Mother speaks out
BUTLER mum Sky Phillips will never forget the day her young daughter told her a story that would chill her heart.
Mikayla (9) had been at after-school care on December 14 at an OSHClub program at John Butler Primary College with her six-year-old brother Noah.
Noah, who is autistic and non-verbal, had been attending the program since July.
That day one of the carers, Kathleen Burton, smacked Noah and put soap in his mouth while another, Tammie Bell, was said to have held him during the ordeal.
Miss Phillips had been unwell in hospital that day and got home when her children were in bed.
The next morning Mikayla ran into her mum’s room and told her what happened.
“Kathy got really angry because Noah kept spitting and throwing cars,” Mikayla told the Times during an interview with the family.
“She went into the kitchen, put some soap in her hand and walked over to Noah. Tammie held Noah and then Kathy just put it his mouth.”
Miss Phillips contacted the police straight away, along with the manager of the OSHClub.
“The police interviewed everyone, the OSHClub were really great in suspending the staff members straight away,” she said.
Miss Phillips’ instincts told her that her daughter was telling the truth – and a court agreed.
Burton was charged with common assault in circumstances of aggravation or racial aggravation.
She pleaded guilty in Joondalup Magistrates Court and was fined $700, with costs of $100.
The centre itself was not sanctioned.
Despite the court finding, Miss Phillips believed the penalty was insufficient. She has had no further contact with the women.
“I’ve had no apologies from any of them,” Miss Phillips said.
“There’s no restraining orders stopping them from talking to me, so an apology would be nice.”
Bell had her accreditation cancelled. The Department of Communities website states she held Noah during the incident.
A third woman, Jessica Peters, also had her accreditation stripped after she failed to intervene or report the incident.
Autism Association of WA chief executive Joan McKenna-Kerr said the incident was “beyond the pale” and every parent’s “worst nightmare”.
“I think a parent’s worst nightmare, especially a non-verbal child, is the idea that child might be abused,” she said.
Sky Phillips with her children Noah (6) and Mikayla (9).