Australians who need compassion
This is an emotional week. It started with the National Prayer Breakfast in the Great Hall of Parliament House where the keynote address was from Gemma Sisia, the founder and continuing driver of the school of St Jude in Arusha in Tanzania.
It was inspirational. A rigorous selection process of children who are 5, 6 or 7 (not 4 ½ or 8) as Mrs Sisia emphasised, are selected on the basis of intellectual ability, work ethic and poverty. If they get in they get 14 years of free education. The aim is to produce a professional class of doctors, engineers, and architects etc, who will lead the Tanzaman nation. That is they will stay in Tanzania and help their own people.
Mrs Sisia, an Australian, who now obviously lives and works in Tanzania seeks financial support from all over the world with her last big donor being American.
Thousands of children seek entrance to St Judes but only a few can be taken and even after selection they are on probation where the child and the family is assessed.
Gemma Sisia, a country girl from northern NSW, who established St Judes in 2002, now has 1300 children on three campuses – two primary and one secondary – with “one of the best academic records in Tanzania”.
This is truly a remarkable story and a testimony of how a single individual can make a very significant difference.
This story is in direct contrast to what is happening with another school, but one here in Australia, in the west of Sydney. This Australian school is not for bright children with a strong work ethic and born into poverty, but for profoundly disabled children born into an affluent country, who are about to be abandoned for lack of funds.
This is a unique school able to give comfort and training, rather than traditional education, but training which can allow these children to know friendship and interact with their families. It is going to be closed down for lack of funding. It needs an additional $1 million dollars a year.
Despair is what these families face without any trace of hope. There is no other like school for them to go to.
How can this school be saved?
Kingsdene is the name of the school and I have had the honour of meeting with three of the mothers and five of the children in my office where I heard stories of courage and determination and witnessed children who were loved, but in need enormous assistance.
The school receives the same funding as other private schools from State and Federal Governments. But it’s not rocket science to work out that it costs a lot more to run a school with children with profound disabilities than it does to teach normal kids.
Anglicare runs the school and currently picks up the remaining costs. Brendan Nelson, when Education Minister gave the school a special grant of $360 thousand dollars a year for three years.
There is presently no such additional grant forth coming as part of the Education Revolution.
These children are our Australian children and as such should not be left out of consideration because they have such profound disabilities. They are our responsibility and surely $1 million a year can be found out of the billions being spent on school halls and libraries to secure a place fro these children.
The families of these children often break because the stress on them is so great.
We do good things in this country. We bring in 13,000 refugees a year. We give them immediate access to Medicare, the social security pension, the family tax benefit part A, the health care card, the seniors health card, child care benefits, parenting Payments, the disability support pension, the mobility allowance and the pensioner education supplement.
In addition we allocate 2 more programs worth $18 million a year to help the refugees re-settle in, with counselling and help them get housed.
We show compassion and support with the taxpayer dollar and help relieve their stress with special services.
But the families of the profoundly disabled children have to bear their enormous responsibility alone.
Please Mr Prime Minister, can we show the same compassion for our own families who do not adequately share in this nation’s prosperity as we show for those who come here seeking to share in our prosperity as refugees.
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