say, professional advice and expertise. MS EASTMAN: And if anyone from this
cohort or team makes a recommendation, is it the case that the
principal has to comply with the recommendation made by
one of the members of this team? DEBORAH: It’s a recommendation
that would be for the classroom teacher around the
best supports and adjustments and how to do that. MS EASTMAN: So if, for example,
the occupational therapist said “I think this is the plan that should
be put in place”, can the principal say, “Well, I don’t agree with that.
I’m going to do something else”? DEBORAH: I wouldn’t imagine that, no. What if the parent says, “Well, I don’t
agree with the OT’s assessment”? DEBORAH: Yes, well…
MS EASTMAN: What happens in those
circumstances? DEBORAH: Well, that’s clearly
where we are working with a family and
thinking through the plan. We want families to
sign off on that, obviously. MS EASTMAN: And in terms of the cost
of these resources, are they costs borne at a local school level or
are these sort of general departmental costs? DEBORAH: These are provided in
addition to the school resourcing. This suite of resources,
I have to say, is the envy of other States and Territories. We have over many years
developed and have privileged the professional resources that sit on this
page as part of our workforce, highly valued, highly expertise. They are all connected typically to
their own professional associations, links with Queensland Health, etc.,
and are often the bridge for us as educators between the health provider
and they very frequently could be negotiating or talking with doctors to
seek clarification on something that might be very complex in a document that
we need to – to understand or interpret or to find the best way forward. MS EASTMAN: And is there a policy
framework for how the cohort of these team members or advisers
operate, and what training have each or any of them undertaken
in relation to inclusive education? Is that a requirement? DEBORAH: No, but it is
something we have done. We have recently…we do bring every
couple of years our therapist and nursing staff together for
a conference in Brisbane. That has happened this year. And, absolutely, inclusive education
framework and policy is one of the – has been one of the signature
pieces of that work. MS EASTMAN: If that’s a convenient time,
Commissioners, I’m about to move on to a new topic. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Certainly.
Thank you very much. We will take a break of 15 minutes
and we will resume then at 11:45am. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Yes, Ms Eastman. MS EASTMAN: Thank you.
One follow-up question. If it’s the case that the principal
ultimately will determine whether an adjustment is reasonable, where can the
Royal Commission find anywhere in the material provided by Queensland some
guidelines on how a principal works out whether making an adjustment is
going to be reasonable in particular circumstances? DEBORAH: We wouldn’t have
documentation to that effect. MS EASTMAN: Is there any guideline issued
specifically to principals to help them work through a process of making the
assessment of what’s reasonable taking into account the interests of the State,
the staff, and other students? DEBORAH: No.
MS EASTMAN: Thank you. Now, one issue that I wanted to raise –
and I think we will just touch on this because it may be, Commissioners, an
issue that the Royal Commission returns to at a later point in time, and that
is managing behaviour and restrictive practices in schools. And I think this issue has been touched
on a little bit over the course of the last few days, but not an issue that
we’ve addressed in detail in this particular public hearing. So, Ms Dunstone, you wanted to make some
comment about the work the department is doing in the area of restrictive
practices and also the approach to managing behavior. What did you wish to tell the Royal
Commission about those matters? DEBORAH: Sorry. Sorry. I guess I wanted to just articulate
and acknowledge that this is a very important piece of work and one of
the recommendations that is currently underway. We have for the last 12 months
in a piece of work – not that I’ve been leading but that sits in the school
operations area of the State Schooling Division – working to clearly define and
think about behavior for all students, and to articulate, based on one of
the recommendations, some very clear guidelines to schools about
restrictive practices. And we want to be able to provide,
I guess, to school communities, as has been raised in the review, very clear
and unambiguous advice about restrictive practices and what responsible
behavior plans for students are and best practice. MS EASTMAN: When’s that likely to…
when is that work likely to be completed? DEBORAH: We have all but
finalized and going through the approval processes and with the DG at
the moment for consideration. In the interim, though, we have been
conducting workshops and have seconded three senior principals offline working
with principals and Regional Director and ARDs across the
State around that. I think yesterday we heard about
Positive Behavior for Learning mentioned by a couple of the schools
– actually, all three schools spoke proudly about strong supports… MS EASTMAN: Sorry to interrupt. Just coming back to when this is…
will be completed? DEBORAH: Yes, certainly it is our intent to roll that out in Term 4
in preparation for a strong start of implementation, consideration and
thinking for the 2020 school year. MS EASTMAN: And has that process
of looking at the policy development and the work done both
on restrictive practices and managing behavior involved consultation
with children and young people? DEBORAH: Yes, it has been. Not necessary – probably the first step
would probably be to say we’ve actually used an expert panel from across the
country to help our thinking around restrictive practices. MS EASTMAN: Does the expert panel
include a child or a young person? DEBORAH: No. MS EASTMAN: And what about
parents and the advocacy groups? You’ve been…in the Royal Commission… ..watching the evidence
over the last three days. There’s some very strong
and very capable advocates. Has there been consultation with
some of the people who have appeared in the Royal Commission or
involved in those organizations? DEBORAH: Yes, there has been. MS EASTMAN: Is there anything else
that you wanted to add on that issue of managing behavior or
restrictive practices at this time? DEBORAH: No. MS EASTMAN: So the Commission
can expect to see something perhaps in the latter part of
this year, and if the Commission requests that information, no doubt, I
assume, Queensland will be happy to provide it. Thank you. I now want to move
to this topic. Many people following the Royal
Commission will probably want to know and understand how do you translate the
policies that we’ve been talking about this morning into practice. And so I want to explore with you now
how that task of translating policies from words on a page into action will
occur, and how can the Queensland community be assured or know that the
commitments Queensland has made in these policies will actually make a difference
and will achieve their objectives. So I just want to explore
those topics with you. Can I start by looking from
the perspective of a child and the child’s family? Perhaps starting school for the
first time in 2020 in Queensland. Against these new policies, what will be
different for a child commencing their school life in
2020 in Queensland? What will be different for that
child with disability compared to the past? DEBORAH: We would and have been working
for the last couple of years but for 2020 certainly that all students are
welcomed at their local state school. MS EASTMAN: And how will they be
welcomed? DEBORAH: Their enrollment
will be accepted, that the teaching and leadership teams
will support the family around the adjustments and plan
for their child. We would hope, going into 2020, that
children with a disability in the very early years had previously engaged with
us in the Early Childhood Development Program a very strong
and effective transition. Likewise, we would hope that they are
currently in kindergarten doing their 15 hours of universal access to kindy
in addition to their time with EDCPs. I would hope that we actually know who
those students are already, and that they are well and truly underway with
their transition being ready for school. I think we all acknowledge and have
worked hard around early intervention. I would hope that some families have had
– and I’m not so sure of this – early engagement with the NDIS
and the ECI partners. They’ve been late to be established
here in Queensland and are still yet to, perhaps, hit their strides, but that for
a family in 2020 starting school, that they would feel very confident,
supported, and connected and would already know which local school they’re
going to, and be working with our teams of teachers and support staff
around what that looks like. MS EASTMAN: Will there be anything
that is quite specific that will be different from what has
happened in the past? DEBORAH: Not specific. I think it’s acknowledged that there
are many schools in Queensland that have been doing this work very well
for the last couple of years. So that expectation in some school
communities is very high and very, you know, expected. It wouldn’t, perhaps,
look too different but for other schools, perhaps they have been really
reflecting on their inclusive education journey working with their regional
team, with their ARD, perhaps with the inclusion coach or
the autism coach. They might be thinking about how their
support is provided to schools in classrooms alongside
their peers. Perhaps there will be some schools that
may have had a more traditional and segregated program operating that for
the start of 2020 may be looking at a different way of – of
supporting students. I think we acknowledge and accept and
have produced documents for schools to have them really carefully consider
their process and practice as we move towards a more inclusive system. MS EASTMAN: Will there be specific
information provided to families with children starting in 2020 that sets out the
State’s commitment to inclusive education? DEBORAH: We have refreshed the
facts sheets and information guidelines published on that internet
site that I had given you. So, certainly, we have tried to make
it much more user-friendly, and able to orientate families. We had a lot of historically very dense
information and facts sheets about – you know, it appeared very complicated
about what to do and what supports. I think families would find that that
is – is clearer and more accessible and, as I said, I would hope that
they were already engaged with us ready for a strong start. MS EASTMAN: So for that child starting in
2020 looking forward to the life of the student in the school system, say, 12 or
13 years, what can that child and that family expect to see that will be
different, perhaps, from an older sibling or somebody else they know who
has been through the system? DEBORAH: I think they would
expect to see their student accessing the Australian Curriculum, and
as we move to the full rollout of the Australian Curriculum in 2020, teachers
right across the state have been very focused on what that
looks like for all students. And so I think in the last couple
of years the curriculum reform that has been undertaken has been
significant, and that, perhaps, will be a little different. Families and students enjoy, you know,
accessing that curriculum and teachers are working to – to consider
the needs and adjustments that 2might need to be made. MS EASTMAN: So you have heard the
Commissioners ask earlier in the week about the importance
of education in terms of setting up a person for life?-
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: In terms of ongoing,
perhaps tertiary education, vocational education, but
also workforce participation. So I want to ask you about that
in terms of the expectations. It’s the case, isn’t it, that the
department undertakes surveys of Year 12 school-leavers?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: A survey process called
Next Steps; is that right? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And you’ve included some of
that material in the Exhibits provided to the Royal Commission. At the present time,
the surveys are split in half…sorry, that’s probably the wrong expression. The surveys are split into two groups. The first group is leavers from schools
generally, and the second is a very specific survey done for
leavers from special schools. So there’s the two sets of surveys.
That’s right, isn’t it? DEBORAH: It’s not an area
I’m particularly familiar with. We certainly have an area of the
Department that – that is their core work, and may be able to
provide the Commission with more detailed knowledge of that. MS EASTMAN: Accepting that you’re not
familiar with the survey or the process? DEBORAH: Well…to a level, yes. But if I can generally say if one looks
at the results, perhaps, of the leavers in Year 12 from 2016 up to 2018, you see
real differences in terms of workforce participation or ongoing training and
education depending on whether the leaver has left school from a period
in special school or from what I think we’ve called regular
or mainstream schools. So you’re aware of that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And would it be your
expectation that the child and a family might expect the
implementation of these new policies might change the outcomes for children
with disability working their way through the system in terms of
opportunities to participate in ongoing education, be it vocational or
otherwise, or higher participation in the workforce in what the surveys
describe as the open workforce as opposed to a specialized service for
people with disability? Would you expect to see those sorts of
outcomes change by the way in which the policies will be applied? DEBORAH: We, certainly for all
students, have a focus on high expectations and attainment. When we’re talking about students with
a disability on a highly individualized program, like students that may attend a
special education – a special school, I would still hold very high expectations
of those students’ participation in the workforce or training programs. They study and work on senior
curriculum and VET pathways. Our students in special schools are
accessing the Australian Curriculum and are also working on senior pathways
to be well positioned for work. And that is particularly obviously
highly individualized, and, you know, in many ways that support will see those
students perhaps start work or a work experience program as part of their Year
12 studies and be well positioned for a life of employment. MS EASTMAN: Just for the benefit – and I
don’t need this to come up on the screen but for the benefit of the Commissioners,
behind tab 12 is a series of reports. And if you work through those Exhibits,
including the Exhibit which starts at – give me one moment here…described as…- COMMISSIONER ATKINSON:
Are you going to…do a follow-up to the question you asked and
the answer you were given? MS EASTMAN: No, I wasn’t.
