Inquiry into child development services in WA established after petition by Katanning mother Jo Matthewson

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenGreat Southern Herald
Katanning mother and Community Kindergartens Association president Jo Matthewson with shadow early childhood learning minister Donna Faragher last week.
Camera IconKatanning mother and Community Kindergartens Association president Jo Matthewson with shadow early childhood learning minister Donna Faragher last week. Credit: Donna Faragher MLC/Facebook

A Katanning mother has been successful in her push for a parliamentary inquiry into child development services in WA.

The State’s Upper House voted last week to establish a select parliamentary committee into the issue after a petition started by Community Kindergartens Association of WA president Jo Matthewson garnered 3750 signatures in July and August.

The move comes after months of pressure from the State Opposition, with shadow early childhood learning minister Donna Faragher also calling for an inquiry.

Ms Matthewson expressed her delight at the outcome.

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“I am very pleased the parliamentary inquiry push has been successful,” she said.

“The amazing response to my petition demonstrates that many people within the community believe more needs to be done to improve the delivery of child development services to better support children throughout WA.”

Ms Faragher said there had been significant and increasing wait times facing children who needed access the services through the Department of Health.

“Responses to questions asked in Parliament consistently show unacceptably high wait times for children to access child development services,” she said.

“I am regularly being told by families of their frustrations and the impact such delays are having on their children’s overall development, health and wellbeing.”

Data tabled in WA Parliament in March revealed Great Southern children aged 5-11 faced the longest wait to see an audiologist in country WA, with children waiting an average of 207 days for their first appointment through the WA Country Health Service.

They also faced the longest wait for occupational therapy at 160 days, followed by the Pilbara (99 days).

The Great Southern had the second-longest average wait (167 days) for an appointment with a public clinical psychologist.

More recent figures provided in June show children in WA’s public health system were waiting an average of 15.9 months for an appointment with a paediatrician, and there was a median wait time of 12 months for mental health support.

Ms Faragher said the results were “not good enough”.

“With the importance of early intervention well known, this inquiry provides an opportunity to examine both the delivery of these services and to identify any areas where improvements can be made to ensure children access these vital services far more quickly than they are today,” she said.

The select committee will be chaired by South West Labor MLC Sally Talbot, with Ms Faragher and East Metropolitan Region Labor MLC Samantha Rowe the other two members.

The committee will report back to State Parliament within 12 months with its findings.

When Ms Matthewson spoke to the Herald last month, she said she hoped a parliamentary committee would be able to find ways to ease the pressures on the child development system.

“There are all of these different factors that need to be looked at, investigated and then changed to make sure that kids are not falling in the cracks and the most in need are getting seen,” she said.

“I think the findings and then the actual action afterwards to improve this for our children is what is most needed because the kids, their families and schools can’t keep waiting this long.”

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