Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Western Australia, 21 years ago

Wholly by chance I have discovered the following speech made in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia on 26 May 1992. I did not know of it at the time and perhaps some of those involved in Conductive Education in Western Australia to day may not have have heard of it. It was remarkably well informed for its time and even today, twenty-one years later, it stands up well as one of the better Parliamentary statements of Conductive Education that I have seen. When and where shall we next see the like?

MR OMODEI (Warren) [10.47 pm]: I note with interest that approximately $2 900 million will be drawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and also another $200 million from the eneral Loan and Capital Works Fund under the Supply Bill. I also note with interest that tomorrow's newspaper refers to my colleague, the member for Melville, as the inheritor of the reputation of a head-kicker. He tells me that he is referred to as a nice person in his electorate. I suppose he could be a nice head kicker. Rather than getting things done by beating the Government around the head, I have preferred to adopt the conciliatory approach. Tonight I wish to plead with the Government on a matter that is very important to the people of my electorate and to the people of Western Australia. I am pleased to see the Minister for Disability Services is in the House – he is the only Minister here.

I refer tonight to the conductive education program which was founded by the Hungarian physician and pedagogue, Dr Andras Peto. The Peto Institute is well known throughout the world and particularly by those suffering with cerebral palsy. Dr Andras Peto began his profession in Vienna and returned to Hungary in 1938. In 1945, on the basis of his studies, experience and child oriented interest, he began specialising in the education of motor disabled children. He put in place a carefully integrated system of conductive education which demanded a new form of training. In 1950. Dr Peto set up his own institute with 80 places for that training program. Its successor today is the well known Peto Institute. The aim of conductive education is the complex development of the personality. The method is child learning and education based and requires the active cooperation and awareness of the child and the child's parents. The method is considered complex because it involves all that is expected from a child of the relevant age group. Movement. speech and mental ability are not separately developed but are simultaneously developed. In other words, the program involves reaching a child all movements right from base one. It is a very complex program and it requires experts in the field. The people involved in the program – the conductors – must have a very good relationship wit the child and the child's parents. The Peto Institute's records go back more than 20 years, and during that rime more than 5 000 disabled people have been educated. The success rate in the age group of six years and under is 85 per cent, between six years and 10 years the success rate is 75 per cent and for those above the age of 10 years the success rare is between 60 and 70 per cent. This reinforces the fact that the earlier the child receives treatment, the better. The Peto Institute in Hungary assists many young people in that area. The children in Hungary who are not self-reliant and who are dependent on wheelchairs cannot attend normal mainstream or special schools to obtain a reasonable education, as we know it in Western Australia. The issue is further complicated in that country because Budapest is built on a hillside. Many people live in high-rise buildings, and those people who cannot freely move around and who do not develop their motor skills have great difficulty; in other words, those people who are not able-bodied are at a great disadvantage. That provides some background of the Pewo Institute as it is today.

I now refer to a special human-interest story about a young girl called Leah who lives a few kilometres from my property at Eastbrook. She is now quite famous in our locality Many people have assisted in training Leah over a long period. She suffered from birth asphyxiation and was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy at the age of six months. When Lesh was 10 months old her parents were told she would always need a wheelchair. During her first two years Leah was treated by four Western Australian physiotherapists, all of whom had heard about the Pe-o conductive education process in Hungary. One woman, who specialised in paediatric physiotherapy, told Leah's parents Linda and Greg, that to her knowledge there was no better treatment for cerebral palsy than that provided at the Peto Institute. As a communist country, Hungary had kept all the information on this treatment to itself and the institute's records indicate that for a long time that information was not allowed to be shared with western countries and professionals in the western world. It meant that anyone wanting treatment had to travel to the institute in Hungary. Linda and Greg decided to try to obtain treatment for Leah at the institute, and on 5 January 1990 they went to Hungary for six weeks. Much work was done on Leah's motor and learning functions, and she began to walk with assistance. Linda and Greg returned home to Eastbrook and continued the program devised by the institute. For a long rime a number of neighbours and Linda's friends assisted with the time-consuming program on a daily basis.

During 1990. after extensive communication with the institute, it was found that one of the conductors from the institute could come to Australia for five weeks during the holiday period at the institute. A young woman, Ildiko Szivek, who had worked with Leah at the Peto Institute, came to Australia. I received a letter from Leah's mother this morning which stated that Ildiko –
... arrived at our home in August 1990. It was about one week before Ildiko was due to go home that she was able to get Leah to walk completely independently even now writing about that time still brings tears to my eyes as I remember the emotions that ran through our family to see our daughter finally doing what was predicted she would never do.
It was also a race against time because once Leah had learned to walk unaided, she had crossed one major barrier with regard to further treatment and would be able to return to the institute for a second program of therapy. Of course, one wonders what happens to the children who do not develop sufficiently to go back for the second treatment program.

