Mansfield Courier

$4.9 million to autism services

Another big building boost for Mansfield Autism Statewide Services

- BY JARRAH LOH jloh@ nemedia.com.au

FOLLOWING decades of hard work, this year the sun just keeps shining on Mansfield Autism Statewide Services (MASS), who managed to secure another big boost with $4.9 million newly secured for stage one of their upcoming school campus.

Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes announced late last week that MASS would be one of 34 projects across Victoria that will share in $70 million under the Non-Government Schools Capital Fund.

“The Mansfield Autism Statewide Services is an extraordin­ary organisati­on, supporting young people and their families living with autism, this new campus will further enhance the support that is available to Victorian families,” said Ms Symes

“Every Victorian student deserves the best opportunit­y to thrive when it comes to their education - and we’re proud to support better facilities for every school, whether it’s government, independen­t or Catholic.”

MASS will receive $4.9 million to construct stage one of a new school campus as part of ‘Operation Gamechange­r’, located on their 100-acre therapeuti­c care farm.

“This fund will get vital projects off the ground to improve kids’ learning and expand facilities in growing areas - giving all Victorian schools access to facilities and classrooms that will lead them to bright futures,” added Minister for Education James Merlino.

This funding is in addition to the $6.5 million investment announced earlier this year for the residentia­l care program, and also the granted $1.35 million to develop accessible accommodat­ion units to suit visitors to the region who have special needs.

“We are all so excited about the announceme­nt for funding for Stage 1 of our new school campus at the farm,” said MASS chief executive officer Simone Reeves

“It adds to the amazing support already achieved from the Andrews Government for the residences for students, and together with the Commonweal­th Government for the first four cabins of our family camp and training centre.

“We will be able to support so many more children, and support them in the early interventi­on stage which is of utmost importance.

“I have been with MASS for 30 years now and at no time prior have we had better support from all of our local members at all levels; local, state and federal.

“A special thanks to Jaclyn Symes, our member for Northern Victoria, who has worked tirelessly on our behalf.

“Mansfield Autism is also digging deep to see our farm expansion ‘Operation Gamechange­r’ become a reality.

“We are contributi­ng $1 million to the school campus, bringing our total investment up around the $6 million mark.

“I’m blown away by the support of our local Mansfield community; I literally get stopped in the street every day by people who are proud of what we are achieving.

“And we achieve so much because of our amazing staff - all 130 of them.”

The new campus will help meet existing demand for day and term placement enrolments.

The building will have high resilience and low sensory design for autistic children and incorporat­e bespoke design features to enable non-invasive profession­al developmen­t observatio­n and peer training.

It will comprise of five general learning area classrooms with separate amenities, vocational, life experience, therapy and training spaces with observatio­n areas, break out space and covered circuit.

Dr Joan Curtis founded MASS over 50 years ago, only retiring from the board in recent years at the age of 90.

Joan originally started up a family camp for those with autistic children, with the hopes of uniting families and teaching them what she had been able to learn with her own son Jonathan.

“It was a matter of educating people and a lot of times, talking to individual­s or groups,” she said.

The perception of autism has changed over the years, and is a credit to the work of those like the Curtis family who have brought a new meaning to the developmen­tal disorder.

A 100 acre farm, just out of Mansfield, was attained by MASS in 2020 and became the new home for the many services provided to support Victorian families living with autism.

“Buying the farm is the first exciting step toward realising our $24 million masterplan for the future,” president Matt Currie said at the time.

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 ??  ?? FUTURE VISION: A concept of what we may see soon at MASS.
FUTURE VISION: A concept of what we may see soon at MASS.
 ??  ?? TO COME: A concept plan for the future of MASS.
TO COME: A concept plan for the future of MASS.

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