I was going to move on. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: May I?
MS EASTMAN: Yes, of course. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Ms Dunstone,
I think what Ms Eastman was asking you was if there is a rollout of the
inclusive education model that the policies suggest or the guidelines
suggest, and that you seem to advocate for, it seems to be part of your role
to promote, would you expect that the students with disabilities who are
educated in mainstream schools in an inclusive education model might have
a better outcome in terms of when they leave school finally after their
13 years in school in a Queensland education system, would have better
outcomes in terms of mainstream employment or pathways to further
education, whether in a trade or in other types of tertiary education? That…I think that’s the question. It’s a predictive question but
what is your expectation? DEBORAH: So I’ve got 95,000
students with disability in mainstream schools, and I would absolutely
expect that we have higher expectations. The disability review absolutely
indicated there were low expectations and some students not
accessing the curriculum. I would absolutely expect for that
cohort to continue to rise, but I also have very high expectations and – of the
programs that some students on a highly individualized programs are doing at
special schools, and there are only 5000 students in Queensland in those settings
and I hold just as high expectations for their education and acknowledge
that they are doing that in an individualized setting. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Thank you. MS EASTMAN: I might come back to the
specific document and findings when we get to the special schools.
COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Sure. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: I also have some
questions but I’m happy to wait and see.
MS EASTMAN: No, of course. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: I just – so there
would be no rejection of a family and a child requesting entry to a mainstream
school in Queensland now with the policy?
DEBORAH: I can’t guarantee that. We would absolutely hope that that
wasn’t the case, and certainly if families have experienced that we
would want to hear about that story. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: And so
the avenue for complaint and raising concerns is really clear and,
you know, people would complain. MS EASTMAN: Commissioner,
can I just jump up there? I don’t want to distract the witness
from answering but the complaint procedures and the availability of
complaints is a very specific topic that I’m going to turn to shortly,
if that assists, perhaps… COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: That’s fine.
But especially about gatekeeping. MS EASTMAN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Yes…OK. MS EASTMAN: Yes, specifically.
If that’s convenient. Sorry to interrupt. Can I turn now to translating policies
and into practice from the perspective of the school environment. So these are the frontline,
the teachers and the teacher aides. What will be different for the teachers
and the teacher aides from here on in in terms of the way in which these
policies will apply in practice? And I’m interested in what difference
will it make to their work, their day-to-day work? What difference will it make to
their professional obligations? What difference will it make in terms
of any obligations for ongoing training and career development? So what can you tell us about what will
be different for that cohort of teachers and also the teacher aides? DEBORAH: And I would like to
– it’s not so much about the policy, it’s actually about
the implementation of the 17 recommendations of the review. So, clearly, capability development
of our workforce is a key area. What is different and has been different
for the last couple of years is Regional Directors have been working
with me around a regional workforce capability package funded out of some
of the disability review funding. And each Regional Director and their
ARDs and principals and staff have been actively engaged in a range of programs. Online, videos, vignettes. We have engaged with QELi the leadership
institute in Queensland to co-deliver and support some leadership programs
for principals, for Heads of Special Education, for our directors and
managers in regional level teams to think deeply about inclusive education
and to think about the role that they play. It would be fair to say that some
of our work has been very siloed, and we are aiming to try and bring that
together at a regional level and work packages. Principals – and if I think about
this region being in Townsville – would typically meet together
to talk about their work. An inclusive focus is
often the topic of that. They hold particular learning fairs
that they reflect on their practice. They will look at their data. So in that State schooling strategy we
saw this morning is that hierarchy of school improvement. So the things that we know as educators
are – we want to pay attention to and look at in terms of the data. MS EASTMAN: Professor Carrington talked
about education of teachers, so completing their qualifications to become a teacher
and the importance of taking inclusive education as part of the course work. MS EASTMAN: Would that be something that
the Department would require, any new teacher either transferring from
interstate or a new graduate teacher to have those qualifications? Would that be part of what teachers
should expect in the future? DEBORAH: It’s absolutely
what we would aspire to. The Queensland College
of Teachers sets the registration requirement for teachers,
but certainly I – I would probably go one step further than just a
subject around inclusive education. If 18% of our students are in
the state and fairly typical figure across the country we need to make
adjustments for, then I would see each and every program offered as part of
the four-year address differentiation in each of its subject areas. So if I think of primary school
educators and teachers, if the unit is about the teaching of reading, then I
would want to know that that unit or that semester as part of best practice
talks about the range and the ways in which to teach reading to
students across a spectrum. And likewise, in secondary programs
in teacher education, that, you know, there’s a greater understanding that the
Year 10 curriculum and the teaching of English may require the classroom
teacher to know and understand the foundational level reading skills so
that they can actually differentiate the curriculum for the
students that they have. So in some ways, you know, a bold
move is to say that 18% of the university programs of each course
offering should talk to differentiation. MS EASTMAN: Has there been any exchange
or consultation between those relevant universities – Professor Carrington
talked about her course and the department – about achieving what you
describe as ambitious or bold? DEBORAH: Yes. So we do meet at a range of levels and
have the university sector on a range of boards. I – I think it’s – it will be interesting
for the Commission to have a look at the university sector and
how course programs are put together. I was surprised to hear that a unit was
withdrawn yesterday in the hearing, and I’m not sure of the story there but I –
supply and demand is something we hear the university sector talk about. Perhaps in the past they did have
programs for some of our low incidence area specialisations, if you like,
and we now have to seek some of that expertise elsewhere. So I think that’s a – you
know, worthy of… MS EASTMAN: One thing that has
really dominated the evidence over the last three days is the
importance of cultural change. And that’s a fairly fuzzy
term, you would agree. So in terms of cultural change I think
you’ve identified leadership as an important element, but can I ask you
this about cultural change: sometimes this expression is used, is that
you can’t be what you can’t see. So how do you use teachers with
disability in leadership positions in the State school environment so that
students with disability can see that not only maybe their age peers have
disability but also those around them, their teacher aides and their teachers
are also people with disability? How is that part of the cultural
change piece, if at all? DEBORAH: Look, we employ a
very diverse workforce. We certainly have people right
across the agency that would identify as people with a
disability working for us. There is no barrier to that. As an employer, we certainly
have teachers in our system with a disability that do role
model and portray that. We have a trial that we are
looking at at the moment around the employment of some further
staff in the neurodiversity space and are investigating what that
looks like in terms of the workforce as well. So, look, absolutely. There is no…difference. I think we’ve proudly been an
employer that, you know, certainly holds teacher qualifications. And the same for our ancillary
staff, our teacher aides and cleaners and support staff that
work in our schools. So disability is not something
we discriminate around. MS EASTMAN: Finally on this
translating policy into practice, there were a few things that
you wanted to add, I think, in addition to what
was in your statements. So what would you like to tell
the Royal Commission about the efforts of the department in
translating policy into practice? DEBORAH: Yes, and if I could refer
to Exhibit X, the Signposts for School improvement document
that was referred to quite a number of times yesterday. MS EASTMAN: I think we’ve got
that, haven’t we? So it’s tab 25 of the
Commissioner’s bundle. Would you like that to come up
on the screen f that’s possible? Just give us a moment. Alright, so that’s come
up on the screen there. Have the commissioners got that? COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Yes, more or less. THE WITNESS: They might
not be able to read it. MS EASTMAN: Alright, what would
you like to tell us about this? DEBORAH: Probably goes to
the heart of the question that you just asked. And well, I, you know, we are leading
work around a cultural change of our organization and you can
have, you know, the review and you can have a policy,
but you actually have to for schools make that reflect practice. And we found ourselves when
people, you know, it was clear that they didn’t know what
the looks-fors were so… MS EASTMAN: So what do
you mean by the look-fors? DEBORAH: Well, the look four
is about what we would say. So it was very…it could be
very easy for a school to say, “oh, we’re inclusive.” And have practice that…we
would define as not being that. So this document here was a way of
helping in a workshop environment typically run by ARDs working with their
principals that they support or supervise. MS EASTMAN: ARDs are the Regional
Directors? DEBORAH: Assistant Regional
Directors that supervise schools, have perhaps 20 to 25 schools
that they would work with very closely, the school visits. Thinking through their school
reviews about their practice, the things they’ve said in their
annual plan about improvement. And we use this document with a
highlighter to actually get school leadership teams to reflect
on where they’re at. And the “School A” column is
probably the practice that we would suggest is it’s not inclusive. And…
MS EASTMAN: Why is that. What’s in… DEBORAH: So just take very specifically
to why these are indicators of a non-inclusive school. DEBORAH: It’s not that
it’s non-inclusive. It’s probably a school at
the start of their journey. MS EASTMAN: Not inclusive enough. DEBORAH: Yeah. So they might… have… let’s look at resources. “Resources are deployed in isolation
from the school improvement agenda. Student data is not used to
inform resource allocation.” And what then we try to pull
out of and of course these are the national school
improvement tool domains. It’s to then say, “So if you were
thinking you were more inclusive in just one particular area” –
and we haven’t pulled out all of the measures here, but for instance,
in resourcing, we’d want to see or we would think that in a school,
student achievement and engagement data is used to inform
collaborative decisions regarding the allocation of resources
reflecting a whole school approach to supporting student learning aligned
with the school improvement agenda. So this is… has been a very important
activity that principals and their leadership teams,
including the head of special education have perhaps been doing
and reflecting upon. And it’s very typical. And I would expect in for any school
that as a school leader, I might highlight in terms of say
school-community partnerships. And you know, we don’t do too much. We’re really good at our data and
we do a lot and we’re very good at our resource allocation, but we’ve
got more work to do around school community partnerships, and we might
use some of those materials that I showed earlier on to actually
think more deeply about our engagement with parents and
families as part of the journey. So we tried to pull out, I guess as
we talk to schools, and these are the areas in which schools are assessed every four years against
