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Inclusion - Battling for Disability

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Inclusion - Battling for Disability

Christine Baxter

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Overview

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A few months after her arrival in Australia, eighteen year old Chris Baxter reads a letter addressed to her boyfriend’s mother that sets the course for the rest of her life. She becomes a teacher of children with disability and fights for their inclusion in the community, and in the education system from which they have been barred. Together with Rosemary Crossley and Anne McDonald she becomes embroiled in the infamous St Nicholas hospital controversy and takes up the cause of Ethel Temby, the mother of a tiny baby with Down syndrome she’d seen in the nursery at Kew Cottages. Chris is angered by the injustice of what she sees. She knows Kenny would be able to walk, if he had the opportunity to do so, and that Annie and her friends would be able to learn, if allowed to go to school. She wages a struggle with bureaucrats and politicians but falls back into frustrated despondency when successive governments fail to act. The media comes to the rescue, and with a bit of help from Ethel, pushes the local campaign along. When the battle to close the institutions goes global, Chris continues her work; pushing for inclusion in Australia and abroad. Finally, the transformation they want happens. The stark reality of the situation turns intensely personal when a family member is diagnosed with autism. Chris gets a shock! Undeterred, she maintains the course set by that chance letter so many years ago and the story ends with a very good reason to hope. As her rollercoaster story unfolds, Chris captures all the drama, politics and in-fighting of a sad and neglected aspect of Australia’s recent social history. Her insider’s view is told with all the urgency, intensity and feeling of a front-line fighter who knows that the war is not yet fully won.

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