Disability Services Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk today officially opened Autism Queensland’s expanded early intervention centre at Edmonton with State Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt.

Ms Palaszczuk said the expanded and refurbished learning centre in Edmonton would deliver crucial early intervention services to even more children with autism in Far North Queensland.

“This is great news for children in the Far North with autism and their families,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “I’ve met with children at the centre and seen the excellent work the staff are doing.

“The refurbishment has doubled the capacity of the learning centre, and it’s now capable of supporting 64 children.

“These children will get specialised speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy and the centre will also deliver outreach services to the families of young children with autism in the Far North.”

Ms Palaszczuk said the local community dug deep for a local fundraising campaign launched by The Cairns Post.

“The Cairns community has got right behind this campaign, with local residents and businesses digging deep into their own pockets to help get the centre refurbished,” she said.

“The Bligh Government also contributed more than $220,000 to the refurbishment, which comes on top of the $546,000 a year we provide Autism Queensland to run the centre.”

Ms Palaszczuk said the State Government provided a total of $3.4 million a year to Autism Queensland.

“I also want to pay tribute to Curtis Pitt, who has been a staunch advocate for the centre,” she said. “He took the community’s case directly to the government to deliver a terrific result for local residents.”

Mr Pitt said the refurbished learning centre was a great outcome for the Cairns community.

“This refurbishment means new classrooms and amenities so that children with autism can get the education they need,” Mr Pitt said.

“It will make an enormous difference to so many local families, ensuring their children get the best possible start in life.

“The construction project itself was a great example of what happens when Far North Queenslanders rally around a cause.

“The local building industry set itself a goal and got the job done.  It shows that our region still has a great sense of community, even when times are tough.

“The fact that more than one hundred local businesses, contractors and suppliers committed more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of materials and labour speaks volumes.”

Ms Palaszczuk said developing autism early intervention strategies was one of her key priorities.

“Early intervention before the age of four significantly improves children’s learning capacity and gives them a better chance of reaching their full potential in life,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“That’s why we’re committed to a comprehensive Autism Early Intervention initiative. Through this initiative, the Bligh Government has invested more than $2 million on autism early intervention across Queensland.”