their improvement journey to which recommendations and
commendations are made about their performance. It was…for principles, I guess that… yeah, what are we really talking about? So what I…we have been doing
is trying to deeply unpack the culture that we are
wanting to move towards. I think the three schools
that spoke yesterday wouldn’t yet say that
they are at “School C”. MS EASTMAN: So “School C” is sort of the
best… DEBORAH: Just… MS EASTMAN: The best
of the best practice? DEBORAH: Yeah, a continuum of practice. They would have…and I think
they may have provided to them as part of their statements. ‘Cause they did refer to them yesterday. They may have had, you know,
an artifact highlighted and sort of said, you know, “Wow, you know,
we highlighted this and it actually then pointed us in the direction
of where we could do further work.” And I think that’s really
important for every school and what I think we have taken with the disability
review and what is perhaps underpinning and…not as
clear from a policy sense as practice is, we’ve tried to
lead this work with principles about the moral imperative and the
cultural change that we want to see and it’s tools and conversations
and workshops and capability development,
deeply having these conversations. This isn’t a…don’t read me
wrong, this is not a little quick tick and flip document. These are deep conversations that
then have at the bottom some really probing questions around the
next steps for that school. MS EASTMAN: How…how do you
work this with say open schools close to the city versus the
remote and regional schools? Is there any difference in terms
of the expectation that you have of achieving “Schools C”
DEBORAH: No. MS EASTMAN: Across Queensland? So how do you make the
challenges of the more remote and rural communities? How do you do that with
reaching “School C” standard? DEBORAH: Some of those schools may well
be closer to that than their colleagues in Metro. In the metropolitan area,
I mean by saying that. it’s interesting and I can only
reflect perhaps on my own career. You know in some of our rural and
remote towns, everyone in town comes to your high school. And so some of your practice,
perhaps just by years and years of that being custom culture and practice will be close to there,
but they will…there won’t be a school in the state that would
say, “Oh, we’re there. We’ve made it.” MS EASTMAN: Is the aim though
to say by a particular date that you use “School C” as an indicator
or a benchmark in terms of what schools should be achieving in
relation to inclusive education? How do you use this
document for the future? DEBORAH: Yeah, this document was
designed, as I said, as a workshop as a point in time. We have continued to
develop other documents and support materials for
principals as part of workshops. I have another one that I have
recently used that I’m happy to provide to the Commission,
which…took I guess… the…what would be familiar, and
you don’t need to read this now, but the Signpost document on the
back that we’ve just talked about and then a deep unpacking
of their school data. And so the power of the school
improvement agenda when… you take a school’s data
set and disegregate the data around the performance of
students with disability provides another layer and a
deeper layer to the conversation about school improvement. So it was my experience when we
first did this as a little bit of a, you know, let’s…let’s talk about it
and let’s talk about it more deeply. And then the second time, or perhaps
the third time as the ARD and as part of a school visit
in a non-judging way. This is about our system
getting better and better. This is not any sort of tool around… judging poor performance
or anything like that. This is about improving towards
a more inclusive system. It was interesting when I took
those four measures that we talked about at the beginning of the day
around school improvement and gave each school their data. And then said,
“Does your data reflect the practice that you’ve articulated?” MS EASTMAN:
Is that data publicly available? DEBORAH: That data is part of our
OneSchool platform and, look, I think there was
certainly a recommendation as you will have read in the disability
review that was very difficult to get disaggregated data. And so we have…pulled
some of that information. Principals can access it in OneSchool. They would like to be able to
do that faster and quicker. And we do, as part of the work and
the early work of the disability review, working towards an online
reporting dashboard for principals so that they could, for instance,
disaggregate their indigenous data and performance in
their school community. They could look at students in out
of home care and ask those very important measures that
we have for success. And that is, you know,
as students getting a C or better on the Australian curriculum. Are they positioned to get their QCE
at the end of 13 years of schooling? Are they attending school full-time? And, you know, what are the
opinions that staff hold around… it’s not staff, parents hold around
how their students are performing. And is there a reduction in the
school, disciplinary absences for those students?
Well, that’s… COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: So this
is number two on your list of the criteria you’re looking at Signpost. It’s number…in analysis
and discussion of data. Is that right?
DEBORAH: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. MS EASTMAN: So can I ask you,
with this list, is there anything in the school A to C workshop where there’s something
that would help a school look at what’s gone well somewhere else? And so the schools that
have had successful models of inclusion might be
able to share those experiences? Is there anything in the domain
improvement tool document here that shows a commitment by
the department to enable people to have access and share
information when things work well? DEBORAH: Yeah, absolutely and in a range
of formats. So we do publish annually… the State of Learning and Findings
of Queensland School Reviews. So those school reviews against
that measure. I did provide that… in the documents that we’ve done. But we also have sent… across the state and have
filmed in every region examples of best practice around inclusive education that have
formed videos and vignettes that have been uploaded to our site. So that principals had very quick
and easy, three to four minutes snippets of focused instruction or
thinking about what that looks like. It enabled us to put student and
parent voice firmly on the table and to show principals what to do. In terms of the SIU, so the School
Improvement Unit review, they have just released an insights paper
around differentiated teaching where we have pulled out what we
see in schools around best practice. So we are systematically and
continuing to provide principals with examples… of practice. Every time we go and film at a
school, they’ll say… “It’s not…it’s notaawe haven’t
got everything but we’re looking at a particular part of their practice
that we’re very proud of and we are of course, acknowledging inclusive
education in our school awards. And I think Professor
Carrington spoke of those and the recent winner of the
Inclusive Education Award. But there was one winner,
but there were 15 to 19 submissions from across the
state of people that proudly… wanted to talk about the work
they’ve done moving towards a more inclusive system. MS EASTMAN: So was there anything
else that you wanted to add in terms of this translation
of policy into practice? We hope we covered all the
points you want to raise? DEBORAH: It’s such a…I’d
probably never cover. MS EASTMAN: I’m mindful of the
time and you don’t have to tell us everything but were there any
particularly points that you wanted to raise? DEBORAH: I would just really
want to talk to the work of the assistant Regional Directors. And the regional directors who are working tirelessly
around school improvement in their respective seven regions. And they are supported and
acknowledged to get…to be given the resources to actually think
about the workforce capability and packages. What is different to this work than
what we’ve done in the past and I think is a significant learning
in the QSIL roll out that we heard about we did the sort
of professional development that was the standard
two or three day program. Everybody come, have a good
time, listen, learn, and you know, go back to your
school and…and think about it. And we’ve seen some examples of
schools that absolutely went back and really thought about it and
have done some amazing work. But we also had examples of
some schools that went back and thought, “Oh, yes”. This work, is now deeply embedded
in the performance of schools. We also took those four measures
of success and have a line of inquiry in each of the SIU reviews
that are undertaken to explicitly look at how students with disability… across each of those teaching
and learning domains. So there’s been some things,
I guess, put into the system in Queensland that we will never take out. And that is one of the
fundamental recommendations that sit in some of
those 17 was to actually find the data, disaggregate
it, make it meaningful. Put it clearly in the hands of
principals so they could reflect on how they were going and then
support them with the capability development and the workforce packages
across their school community. There isn’t a principal in
the state that isn’t aware that this is the work and every
region and regional director is highly committed. And rolling out very… empowering and sophisticated
professional learning. Sometimes it’s on site,
sometimes it’s in a workshop. Sometimes it’s about the investment
they’ve got in their support staff that are out, their
coaches, the autism coaches, the inclusion coaches. We’re building a system of school
improvement that is absolutely forefront in the
performance of all students. But there is a particular focus
around the performance of students with disability as one of
those lines of inquiry. MS EASTMAN: I want to move to a
different topic now and iy picks up the questions that commissioner
Galbally was just about to ask. So I want to ask about complaints. So you’d accept, wouldn’t you,
that disagreements are going to arise from time to time about what
might be in the best interests of a student in relation to the
adjustments that need to be made. You’d agree with that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And you’d agree,
wouldn’t you, that from time to time, those disagreements may
escalate to complaints? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And in your experience,
would you agree that any disagreements or complaints
need to be addressed quickly? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And they also need
to be addressed effectively? And they need to be addressed in
a manner which enables an ongoing relationship between child,
parents…and teachers? You’d agree with that?
zz Yes. MS EASTMAN: And sometimes these
complaints and disagreements can be very difficult and challenging in a
local environment, can they not? DEBORAH: Yes, they can. MS EASTMAN: And there can be
heightened emotions on all sides? DEBORAH: Absolutely. MS EASTMAN: One issue that
the Deloitte report recognized was that there is no central
complaints mechanism and there’s no record of complaints relating
to students with disability. So Deloitte made that finding,
and Deloitte made the following recommendation. Let me put this up. So the reference number is 0352. So this is tab 16 of the Commissioners
bundle, and I will just check the page number is 352. That has come up on the screen there. So you’re familiar with
this recommendation… COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Sorry,
what tab was it Ms Eastman? MS EASTMAN: 16. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Sorry, thank
you. MS EASTMAN: Tab 16. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Yeah, thank
you. MS EASTMAN: It’s up on the screen. So just looking at that recommendation. So this is one of the
17 recommendations. That’s right, isn’t it? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And, this is a
recommendation which is addressed to community and parental engagement? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And the monitoring
of complaints should be undertaken centrally and should
be granted high priority by the department. Do you see that? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And there was a
recommendation in relation to building consistency in how complaints
are treated throughout the state? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And that was to
achieve the purpose of limiting the escalation of complaints and
lessening the period of disruption for a student’s
participation in schools? And you’ve accept the
Crown…sorry, I withdraw that. Queensland’s accepted
that recommendation? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Now, Deloitte indicated
that this was a recommendation that could be implemented immediately. You see that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: That hasn’t been
done, has it? DEBORAH: We have implemented a
complian…centralized complaints management process.
