Kim O’Keeffe, the Nationals Member for Shepparton District, and her National Party colleagues met with representatives from the DeafHub Bendigo, Deaf Victoria, Deaf Australia, and Deaf Aboriginal Services at Parliament this week, where they heard firsthand the devastating impact removing Visiting Teachers will have.
“Some of the stories we’ve heard have been absolutely heart wrenching and it is clear that cutting the Visiting Teacher Service is a heartless act that will have a detrimental effect on our deaf students and students living with disabilities,” said Ms O’Keeffe.
“I have also been contacted by many families and current Visiting Teachers who have also shared their concerns on the impact this decision will have.
“There are huge concerns that voiceless children are having to face the consequences of being denied education that is equitable and accessible,” said Ms O’Keeffe.
“The VT program has been around since the 1970s and while it may need updating, axing a service that has been one of the only fundamental support systems available in mainstream schools with special needs in regional Victoria is disheartening.
“We’re already experiencing a teacher shortage crisis with 2,226 teacher vacancies and our teachers already have a big workload. They don’t have the required skills or training to take on this extra amount of work. That expectation is just extraordinary and unrealistic.
“The additional loss of VTs will only further disadvantage students across the board. VTs work closely with classroom teachers and education support staff to ensure that the needs of students with a disability are met.
“For students living with disabilities, the Visiting Teacher Service is a critical lifeline ensuring that all students can access education.
“Families caring for a child with a disability and in particular, regional families, already face huge barriers when it comes to education.
“The proposal from the State Government shows their complete lack of understanding of the critical role that VTs provide. They have specialised skills that align with student’s special needs.
“I commend those that have shared their courageous stories and unique perspectives, and I call on the Labor Government to reverse this cruel decision to cut the Visiting Teacher Service,” Ms O’Keeffe said.