Autism support groups turn up pressure on ACT Education Minister Joy Burch over 'boy in a cage'

By Lisa Mosley

Another group has passed a no confidence motion against the ACT Education Minister Joy Burch, this time over her handling of the boy in the cage incident.

Members of the advocacy group Speaking out for Autism Spectrum Disorder expressed no confidence in the minister, angry about claims it had been an isolated case.

In April it was a revealed a 10-year-old boy with autism was placed in a cage at a Canberra primary school described as a withdrawal space.

An ACT Education Directorate investigation identified that the principal was responsible for the decision to build the cage and had since been stood down from working in schools.

Two community groups, the Australian Education Union ACT branch and Telopea Park P&C have already passed no confidence motions in Ms Burch's ability as Education Minister.

Bob Buckley from Speaking out for Autism Spectrum Disorder said the cage should not have been dismissed as an isolated incident.

"We're very concerned that children with autism spectrum disorder who have different behaviours or behavioural challenges are really not getting the services and support that they need," he said.

"The Government seems to be more intent on trying to look good than to learn from this and to improve outcomes."

The organisation also expressed concerns about an expert panel established to improve support or special needs students in future.

"The ACT Government's expert panel are the very people responsible for training teachers, who advised on the ACT education system and who monitor services for children in the ACT," Mr Buckley said.

"They are the architects of the system that they are now reviewing.

"They are not independent. This is a very clear conflict of interest."

Liberal Opposition MLA Steve Doszpot said the Chief Minister should assess the way Ms Burch had been performing as Education Minister.

"I'm talking specifically about education and disability, but it cuts across a number of other [ministerial] portfolios," he said.

"I believe it's the Chief Minister's role to have a look at the way his ministers are performing."

ACT Government 'taking best advice on special needs'

Ms Burch released a statement responding to the criticism.

"I have had many discussions with Bob Buckley over the years and his positions on these matters are well known," the statement said.

"On these issues I am taking the very best advice I can get, which is why in June I appointed the expert panel to review policy and practice for supporting and teaching students with complex needs and challenging behaviours.

"The expert panel have engaged in extensive community consultation and are currently developing their report and recommendations to Government.

"The panel has also been supported by a number of critical friends, each of whom are experts in their field."