MS EASTMAN: You have? DEBORAH: In the department, yes. MS EASTMAN: So in terms of a centralized
complaints management process, can you tell the Royal Commission,
if a child wished to make a complaint in relation to an issue
concerning his or her treatment in school, what are the mechanisms
for a child with disability to make a complaint? DEBORAH: As per the complaints process,
which is published online. So it’s not uncommon for a principal
to receive a complaint from a student and to work that through. And I certainly have had students,
present to me their case as principal. MS EASTMAN: These
are students with disability? DEBORAH: Yes. Yes. MS EASTMAN: And, you know, I guess
just like all of our complaints, they’re best managed locally. And so principals or heads of
Special Ed or the Department would engage with that student
about the complaint. MS EASTMAN: Is that complaint process
one that’s specifically designed to ensure that a child is
able to make a complaint or is it the same model that’s used
for complaints by parents and others? DEBORAH: I guess it’s the same model
that we use for all complaints. MS EASTMAN: So in terms of a
parent or a caregiver who wishes to express their grievance or perhaps
escalate the matter to a more formal complaint, what’s the mechanism
that’s available for a parent or caregiver to do that? Can you walk us through the steps
and tell us how we can find how the complaint might be managed? DEBORAH: It’s published online. It’s not a piece of work. I certainly, you know, have the
broad parameters of how parents make complaints. It is published online externally
for parents to look at but typically they would and I think as articulated yesterday, try and
resolve it with the classroom teacher. They may then take that complaint
to perhaps the head of curriculum, the head of special education. They may then escalate that
complaint to a deputy principal or a principal of the school and
then the complaints process if it’s unable to be
resolved by the principal is referred and families are given
a link to the region…regional director to the region and the
Regional Director and ARD that supervise that school
and the parent is able to progress their complaint to the
Regional Office for consideration. MS EASTMAN: And commissioner
Galbaly’s question was in relation to the enrollment or the initial admission. So what can parents do if they
have a complaint in terms of that process before starting school? zz They’re still able to access,
the principal to formalize that complaint or to contact
the regional office and the Assistant Regional Director of
the school that they are attempting to enroll at. MS EASTMAN: And is there a fixed
time in which the complaints must be addressed and attempts
made to resolve complaints? zz I’m not aware of that detail. MS EASTMAN: Is there a particular
process or mechanism for a staff member be that be a teacher or
teacher’s aid to make a complaint? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So if they observe
something in the school that they’re uncomfortable with in
relation to the treatment of a student with disability, what mechanisms
are available for a staff member or teacher’s aide? DEBORAH: The same mechanisms. But if it was about the mistreatment
of a student, there would be mandatory reporting obligations. MS EASTMAN: In terms of the
complaints procedure, has there… is the document that you referred
to online has that been… put in a format that’s easy to read or. accessible, or is it a…I think
you’ve often described some of the policies being dense. I’m not saying that in any
pejorative way. DEBORAH: No, no. MS EASTMAN: But again, for
families, they want to know what do they need to do,
how do they need to do it. And I’m thinking about the
evidence given on the first day of the hearing where you might
recall the witness talked about her perception about the way in which
a complaint had been addressed and her sense of the principal blaming her that she’d raised a problem. And so I think the Commission may
be interested in knowing, well, what…what’s changed in that respect? And how can families know that
if they do want to raise issues be they grievances or more formal
complaints, that there’s a way in which they can do that with…without
the risk of a disadvantage to their child or to their relationship? DEBORAH: Yeah,
for sure and I’ve recently read the complaints…steps
online and it’s… reasonably simple to follow
and hyperlinks you to all of those areas,
including escalating to the ombudsman. So I think that’s…it may not be as
accessible as it could or should be but it is in a reasonable format. MS EASTMAN: Do you know if the
principals have had specific training on dispute resolution techniques? Not to add to the ever burdens of
principals and their duties, but you would know, wouldn’t you,
from your own experience, that a complaint can, in some cases,
consume a very significant amount of time for a principal. So how are the principals
supported in terms of training advice or assistance in
relation to managing complaints at this time? DEBORAH: Yes, so they’re absolutely
supported by their regional team. MS EASTMAN: Are they trained?
DEBORAH: Absolutely. And you know, it’s not uncommon
that, you know, we would use… some of our expertise. So, you know, a senior guidance
officer might be involved in… in thinking through and supporting that. Certainly the Autism hub
and Reading Centre around needs of students is another access
point for parents and families. We’ve tried to build some
systems so that we can talk early and as you said, you know,
complaints are best managed locally and typically students, you
know, go back to that school. So it’s in everyone’s best interest
to resolve it as quickly and as professionally as possible. You will have heard that we have
a partnership and as part of the recommendations that
you’re referring to, we did… engage CRU in a contract to work
across the state to support families on how to advocate and to be heard. And that sat in parallel to
the parent and community… poster that we referred
to earlier this morning. And they’ve been conducting some
amazing workshops co-designed… and I guess delivered by them for
the specific purpose of addressing what was in the Deloitte
Review, ome serious… insights from families
about how they felt and…that is a very proactive and I’m not sure and I can’t
speak, but I can’t imagine that too many jurisdictions…would…would
make such a move. We’re effectively, you know,
working in partnership to say, you know, we need to support families
to…to have the confidence to go and talk to the school
leadership team or the HOSE. Perhaps you know that there are
you know, families here that since birth have had to fight for
the rights of their children. And I would hope and perhaps as
an outcome of the Commission, you know, that some of that
fight is no longer necessary around a better system. You know early connection through
ECI partners a…d NDIS services connections to us in schools, good
transition, support as we go through. I think we’re building a system
that is getting better and better but I do want to know that
families are confident and feel supported (a) to tell their
stories and I think we’ve heard some stories that go back many
years, but you can still… feel for each of those families
as they tell their story and just like I’m sure the
Commissioners, some of that was very difficult to listen to during
the course of the week. And, you know,
our hearts go out to families. It’s not our intent to do that,
but I think we have been very bold in thinking carefully and in a
considered way around parent engagement of families with a disability. We have put on the table some
very deliberate strategies. We are also in final
negotiations around a contract… when for a very small number
of cases before they hit, you know, that Ombudsman human rights. We are in con…looking at a
contract to engage a professional advocate to advocate for families
and to open up that communication with us. It’s not our intent to see
matters end up in the legal system and we want to resolve them
as soon as we possibly can. MS EASTMAN: Now I know it’s not
your particular responsibility, complaints and this is an issue that
you haven’t addressed in detail in the statement, but it is referred
to in the Deloitte review. If…
DEBORAH: Very happy to provide. MS EASTMAN: You the opportunity to
provide some additional information around complaint handling and…
DEBORAH: Absolutely. MS EASTMAN:… the matters that you’ve
talked to now about trying to avoid… complaints of the
kinds that make their way up to the ombudsman as you say, or to…
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: a different forum you’re very welcome to provide that.
DEBORAH: We will do that. additional information,
subject to the Chair’s view. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Absolutely. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: May I ask…
MS EASTMAN: Sorry. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: May I ask
a question about the complaints? If the complaint for example,
was about a gateway issue so the child…the parent was not
made to feel that the child will be welcomed at the school. And the complaint went
to the regional office. What action would the regional
office take if they… if they formed a view the
complaint was justified, what action would they take
with regard to the principal who made…that family feel
less than entirely welcome? DEBORAH: We’ve got a couple of those
happening at the moment. It’s the time that schools…are
enrolling for 2020. And there are conversations that
we are having with each school. And, look. that… there’s always a few sides
and lots of things to consider but I guess we are, as an executive
leadership team committed to having those conversations. We published and, I guess,
in the very early days following the first year of the rollout
of the disability review we publicly talked about being welcomed at the state school and that
the adjustments would be made. Some of the and if I could give
an example, if you wanted me to. MS EASTMAN: Sure. DEBORAH: And a recent one that I’ve
sort of managed and it came to me you know, as we work across
the State of Queensland, people know us familiar aand we’ve worked
with each other at different… and somebody actually rang me and
said, “Oh Deb, I just want to get some advice.” And I said, “Sure.” Very unusual for a principal to
perhaps ring the AGD, but, in that way, it’s not usual, but it happens
all the time but I said… “Do you just want me
to listen or” and… and it was about enrolling a sibling. So it was a school that had
taken…the first child in the family in an academic excellence program. And the second… child and the family… is in a wheelchair. And the family had moved,
so they were no longer in the local catchment. And so, you know, there was sort
of a whole lot of rules at play. And I just had to say, and all they
needed from my support was, “Just do the right thing.” And the right thing is for
that child to go to school with their sibling. What was complicated was that the
family no longer lived in the local catchment area and that’s
a tricky issue for us… around, you know,
school boundaries and enrollments. We typically want families but
understand that that’s their… her second question to
me was then about… the school is on a hilly slope
and what would that mean around, you know, on the year 1,
we’re aware of the Prep classes? Where are the year 1s and
sometimes it’s the confidence to put students at the
centre of our decision-making because perhaps that school
had already thought about where the teacher’s classrooms
would be for next year, but the slight adjustment that
needs to be made is to rethink where those classes will be. And you know, it’s a great story. And it wasn’t that the principal
was…you know that, we’re just nervous about thinking
through…all of the work. So look, I think we are having
the right conversations. Are we getting it right in every school? I certainly wouldn’t sit here
and say that that’s the lived experience of every family. I would sit here though on
behalf of the executive team, the department and say that, you
know, we want students to go to their local school,
supported in their local community. I like to say to principals to
live, work and play. And, that’s a really
important component. Thanks. MS EASTMAN: Can I turn to what
I hope will be the final topic and that is special
schools in Queensland. So this is a matter that you’ve
addressed in your statements. And at paragraph 40 you tell the
Royal Commission that there are presently 43 special schools
operating in Queensland as well as a campus at the
Innisfail State College. That’s right, isn’t it? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And you mentioned
of the Cairns Special… State Special School
that opened in 2017. And you say no state special
school has been opened or decommissioned since 2010. So I assume that’s excluding
Cairns is that right? DEBORAH: Sorry, Yes.
MS EASTMAN: OK. So just with that correction,
would it be better to read that apart from the Cairns? DEBORAH: Yes, sorry.
MS EASTMAN: Schools there’ve been no… schools opened or
decommissioned since 2010. I want to come back to the
decommissioning shortly, but in terms of the numbers
of students attending these 43 special schools, you tell the Royal
Commission that as at August this year. there are 5,133 students enrolled
in Queensland State special schools and they represent 5%
of students with disability identified through the NCCD. So that’s right, isn’t it?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And for a student to qualify to attend a special school, and that expression comes from the
legislation, is that right? DEBORAH: That’s right. MS EASTMAN: That the
legislation sets out… the need for the minister
for education to approve eligibility guidelines if
policies is that right? DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And…the current
policy in relation to… qualifying to attend a
special school is included in the exhibits to your statement. It’s exhibit L and Commissioners this should be behind
tab 13 in your bundles. And the first document,
which is marked L.1… is the special school eligibility
person with disability criteria policy. Have you got that? And if not, someone can come
and help you turn that up. DEBORAH: I’ve got a bundle here MS EASTMAN: We’ve got a lot of
papers, so we will just help go directly to the policy. So are you familiar with this policy? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And…do you
know the date of this policy? I wasn’t sure that I can
see a date for this policy. Is this a policy that predates
Deloitte or postdates Deloitte? DEBORAH: It’s just been
updated so it was released… only about a couple of
months ago in its new form. MS EASTMAN: Alright. DEBORAH: I can provide the
date if you’d like me to. MS EASTMAN: So in terms of the
criteria for enrollment, we’ve just got this…we’ll turn this up on the screen. It’s the second page of the
policy, Commissioners. There are four relevant criteria. Do you see that? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So first, a person has
to have a disability defined by… The Commonwealth Disability
Discrimination Act. zz Yes. MS EASTMAN: Secondly, the person has
a severe disability, which includes intellectual disability and
those words are italicised. So are you aware of what this policy
means by way of severe disability? There are some definitions. DEBORAH: I’m not the
expert, but I’m aware. This is clearly an area that our
senior guidance officers have a deep understanding and assessment
of but keep going. MS EASTMAN: Alright, so severe
disability, there’s a table on the following pages under
the heading definition? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Has a particular
definition to mean a disability where the impact of the intellectual
disability or multiple impairments including intellectual disability results in the student acquiring
a highly individualized program to access and participate in education? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And then intellectual
disability is also given its definition of being: A disability
that’s characterized by deficits in intellectual functioning and
adaptive behaviour requiring significant education adjustments. DEBORAH: Correct.
