Western Australia is at the forefront of knowledge about cerebral palsy, but must develop more positive community attitudes to people with cerebral-palsy related disabilities.
Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper said today much work needed to be done to educate and inform Western Australians about accepting people with disabilities into the community.
Mr Ripper today officially opened Cerebral Palsy Week which had the theme `Looking to the Future'. The week aimed to increase awareness and understanding by the community, for people with cerebral-palsy.
Cerebral Palsy was a disorder of movement and posture due to a lesion of the developing brain and there was no known cure. The only hope to reduce its prevalence was through prevention.
Each year two births out of every thousand babies in Western Australia were born with cerebral palsy. Others contracted it through diseases such as meningitis or through traffic accidents while their brain was still developing. There were between 40 and 50 new cases each year in this State.
"There has been a cerebral palsy register in this State since 1956, but unfortunately some negative attitudes in the community go back even further and subject people with disabilities to a double disadvantage," Mr Ripper said.
"This is despite advances in technology which enable people to reach their own potential through employment, education and recreation activities."
The Minister said organisations such as the Spastic Welfare Association, which would change its name to the Cerebral Palsy Association from January next year, played a vital role in assisting the Government and private industry, to develop new technology for people with disabilities.
The Association, generally without the fanfare of publicity, worked quietly and effectively in co-operative partnership with the community, through organisations like the Independent Living Centre, to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
"The State Government is similarly committed to maximising the life potential of people with disabilities, particularly children, and I will be introducing a Disability Services Bill to Parliament this year.
"The landmark Social Advantage package allocated an extra $1.4 million for community initiatives to help Western Australians with disabilities."
Mr Ripper said the package allocated funds for more physio, occupational and speech therapists to help children with disabilities in mainstream schools; created a grants scheme for carers to apply for support assistance; expanded the local co-ordination of services for people with all forms of disability, and extended travel subsidies.
Western Australia was approaching the anniversary of the first appointment in the country of a Minister for Disability Services.
"Much has been achieved in this first year, including the formation of a Bureau for Disability Services and the establishment of an Advisory Council, contributing to milestone Disability Services policy and new legislation," Mr Ripper said.
"Much more, however, needs to be done and events such as Cerebral Palsy Week are important opportunities to encourage the community to match the level of awareness of our researchers."