By Charles Elias
Nelson Bay’s Les Merrett, who with wife Judy founded the charity Autism Action in 2010, has joined with Harbourside Haven board chairman Gerry Mohan and the Port’s not-for-profit Sporting Hope group to establish a learning, training and rehabilitation centre.
It is envisaged that the facility would come under the umbrella of the soon-to-be-introduced National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and funded via government grants.
The Merretts, who have a 12-year-old autistic son Dylan, set up Autism Action to provide occupational and speech therapy for the intellectually disabled, behavioural interventions and life skills.
‘‘Autism is a life-long disability and it is our intention to educate children with disabilities so that they can live independently as adults,’’ Mr Merrett said.
‘‘We would like to establish a centre with training and learning facilities, in addition to overnight respite for families.’’
Mr Mohan said that while Harbourside had specialised in veteran and aged care since its inception in 1981, the company was prepared to support other services, including disability support facilities, within the Port community.
‘‘We have sites at Shoal Bay, Fingal Bay, Salamander Bay, Anna Bay and Tanilba Bay and we are involved in a range of community projects which help the less fortunate,’’ Mr Mohan said.
‘‘It’s tragic that the Bay does not have a community rehabilitation facility or heated pool and if we can incorporate a centre for the intellectually disabled as part of a joint project than all the better.’’
The groups have the support of Sporting Hope, a group formed earlier this year with the goal to operate a disability support group and become a provider of disability support packages under the NDIS.
President Jim Hall believed that a centre for the intellectually disabled was long overdue.
‘‘In September the organisation managed to attract more than 300 people to a fundraiser for Nelson Bay fisherman Miro Milanja who has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.’’