MS EASTMAN: So that’s the second limb. The third limb is the person who
is unlikely to attain the levels of development of which the person is
capable unless the person receives special education. And the fourth is the person’s
educational program is best delivered in a special school, taking into
account the appropriateness of this placement for the individual concerned. So those are the four criteria. In terms of the steps in…in
satisfying the criteria it’s the case,
isn’t it that there are guidelines that accompany this policy and
Commissioners will find that as part of the same Exhibit but marked L.2 Are you familiar with the guidelines? DEBORAH: At an overarching level, yes. MS EASTMAN: If you don’t know
and you’re not sure don’t guess. Just tell us that you’re not sure
and if you need an opportunity to… to provide some additional information,
I’m sure we can arrange that. Can I summarize this way: these guidelines set out the way
in which a decision has to be made and the obligations of the
decision-maker working through a particular process. You’d agree with that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And the nature of the
decision making process in relation to each of those four criteria rely very heavily on medical
advice and health advice; is that right? DEBORAH: And senior guidance officers,
yes. MS EASTMAN: And these…these guidelines
also set out some tim frames in which the applications and the
process have to be considered. Is that right?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So if you are still in
the guidelines document and there’s some numbers on the bottom
of the page on the left side. If you turn to page nine of 26.
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: This table sets out
the process for a student who’s not currently enrolled in a
Queensland State Special School in terms of the steps
that need to be undertaken and the time frames for
making that assessment. Do you agree with that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: Now tell me this,
if you’re not familiar with what’s involved with any of the
stages, let me know but if you are familiar with what’s
involved in any of the stages, can we work through them?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So stage one says that:
parents are provided with advice about enrollment options
for their child as required. Do you know what advice
parents are provided? DEBORAH: Yes, we’ve recently updated and
rewritten as part of the recommendations of the review
a fact sheet for parents… that is available online.
I think it’s L.4. MS EASTMAN: So L.4 in the bundle. And that’s… so that’s the final two pages. Sorry, four pages of the bundle. So this is provided to parents as a matter of course or do the
parents have to make the inquiry in terms of these options? So how do parents know to
look up this information? How do they receive it? DEBORAH: Look, they could receive that
from… just Googling. They could be in conversation… with the Head of Special Education
about their…their thinking. It could be an early enrollment. There’s a range of ways that
families might consider… a special school enrollment. MS EASTMAN: Is the purpose of
providing this information at the first instance to steer
parents away from special schools into the local…school? DEBORAH: Yes, so what you might see,
which is very different to what we’ve published before,
is we were very clear about what special schools do. And then we have indicated
and forefronted the policy… with, you know, that the department
is committed to seeing students attend their local state education
centre to be welcomed and a link to the Inclusive Education
Policy as part of the front end of… information and thinking for
families about this decision. MS EASTMAN: For a practical
perspective, how does this work? Is it that the parents might
receive this information and then the local school says, “We don’t think
this is the right school for you, make an application or is
this driven by parent choice? DEBORAH: It’s our goal that
this is driven by parent choice. That historically hasn’t
always been the case. MS EASTMAN: So historically, it may
be that a decision was made or a… DEBORAH: Yeah or… MS EASTMAN: A recommendation
might’ve been made. DEBORAH: Or as parents indicated
earlier in the week, actively encouraged or made to feel that that was perhaps their only choice. And we’ve certainly…there are
examples of that in the Deloitte review that weren’t inconsistent with
the evidence that was presented to the commission this week. MS EASTMAN: Now, is it the case
in terms of the decision making in relation to whether a child
attends a special school that’s taken out of the hands of
principals and it’s a decision made by somebody within the department. Is that correct?
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And do you know
anything about the process of that decision making and what’s
involved in the decision making it? DEBORAH: I don’t know the detail because
that obviously is very expert advice and
clinical and professional. That is clearly articulated
in the guidelines and there’s an evidence guide. Our senior GOs are highly
trained in this assessment. I probably if we’re still at stage
one of that parent application, I would want to point out to the
commission a very significant change and that is that at the
front end of the process we want the state school that
the student is, if they currently at school to be where the…the
parent first talks to the principal about their desire to
go to a special school. And we’ve done that so that families
get an opportunity to say… or for the principal to say,
“What’s not working here? What else do we need to do?” And to think can be part of that conversation with a family. And that’s a change to what we’ve done. Just to, I guess… really think through… parents, they’re thinking
is there more we can do? You know what’s their thinking and
what’s the story about their child? And given that it’s our
hope and goal that families are talking to us and
supportive of that. That was, you know, that’s kind of
a signature change to how the forms previously may have come to us. MS EASTMAN: So rather…I won’t spend
time on those circumstances going through the decision making process. But let’s jump forward and assume that the application is successful. So within 22…
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN:… days or so,
the parents are notified that their child will be accepted
into a special school. What does that…at the present
time, what does that mean in terms of the curriculum options for that child? You’ve talked and I ask you this
in the context that we talked earlier about reasonable adjustments
to access to the curriculum. And one of the issues which has
come up over the course of the week is, well, if those adjustments can
be made, then those adjustments can be made and there should be
no need for a special school. So I want to explore with you,
is the curriculum different for a child who is attending a
special school in Queensland? Is that the reason why you
have the separate schemes? DEBORAH: No, and the curriculum is the
Australian curriculum and typically those students will
be accessing the curriculum… on a highly individualized program. So that part is…wouldn’t be different. The content might be different
based on the unit of work or the organizing…. content the teacher’s working with. But all students are accessing
the Australian curriculum. Some of our students with an
intellectual disability that may well be at a foundation level. But it’s still the Australian
curriculum and there’ll be working their way towards their next level. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Ms Eastman,
I see the time. MS EASTMAN: Yes. How much longer are you
likely to be with Ms Dunstone? I probably… have about five or ten minutes on
this topic but I know my learned friend Ms McMillan has some
questions, so if it’s inconvenient… COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Ms McMillan
do you wish to ask questions? MS McMILLAN: Yes COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: To
cross-examine a friendly witness? MS McMILLAN: More like re-examination. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Reexamine. MS McMILLAN: Well, it’s really about
other issues from other witnesses and it will be about 10 minutes.
COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Thank you. MS McMILLAN: So it’s not lengthy. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Dr
Mellifont, do you mind if I just ask Dr Mellifont how long are you likely
to be in your final statement? DR MELLIFONT: Ten minutes,
15 minutes at the outside, I would have thought. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: And Ms
McMillan do want to say something by way of conclusion after…we finish? MS No, Dr Mellifont has
been kind enough to give me an outline of what she wishes to say and given that there’s nothing
then I wish to add to that. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Alright, thank you. Well, I think perhaps the
best course is to adjourn now. Should we take a slightly shorter
time for the luncheon adjournment and resume at say 2:00? MS EASTMAN: If that’s convenient. I can narrow down the questions
that I want to ask on this topic. And I think we want to give Miss
Dunstone the same opportunity we’ve asked everybody else
as what one wants to seek. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Ms Dunstone
has done very well being in the witness box for three hours. So let us resu…sorry,
(INAUDIBLE) let us resume at 2pm and then on the basis
of the time estimates given by council, which are always
extraordinarily reliable and precise we should be finished by 3pm. MS EASTMAN: Thank you. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Ms Eastman.
MS EASTMAN: Thank you. Ms Dunstone before lunch,
we were talking about the curriculum for special schools and I want
to ask you now just a few focused questions in relation
to special schools. Firstly, can I ask you, once a child
is enrolled in a special school in Queensland, is there a process
of transitioning from a special school into the child’s local school? DEBORAH: Yes, there is, and…
MS EASTMAN: What does that invlove? DEBORAH: I can report to the commission
that this year we have transferred 95 students from states special
schools to a mainstream school. MS EASTMAN: And what’s the process
involved in making that transition? DEBORAH: Extremely good case
management. Our special school principals are
highly committed to supporting the cluster of schools in which they
live and work and are often part of professional learning networks. They would be working with the
student or family, the feeder school I’ve recently visited a special
school where I saw that in action and, you know, lots of dedicated
people working to make sure that that would be a highly
successful transition. MS EASTMAN: There’s been quite
a deal of evidence over the last three days about the utility of
special schools in Queensland and you’ve heard the evidence suggesting that there’s no need,
that if the resources are available, they should be directed
to the local school. And that one of the witnesses
suggested that there should be a process of closing down
special schools over 15 years. So you’ve heard that…that evidence.
DEBORAH: Yes. It’s the case isn’t it, that there
has, as you said earlier, been no decommissioning of any special
school in Queensland since 2010? DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: Has there been any
particular reason why there hasn’t been a decommissioning over
the last nine years? DEBORAH: Oh, we probably have not
closed… we’ve might have closed schools
because there were no enrollments, but there’s been no active process of
closing any schools…in Queensland during that period of time. And is it the case that for
special schools, it’s the case over the last few years that the
enrollments have increased for those schools? DEBORAH: There’s been some proportionate
increase to enrollment, but that is balanced against the
significant increase of students coming into state
schooling in this state. MS EASTMAN: So what the reason is
because of a higher number of overall students.
DEBORAH: Proportionately, yes. MS EASTMAN: And when you
say coming from interstate. DEBORAH: No no no, coming into the state
system. MS EASTMAN: Into the state system?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: So, has there been any
analysis done as to why there has been an increase in enrollment not
withstanding the larger number of students in total in the system? DEBORAH: If I point to some data about
transfers that I’ve got from mainstream state schools
to special schools. In 2015… 388 students… transitioned from mainstream
school to a special school. And in 2019, that was only 299 students. MS EASTMAN: So what…in what
circumstance would a student who started at a local school end up, as you
say, being transitioned into a special school? How and why would that occurr? DEBORAH: Parents choose… choice, whether that’s… a perceived choice or forced
choice of as we’ve heard but they’re looking for the
best…what’s in the best interest of their child and I
imagine for every family and I think the Commission over
time will hear from families,,, that…that talk about
why they made that choice. And I think for every family,
as they reflect on what’s in the best interest of their student. Currently, in the State of Queensland,
we legislate to have special schools and that’s, you know,
the government policy of the day. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: If I
understand the figures correctly, there were 95 of the transition
from special schools to mainstream school. That’s 2019?