Members should be aware that demand for treatment at the Peto Institute comes from all over the world and if a child does not reach certain goals set by the conductor, the treatment is not continued. Linda and Greg have told me about the distraught parents who are faced with the situation that fth institute will no longer continue their child's programs. They went to Hungary on a second trip and when they arrived the communist regime was in a state of collapse. Many experienced conductors had left Hungary in search of better places in which to practise around the world. Ildilko Szivek was still at the institute and she also was looking for a better way of life. She wanted to get away from the upheaval in that country.

It is now two and a half years since Leah started her conductive education program and she has spent a lot of time working on movement of her hands and body. At the moment she has normal fine motor skills – hand movements and gross motor skills – walking, good coordination and independence for all functions of daily living, such as toileting, eating and dressing. Leah now attends a mainstream post-primary school where she functions as well as other children on all levels. We are looking at a miracle in this case. The doctors, therapists and orthopaedic surgeons are particularly pleased and surprised that she has made such terrific progress. Her parents are confident that their daughter will have a secure future and one that is as close to normal as possible. This did not come without cost.

The two trips to Hungary cost more than $40 000, and those costs were not tax-deductible. The parents received no assistance at all from any public institution or Government body. Of course, some of the assistance came from neighbours and friends of Linda and Greg and those people who fell in love with Leah and thought it was a most worthwhile project to pursue. The treatment is not finished. As Leah grows the risks of palsy and contractures developing are still present. It will be necessary for Leah to be evaluated from time to time, and she may need ongoing treatment, hopefully of a minimal nature. Far any parents who takes their children to Hungary for six weeks it is only the start, The program is ongoing and the child must go through the criteria for each stage and he must be able to reach the levels set by the institute.

I raise this issue not only because the conductive education program has been a great success story for those people who hold this young girl in such great esteem  her parents have well and truly exceeded the duties of a normal parent  but also because no funds are available in this State to assist those people involved in the program. Now that this treatment is available in Western Australia it would be most disappointing to the parents of children who are brain injured or who suffer from cerebral palsy if their children are denied treatment because of the lack of personal finance or Government assistance. Surely the Government can provide financial assistance not only by supporting private health fund and Medicare rebates for this treatment, but also by allowing for tax deductions.

We now have a clinic in Pemberton which is operated by a world renowned conductor of the conductive education program. I refer to Ildiko Szivek who had to immigrate to Australia, which is another story. The Supply Bill provides for the allocation of $3.1 billion and surely avenues are available to provide funding to assist this most worthwhile program. Approximately 100 children from Manjimup, Pemberton and other districts are being treated at the clinic and they really do require some financial assistance. I know that within the next few weeks the Minister will be receiving letters from people involved in this program and I will be writing to the Premier and to the Federal Minister. The program of conductive education therapy is a mixture of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and teaching. It is a method which was developed in a country where there is great hardship.

Some of the methods used in the program appear to be somewhat unorthodox, but they certainly have been a terrific success. To see the children after a short time of treatment is a great joy. It is disappointing that when I raised the issue of bringing Ildiko Stivek to Australia with the Premier when she was visiting the Shire of Manjimup she told me it did not come within her area of responsibility and she had no control over immigration. It was left to the local therapist and me to wage war with the Department of Immigration to try to bring Ildiko Szivek to Australia and it took about a year and a half to achieve that end.

We are very fortunate to have Ildiko and her husband living in Western Australia and I am pleased that they chose to set up their clinic in Pemberton. Ildiko was allowed to immigrate to Australia because she was considered to be a highly skilled professional. I urge the Government to make contact with the clinic and to contribute a sensible amount of funding to it to increase its operations not only to include those 100 children it is now treating, but also to expand its clinic to treat additional patients. It is most worthwhile.

I said earlier that I am adopting a conciliatory approach to the Government's Social Advantage package because it is important to Western Australian children, especially those children who are brain injured or who suffer from cerebral palsy. It is the Government's intention to spend $3 million to complete the construction of 15 new family centres. It also intends to provide $5 million for one-off grants to community groups for community development projects. An additional $350 000 will be allocated to the operations of three new community and neighbourhood houses and the upgrading of five others. An additional $90 000 will be provided for creche facilities. Surely the treatment of people suffering from cerebral palsy must have a priority. Under the heading "Sense of Place" in the Social Advantage package the Government states that it will allocate $3 million over three years for the State Energy Commission and the Environmental Protection Authority to investigate and monitor photochemical smog formation in Perth. I thought that would be the bailiwick of the Environmental Protection Authority. Perhaps some of that money could be allocated to the Pemberton clinic.

The debate moved on to other matters. Paul Omodei remained in Parliament till 2008, being for a couple of year leader of the Liberal Party and the Parliamentary Opposition in Western Australia. I do not know how Leah and her parents Linda and Greg have fared. I believe that Ildikó Szivek is still in Perth, in private practice.


Legislative Assembly of Western Australia (1992) Hansard, 26 May, pp. 2592-2595

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Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

Meanwhile in politics in Western Australia

'Colin Barnett, you're a rotten sod'


Friday, 6 December 2013 at 08:49:00 GMT  

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