DEBORAH: Yes, today COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: And in
the same year 2019, 299 went the other way? DEBORAH: Yes, but in previous… COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: So
that’s a net gain of 204? DEBORAH: Yes, but in previous years we
would have seen, perhaps, many more students…. at…at the junctures particularly
say between primary and secondary. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Do you
know how you showed us the… the “School A”, “School B”,
“School C” models of the progress and inclusion? And I think you said you wouldn’t
even say that the three schools we’ve seen showcased yesterday were yet in “School C” in every domain. But let’s assume they’re
getting close to it. Are you aware of any disaggregation
of the data, which show us that any students from a school that had… “School B” or “School C” inclusion… criteria and… had students transitioned
to special schools? DEBORAH: That’s a reflection
tool so not a tool that we would formally collect data around. So I wouldn’t, you know, that’s a
school improvement tool to reflect on the journey,
it’s not to disaggregate data around and would hold no data
set against that tool. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: But the
reason why that data might be interesting is it would show…this
Commission, and no doubt the department, whether or not it was necessary to
have students transition or parents want to transition
their children to special schools if they…if the child was able
to go to a school that was well on the journey to inclusive schooling. Would that not be interesting
and useful as a… when you’re talking about disaggregating
data to see what’s happening, would that not be a useful
disaggregation of the data? DEBORAH: Yeah, and certainly I guess
that call to why we front-ended the enrollment application process
for the family to first present to the school in which their
child is currently enrolled to have that school team (a) firstly look at there’s many
families that apply for a range of reasons and often don’t meet
the eligibility criteria. I just remind the Commission
that that criteria is very tight. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Sure. DEBORAH: And, you know, it represents
5,000 students, as I’ve said. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: But you have
299 students in this calendar year who started in their local school.
DEBORAH: Correct. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: But… obviously were…their parents
were not satisfied with the education their
children were receiving. DEBORAH: No, absolutely not. But it’s a lesser number than
what we’ve seen in previous years. And this is a journey for us
working towards and I respect that for some families,
these are very difficult decisions. And they’re making them in the
best interest of their child. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Sure. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Mainstream
schools that have a higher… significantly higher than average… transition away to special schools
might give an indication that those schools are not fulfilling
the aims of this inclusion policy, one might think. DEBORAH: Yeah. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Which is really what I think commissioner Atkinson is… DEBORAH: And that’s certainly
over the next couple of years as we’re embedding this work that we’ll… continue to look at and reflect upon. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Happily that’s
within the life of the commission. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Could I just
ask if every child at a special school has a transition plan? DEBORAH: No, I indicated a transition
plan if that was their parent’s goal for them to return or to
transition to a mainstream school. Every child at a special
school obviously has a highly individualized curriculum
and support plan. And at the junctures,
as we prepare for those students to graduate from year 12, transition will have begun,
you know, in the…usually the two years prior as we think
about their set planning so they… plans for post-schooling
as we do for all students. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Do you have
data on the numbers of students transitioning from special schools
into…sheltered workshops? DEBORAH: No, I don’t. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY: Is
that available? Could we… DEBORAH: I’m not sure
that we collect that. COMMISSIONER GALBALLY:
And adult programs too. DEBORAH: Yeah, it would be… some special school principals
may hold that data, but… many may not. MS EASTMAN: OK,
so we’re just checking whether there is that material available. I’ve raised earlier… the survey called the Next Step Survey, which looks at the career intentions and the options for students
after completing Year 12. I’m not sure that there’s a
survey of that kind before the… the student leaves school. Are you aware whether the survey
captured somebody leaving before Year 12 for example,
in year 10 or year 11? DEBORAH: Yeah, no, principals would
certainly have… planning and ideas and goals and
aspirations, co-designed with the family around that student
but I would say that we see many young people from special
schools enter employment. So, I wouldn’t be thinking that
that was dominating at all. MS EASTMAN: Well, while we’re on
that topic, and I don’t want to waste the Commission’s time there is some material in exhibit…K. which is tab…12. And there’s some pagination. So it might be page 141 alternatively
for the document itself, page 29. Which has two pie chart graphs. K.4. They’re are two pie chart…. graphs for the main destination
of special school graduates from 2014. And then to 2015 and then 2014 then surveyed in 2016. So we’ll just pull that up. And in terms of the Commissioner’s
questions about, in effect, the next steps and in dealing
with Ms Dunstone your… evidence now that many
go on to employment, if you have a look at that graph
in terms of, say, if we take the 2016 the graph at
the bottom of the page. In terms of students
graduating from special schools who make their way into open employment, that’s 3.5% of those who’ve
responded to the survey. You agree with that?
DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And in terms
of looking at where most of the cohort who respond to the survey… find themselves after
graduating from special school. It’s really in that shaded aqua
colour, which is attending a day service. So looking at the range of options
for the graduates of special schools, would you agree with me
that you couldn’t say that most of those graduates end
up in open employment? DEBORAH: Yeah, I could absolutely say it
based on the graph. What I think is interesting is
and what we perhaps don’t yet have data on is the NDIS services
and the transition and pathways that are currently being negotiated
and worked through with families. I suspect and I would hope that
that is a significant area of work around people being supported into
the world of work in a different way that families and students
have had access to in the past. So I acknowledge that that
data is 2016 and very happy to keep our eye on future data sets. And I would hope… that, you know,
the plans of the NDIA for people remembering that of course,
these students in special school have an intellectual disability
based on their criteria. but certainly work hard towards
a world of work where possible. MS EASTMAN: But you’re aware that
this material is available on the department’s website? DEBORAH: Yes. MS EASTMAN: And, if somebody checked
the website, they might see that there is more…recent data,
including the leavers from 2017… DEBORAH: I haven’t looked, sorry.
MS EASTMAN: To 2018. MS EASTMAN: But maybe that’s
something that can be provided to the Commission? DEBORAH: I certainly know that
we’ve been doing a lot of work with the NDIA on a transition. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Ms Eastman
I think at some stage we will need to develop some homework for the
Queensland Department of Education, which I’m sure being an educational
institution, they would be more than
happy to comply? DEBORAH: Yeah, we’re very familiar with
homework. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON:
Only 30 minutes a day . MS EASTMAN: So finally,
I just want to clarify a few things. That when we’re talking about
special schools, we’re not talking about special
education units in Queensland. That’s right, isn’t it?
DEBORAH: That’s correct. MS EASTMAN: And you’ve said in your
statement that Queensland does not operate special education units.
DEBORAH: Correct. MS EASTMAN: And they ceased
operation in the state school system in 2008. But you still have something
called a Special Education Program. And that has been operating in
lieu of the Special Education Unit since 2008. Is that right?
DEBORAH: Yeah. That’s how we program and
provide support to schools. MS EASTMAN: And some of the
witnesses who gave evidence yesterday talked about the SEP, is that right in terms of the Special
Education Programs? So finally, can I ask you this? The evidence seems to be… leaning to a view,
perhaps from those giving evidence and perhaps reflecting the
community that there’s no longer a need for special schools. Do you agree that there isn’t
a need for special schools in Queensland? DEBORAH: Look, I think that’s
a matter for the department and the government to consider deeply. And I’m not in a position to
apply to that at this stage. MS EASTMAN: And so you don’t want to
express any view on the suggestion from the evidence on Monday
that a 15-year timeframe might be developed for the
closure of special schools? ZZ Not at this point. No. MS EASTMAN: So the final thing I
want to ask you is the question that all of the witnesses who’ve come
to speak to the Royal Commission over the week is, what do you want
to see from this Royal Commission? Is there anything you wish to tell
the commission about your wishlist? ZZ I feel like there’s so
much more I could say about the journey that Queensland has been
on, but I guess I would mostly like to acknowledge the evidence
that we’ve heard from parents and staff about their experiences,
both positive and negative this week. For many staff working in Queensland
state education system, including myself, some of the experiences
of students with disabilities and their families and carers have cut
to the core of our strongl-held values that every student
has a right to an education. We acknowledge that education
is one of the most important foundations to living a life of
choice, not a life of chance. While we are proud of our Inclusive
Education Policy and improvements that have taken place we know
we have a lot more work to do. We will continue to build the
capability of schools to make reasonable adjustments,
address systemic issues, earn parent confidence and
continue to transform our state education system. The transition…transformation
is not as easy as one as the Royal Commission has
heard over the last four days. It touches every aspect of our
education system, our culture, our policy, our infrastructure,
our resourcing, our practice, and most importantly,
our parent and student engagement. Every change has to involve all
stakeholders, many who have competing views and expectations. But we are committed to continuing
to our journey towards a more inclusive education
where students of all abilities are welcomed at their
local state school, feel safe, are valued, learn alongside their
similar-aged peers, and achieve their full potential in life. Schools have their own cultures set by school leadership and
the policies of the department but schools are also a
part of the community. They reflect the values of
the community that they serve. One of the greatest contributions
the Royal Commission can make is to raise awareness about inclusive
education and the lived experience of students and disability and their
parents and carers across the full spectrum of their lives. The journey to inclusive education
is difficult, and we have been guided by the 17 recommendations
made by the Queensland Disability Review. They provide, I believe,
a very useful roadmap to change system culture and practice. And I’ve been privileged to lead
this work for the last three years in the department,
and I know the challenges. I know the difficult conversations
we’ve had, and I know how hard school teams,
leadership teams and staff work. The vast majority of our workforce
turn up every single day to make a difference to the lives of students
in Queensland and I’m incredibly proud to be part of that system. Thank you.
MS EASTMAN: If the Commission pleases. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Thank you very much. Ms McMillan did you have some
questions in reexamination? MS McMILLAN: Yes, I do. Thank you. Miss Dunstone, you heard the
evidence, as you’ve said earlier this week, both from the HOSES,
if I can describe them and also the principals yesterday. And particularly I’m thinking
of Ms Prichard who perhaps might describe in unequivocal terms
indicated her views about the use of teacher aides in the classroom. Now you’ve addressed at
paragraph 24 of your statement something about teacher aides. Could you indicate to the
commission if you do your view about the utility of teacher aides and
particularly with reference to children with a disability or students
with a disability I should say? DEBORAH: Yes, I think… our teacher aides are an
incredibly valuable resource and there’s 19,000 of them across the state that work every day as teachers
do to value-add the education and learning experiences. In my experience,
teacher aides have been an absolutely integral part of the school
communities in which I’ve had the privilege to lead and I know
that principals in the state believe that too. I also probably believe
that Ms Prichard also values her teacher aides,
but in a passion of a debate about resourcing and future potential, you know, I acknowledge that you
know, resourcing has been, you know, certainly a topic,
but you know, our teacher aides are highly-skilled. This department commits
to significant training. Our teacher aides that work with
students with disability, you know, provide some very specialized
support, sometimes personal care, health care, et cetera and
are an incredibly valueable part of our workforce, and will
continue to be. MS McMILLAN: Right. Can I then move on,
which is slightly related to that. Ms Prichard also unequivocally seem
to indicate too about the funding model being some 40 years out of date. And she seemed to advocate
for a more flexible model. Obviously this is a very large
area, but do you have a fairly short response to that? DEBORAH: Yes. Look, size of school determines
sometimes flexibility. And I guess the commission
yesterday saw three… two fairly small high schools. in comparison to the size and
so, I acknowledge – and I was a principal
of a small high school, that the resources become quite tight. But I think we also heard from
a principal who said, yeah, I’ve got a larger school and I’ve
got a little bit more flexibility. What we have been doing and
proudly have been providing flexibility to principals with the
autonomy and the accountability to…to think about their resourcing,
that Investing for Success money, the WSS-SLR resources and support
for students with disability funding are flexible resources that
principals can use to determine the workforce and make up. The traditional funding model and,
I guess, the historic model… is historic, but it’s also important. It’s how we staff schools and… and meet the parameters of the
budget in which we need to operate. CS As a matter of interest,
do all principals get paid the same? DEBORAH: No, based on banding and size
of schools. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Size of
school. Is there any provision for incentives
for achieving specific goals? In other words, can incentives
be paid to principals who achieve goals, for example,
in terms of integration and students with disabilities? DEBORAH: Not in the way that you’re
referring to, no. MS McMILLAN: I think, Chair,
did you mean inclusion? COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Inclusion
is what I meant. What did I say? Inclusion. No. That would be common throughout
Australia, wouldn’t it? COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Can I just ask
you and you may not know the answer but yesterday there was a mention of it. Is there a chaplain in everyaaschool? DEBORAH: No. But some school communities, you
know, there’s a range of options to how they might be supported and funded, And high school… COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: So that’s
funded by the Commonwealth, isn’t it? DEBORAH: Correct. Yes. MS McMILLAN: I think the evidence
was, that depending on the size of the school a
chaplain might be shared amongst a number of schools.
DEBORAH: Yeah. MS McMILLAN: Now, the last question
I have for you is this, is that you were asked quite a number of
questions by my learned friend Ms Eastman about how parents
may be aware of different policies and accessing them in terms of being able to understand
what may be available at schools for their children, and obviously
particularly concerned with children and students with disabilities. If we’re looking at parents who may
not have so much electronic access. And I’m thinking particularly of
groups maybe such as our people without English as their first language. Maybe some of the indigenous population. Maybe some people of
lower socioeconomic group. You heard Mr Dale talk yesterday
about doing some home visits to engage with parents. Can you tell us any
more about how schools might or do they, in your
experience, engage more broadly if you’ve got, for instance,
I’ve just outlined some potential groups that may not have ready access to,
for instance, online facilities. DEBORAH: Most schools are very… live and work in the
community that they operate so it’s not unusual to see,
the combination of our workforce reflect the community. So, you know, in some of our EAL/D English as a second language,
we would often see teacher aides or ancillary staff employed from those
cultural groups or communities. And it is not always often,
but certainly in some cases we see families, you know,
meeting with them offsite in places where they can have a
quieter conversation. I know that some of our senior
guidance officers and people working with a family who’s quite
grieved about a situation… MS McMILLAN: Just slow down a
little bit, yeah. DEBORAH: Sorry. Or school they could, well, you
know, meet at a local coffee shop or the council rooms or a
common community safe… place in indigenous communities
that’s respected by all. So, look, I think we work hard to
live and work in the communities in which we have our schools across
Queensland and I think every school principal has a range of
strategies and we certainly have a very open view to do,
I guess whatever it takes to support. There’s currently some lovely work
happening in the early years around students’ access to kindy and
collaborative conversations and partnerships and early identify… identification of students
that we think might be vulnerable or perhaps not
accessing kindy and working with say the local council, the daycare
providers, the family groups, the cultural groups to say, “Hey,
is everyone getting ready to come along and what more do we have to do
to make this open and inclusive?” So there’s lots of aspects to the
work that we’re doing that I think is positioning us well to try
and work with all families. MS McMILLAN: Thank you. Commissioner Atkinson,
I think I’m within my time. That’s all I have. Thank you. COMMISSIONER ATKINSON: Very
unusual, Ms McMillan. Perhaps it’s because I’m here.
COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Ms Eastman
is there anything else from you? MS EASTMAN: No, thank you. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Ms
Dunstone, thank you very much for your attendance and thank you
for giving us your evidence. We appreciate it very much. You can step down now.
DEBORAH: Thank you. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: You’re
free of the notional witness box. Ms McMillan, I just wanted
to…put a hypothetical question not for you to answer now. But perhaps to…it’s
good take on notice. Actually, it’s really a
question about the question. Let me ask the hypothetical
question first and then explain what it would be helpful to
ascertain, if possible. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: You’ll get a
copy of this…as soon as we finish. MS McMILLAN: Thank you. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: The
hypothetical question involves a series of assumptions. Assumption number one is that the
Commonwealth and enacts legislation under the Convention by conferring a right to inclusive
education in state and territory schools on all children including
children with disability, regardless of the nature
of the disability. Alternatively, Queensland itself
independently at the Commonwealth enacts legislation
precisely to that effect. That, as I understand,
it is the current position adopted in Queensland in principle. MS McMILLAN: In the
state of education… COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: In
the state educate that that’s what I’m talking about. State and territory schools
meaning state schools, yeah. Secondly, the definition of
inclusive education under this hypothetical legislation
incorporates a requirement that over a period of time, all separate
state-funded special education schools, so in Queensland or Queensland-funded
special education schools would close and that the resources devoted
to them would be transferred to mainstream schools. That’s the second assumption. The third assumption is that
mainstream schools have to be in a position to provide
inclusive education for all children and inclusive education
for this purpose is understood to mean all reasonable adjustments
required for each student with disability on the basis that the
necessary resources will be available. In other words, they won’t be
qualified by limitation on resources. The fourth assumption is that the
transitional period is 15 years. Now, I know this hypothetical
question makes a whole series of contentious assumptions, for
example, about parental choice, but they’re just assumptions. And I also know that the question
does not deal with private schools that may nonetheless
receive government funding. But putting to that…to one side the question is this: what
additional resources would Queensland require to implement this
hypothetical scheme over 15 years? And my question, and if you wouldn’t
mind taking it on notice, is whether Queensland would be able
to prepare a submission that addresses that question. And also comments on both the
desirability and feasibility of implementing such a scheme. MS McMILLAN: Well, we would need
to take it on notice and work out the feasibility, but… COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: I should add
that this is a question or perhaps some variation of it, if it requires
amendment that I would expect might be put to other
states and territories. MS McMILLAN: One would expect
with parity it would no doubt be but…can I say that one thing
that perhaps is troubling, if I can put it this way at this
stage, is there really hasn’t been any other side of the debate, if I can
put it this way, about special schools and it probably is not fair,
if I can put it this way, not to have heard from – ad no doubt
we could provide a statement from a special school principal if that’s what the
commission would want. And undoubtedly, and I understand
there maybe a submission coming from an advocacy group about special schools. So obviously as you say, Chair,
you’ve made a number of assumptions there and implicit in in that
assumption is that special schools should in fact be
effectively phased out. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: It’s a
hypothesis and by putting the hypothesis, I’m not for a moment suggesting
that that is something that the commission should conclude.
MS McMILLAN: I understand. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: But
obvious…obviously if that is to be within the realm of consideration,
it becomes very significant to identify what sort of costs would be involved. I should make it absolutely clear
and no doubt all Commissioners agree with this, that we are here to consider all sides of the argument,
and if on any given issue, and if there is a further submission or
further evidence that you wish to adduce on the question of special… education schools, then, of course,
you will have that opportunity and that material will be
taken into account. The hypothetical question I raised
is really directed to what sort of money are we talking about. MS McMILLAN: I understand your
question because there’s a lot of implicit assumptions and I understand
that there is other issues at play that I’ve become aware of, that
there’s, if you like a hybrid variety, I understand this particular… matter at the moment
about there being some specialized schooling for early
years with a particular type of disability that children would
then be phased into mainstream. And I’m not in a position to
elaborate more on that, but that is a very modern-day thinking. So that’s the sort of thing the
commission would no doubt want to hear about advocated
by, as I understand… a group who has
obviously clearly thought a lot about that. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: By
asking you to take that on notice it’s certainly open to you to
make any comments on whether that’s a feasible…
MS McMILLAN: Yes, of course. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Question
to deal with or whether there are other matters that ought
to be taken into account. But you understand that the
concern is to get some… some idea of resources. So much has been said over
these four days about resources. And how adequate resources are
fundamental and are an essential prerequisite for certain
kinds of inclusive education. It would be very helpful to get
some handle on what we’re actually talking about. MS McMILLAN: Yes, and of course,
the difficulty also, in terms of legal aspects is what a
reasonable adjustment is. And if there’s no limit on
reasonable adjustment, that would obviously be a very
difficult issue to cost… COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: You might
have to make some assumptions about how one ascertains what
is a reasonable adjustment by reference simply to the needs
of the student without taking into account the cost in a particular case. Now that may or may
not be feasible to do. MS McMILLAN: Well, that’s something
we’d obviously have to consider in making any submission. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: But We’d all
be grateful I think if you took it on notice and gave it some thought. MS McMILLAN: We will. Thank you. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Thank you very much. Dr Mellifont,
do you have some closing remarks? DR MELLIFONT: I do. This brings us to the end
of the evidence this week. May I extend my personal gratitude to… Ms Eastman of senior counsel
and Mr Fraser of counsel and to all of the staff of the
Disability Royal Commission for their considerable work. Anyone who’s ever had anything to
do with the Royal Commission knows the enormous amount of hard work
it takes to get a public hearing up and running. And staff are already working hard
towards our next public hearing, which will be conducted in Melbourne
in the week of the 2nd of December lead by Ms Eastman of Senior
Counsel together with Mr Harding of Senior Counsel. And the topic there to be considered
is group homes in Victoria. As I mentioned in my opening in the
first half of 2020 the Commission will conduct hearings in
various places across Australia continuing the public hearing work
on the topics of education and learning and living at home and
starting public hearings on health and justice and issues relevant
to intersectionality, including a focus on First Nations people. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: By
intrasectionality you mean? DR MELLIFONT: I mean… COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE:
Cumulative disadvantage. DR MELLIFONT: Well, a combination of
factors that may affect some people so First Nations people with a
disability, people of the LGBTQI+ community who have a
disability, etcetera. As to this week, may I start by
thanking each of the witnesses who gave of their time
and energies to assist us in developing our understanding of
some of the issues and challenges faced by people with a disability
in respect of receiving an equitable education. As I said in my opening…this week… this week is just the beginning. And the Commission is acutely
aware that the issues concerning the topic of education
and learning are vast. That significant time and effort
and resources are required in order to do the topic justice. The evidence that we heard
this week from witnesses AAA sorry and AAC. And the anecdotal accounts
through Dr Bridle and Mrs Wilson. And the information and submissions
the Commission has received thus far provide a powerful
imperative to the commission to even further steal its
resolve to uncover violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation,
and to use to truly use the enormous opportunity this commission
has to try and bring about transformational change. As I said, this week is just the
start and it is not the last time the commission will hear evidence,
including not the last time the commission will hear from
the state Queensland Government. And as we continue our work,
we will be looking at all states and territories in Australia. And it will not just be limited
to government schooling. As I also noted in the opening
this week, there are a number of topics such as behaviour management,
the use of restrictive practices, suspensions and exclusions
amongst others… that are very important topics
worthy and in need of detailed consideration by this Commission and work which the commission will
be undertaking into the future. The Commission continues to receive
information and submissions. And we are grateful for that. The Commission staff
are working very hard to respond to people who have given
of their time and their emotional energy in providing information
and submissions to us. They’re doing their best to get
back to people as quickly and as meaningfully as possible. To the people who’ve been watching
this week, whether here or whether at home, if you’ve heard
evidence which doesn’t match up with what your experience is… our message to you is you don’t
have to sit idle about that. You are invited to tell us… if you had an alternate
experience, a different experience, so we can understand… start to understand a more full picture. As I indicated in my opening,
in the course of our work, the Commission has received queries
from people wishing to provide information to the Commission. And they’d been asking why they
would want or need legal advice and have asked us whether
they’ve done something wrong. And I want to reiterate that the
answer to that is absolutely not. And that making legal advice
is not intended in any sense to be a signal to anybody coming
to the commission that they have done anything wrong and that they
need to have legal advice about that. The provision of legal advice
is to give people the ability, if they wish, to chat about
their intended engagement with the Commission with a lawyer. Those watching this week would
have seen the commission use as a means of supporting witnesses
to be comfortable in coming to the Commission. They use of evidence
by way of pseudonym. And the protections that
non-publication orders have been given by this Commission. What I ought to have mentioned in
my opening comments on Monday, but I needed to do so. are the provisions of the Royal
Commission’s Act which have the very clear object of protecting
witnesses before the commission. In particular, I want to draw your
attention to Section 6M of that Act. Which provides that any
person…any person… who uses,
causes or inflict any violence… punishment, damage,
loss, or disadvantage to any person on account of the
person having appeared as a witness before the Royal commission
or giving evidence before the Royal Commission
or producing documents to the Royal Commission commits
an indictable offense. The maximum penalty for committing
such an offense is imprisonment. I note the breadth of
what that prohibition… prevents. It extends to any damage,
loss or disadvantage. So it is extremely important… that any person who might be minded
to engage in conduct, whether in person or by use of social media
or any other cause that might cause disadvantage, damage or loss to
eye witness of this commission are extremely mindful of that very
important legislative provision, which makes it an offense. The continued public hearings
will continue to be made available by way of web stream. And as I indicated in my opening… the intention of this commission is
to approach its task in a thorough fashion with intellectual rigour. And that means that it will be
necessary for different sides of the debate on contentious
issues to be heard and we’ve had some of that this week. And that debate may be
very confronting for some. For some, hearing arguments,
contrary to your own opinion might be very…might be very stressful. For some,
it might be a trigger for trauma. And so… the Commission encourages those
watching whether by webstream or whether here in person to be mindful
that topics might be upsetting and we encouraged to
those to seek support… in that respect. I’ll repeat that the Commission
is aware of the rights of all children and young persons to be heard. We acknowledge fully that
children and young people have a right to express their views
and have them taken seriously. And as I said in the opening,
the absence of any children and young persons giving direct experience
this week should not, in any sense, be taken as a sign that the
commission does not want to hear from the children. Or that their voices will not be heard. We welcome these people
to engage with us. We appreciate. It can be a big ask. But we do welcome. And are very very hurtful to
hear from the voices of children and young people in
future public hearings. May I just briefly repeat some
observations in respect of the support structures, which are now available. The Commission has an internal
counselling and support services team made up of social
workers and counsellors who are able to provide counselling
and support to people engaging with the Commission at
face-to-face community forums, public hearings, private sessions. Four of our counsellors have
been present this week, including an Indigenous male social worker. The Australian government through
the Department of Social Services, has funded Blue Knot Foundation to
establish a specialist counselling support and referral service… for people with disability,
their families and carers and anyone affected by the Commission. And their hotline
number is 1-800-421-468. And they provide professional,
short term counselling and support, a gateway to frontline counselling
services, advocacy and legal support services, information and referrals
about other useful services and psychoeducation. They have extensive nationwide
referral networks to support those who require a longer-term,
face-to-face or case management support. A range of legal and advocacy
services have been funded by the Australian Government and
are being administered through the Department of Social Services and
the Attorney General’s Department, which has funded a legal financial
assistance scheme to assist individuals and entities with meeting the cost of legal
representation and disbursements associated with formal
engagement with the commission. And the National Legal aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Legal Services to deliver free legal
advisory services for people engaging with the Commission. Further information about all of
these services and links can be found on the Commission’s website. Or by contacting the information line which is 1-800-517-199. I concluded my opening on Monday by stating that the devaluation of
some within our society of people with disability… can lead them to ask the
intolerable and ignorant question of why does a proper education
for a person with a disability even matter? The evidence we have heard
this week as my perfectly clear the fundamental imperative that
persons with disabilities are treated and recognized in a very complete
way as having all the rights that every other person has. It is emphasized the
critical importance of not devaluing a student with a disability,
of not lowering the expectations of what that student can do or
what that student can achieve. It’s highlighted the critical
importance of having high expectation for all students in
our education system. The critical importance of,
and to borrow some words of Mr Dale’s, inclusive education becoming the
moral imperative and the core business of schools. It’s highlighted the
critical importance… of the opening of the eyes of the Australian people to
the profound and demonstrated benefits of equitable
education for all students. And a genuinely inclusive
culture, not just on paper but in the hearts and minds of
our governments, our educators and our community. As I said in my opening,
some of the information submissions received by the commission… paint the stark picture
that in some schools across Australia…students
without a dis… sorry, students with
disability are not… not only not receiving
an equitable education but are also subject to violence,
abuse, neglect, and exploitation in the most hideous forms. No doubt some of that is due to… ignorance and prejudice. And so I finish with an extract
with respect from an ex…from the evidence of Mrs Swancutt: We can’t possibly be happy with
what we are currently doing because history has reminded
us time and again… that the segregation and othering
of diverse groups of our own humankind results in the
most horrific outcomes… which linger for many decades
and transcend generations. We have known better for
an awfully long time. We must act urgent. We must act with urgency and do better. May it please the commission. COMMISSIONER SACKVILLE: Thank
you, Dr Mellifont. I would like to add to Dr
Mellifont’s remarks by expressing the thanks of the Royal Commission
to all of the witnesses who have given evidence during this
hearing in Townsville. We are particularly grateful
to the parents of children with disability who told us about their
experiences within the Queensland education system and elsewhere. We understand fully that it is
not easy to give evidence in a public hearing about such difficult and
sometimes traumatic experiences. We are indebted to the parents for
their courage and determination in coming forward and being prepared
to share their experiences with the Royal Commission. During these hearings, we have had
the benefit of evidence for a wide range of witnesses, each of whom
has provided us with valuable insights and ideas for
further exploration. We’ve heard not only from the
parents of children with disability, but teachers and principals who
have worked hard to implement a policy of inclusive education,
experts who have shared the results of their research and the opinions
they have derived on the basis of that research, departmental officers who have
explained the approaches taken in Queensland under the policy
of inclusive education and a representative of the
Queensland Teachers Union who set out the Union’s position on inclusive
education and related matters. A very great deal of work goes into
the preparation for a hearing of this kind. The legal team within the Commission particularly the staff of the
Office of the Solicitor assisting the Royal Commission have worked
prodigiously to ensure that the evidence is ready and can be presented
in an orderly fashion. Counsel Assisting the commission
senior counsel and junior counsel have participated strongly in that
prodigious amount of work and have made an immeasurable contribution
to the hearing that has taken place. Many other commission staff have
worked tirelessly to organize the hearings and to bring together
an astonishing number of moving parts that are necessary to
be integrated for the hearing to work effectively. I also on behalf of the Commission,
want to acknowledge the particular cooperation of the Queensland
Department of Education and the legal representatives of the
State of Queensland who have been especially helpful in meeting
very tight timetables and in cooperating to ensure that this
hearing could take place in the way in which it has. I want to express…my and the
commission’s admiration for the extraordinary work done by the
Auslan interpreters who have been presented with very great challenges
by the rapidity of some of… with which some of the evidence was
given and the equally astonishing work done by those who prepare
the real-time transcript. I still think there is some magic
involved in that, that I don’t quite understand as yet. I emphasize what has been
said on several occasions. Namely that the selection of Queensland
as the location for our first substantive hearing on education
does not imply that Queensland’s approach to inclusive education
is inferior to that of other Australian jurisdictions. One very important purpose of this
hearing has been to explore not only the failures of the education
system when they occur to provide inclusive education for children
with disability, but also to identify practices that
appear to work well and might provide models for the future. Part of the way in which this
commission will operate is to contrast the bad things that happen with
the very good things that happen because we do not wish to concentrate
simply on what has gone wrong. We also wish to highlight
best practice where it occurs. One of the Commissioners was asked
by a Townsville taxi driver in a tone that indicated some surprise. Why choose Townsville
for the first hearing? This may be the natural reticence
and modesty of Townsville residents, I’m not sure, but the answer lies
in the commission’s decision to hold the first community forum
in Townsville, which took place in September. That was not a random selection,
but it was based on careful analysis of demographic data, which suggested,
among other things, that the region has a relatively high
proportion of people with disability. About 150 people from Townsville
in the surrounding areas attended that community forum and provided
ideas and case studies for the hearing. We should be holding more
community forums very soon. Some in Adelaide and Gawler in South
Australia and in Hobart in Tasmania. And we hope that they too will
encourage people to come forward with their stories relating to violence
against abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability. The choices of these locations
reflects the national character of our inquiry. We intend to go well beyond the
capital cities of the eastern states. People with disability live
everywhere in this country, including remote areas. Like Dr Mellifont I want to emphasize
once again that this hearing in Townsville is only the
beginning of our inquiry. We have a great deal of work yet to do, not only in relation to education,
but all of the other issues that are within our Terms of Reference. We hope that this hearing will
have encouraged people with disability, parents and carers
to come forward and tell us their experiences, not only in the
education system, but in other areas that are covered by
our Terms of Reference. There are, after all six states in
this country, plus the territories and we want to hear from
people throughout the country. We also hope that this hearing has
shown that people who engage with the commission will be treated with
the dignity and respect to which they are entitled, and that they
can relate their experiences safely and with appropriate support. This is fundamental to the
operation of the commission. This commission can only succeed in
changing public attitudes towards people with disability
if the people themselves and only if the people themselves
are prepared to engage with the Commission and tell
us about their experiences as we have heard over the last few days. We want to hear from you,
not only in relation to education, which happens to have been the
subject of this hearing, but on other issues such as accommodation
for people with disability, the response of the health
system to people with disability, the experiences of people with
intellectual disability in the criminal justice system, discrimination
against people with disability in employment, the accessibility of
public and private institutions and facilities, the multiple and
cumulative disadvantages experienced by First Nations people, a matter
with which Commissioner Mason is very deeply involved. We also want to deal with the issues
confronted by cult…culturally and linguistically diverse people
with disability, and, indeed, all the other matters that are
covered by our very extensive Terms of Reference. We invite you to take full
advantage of the opportunity this Royal Commission provides. We shall now adjourn.

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