The Mansfield Autism Statewide Service will be able to help more children with autism and their families after receiving $6.5 million from the Victorian government to build more accommodation on its 100-acre therapeutic farm.

“To have the funding for the houses so children don’t need to remain on our wait list any longer, and that we can service them in that early intervention stage, is vitally important.”

The service will build six five-bedroom self-contained blocks and three two-bedroom pods that will be able to house 24 children while they undertake a therapeutic care placement and provide them with much needed respite.

Ms Reeves said the pods would be used for children needing crisis support.

“When children get to a crisis situation, we’ll be able to house them and give them that wraparound therapeutic care that they need at that peak time,” he said.

The not-for-profit organisation supports children with autism and their families across Victoria through programs, therapeutic placements and family camps.

Ms Reeves said they hoped the new facility would cut the waiting list.

“It’s heartbreaking to have children on our wait list,” Mrs Reeves said.

“To have them on our wait list and not be able to get the care and support they need is very frustrating. This will mean we’ll no longer have to hold that wait list.”

Alan Netherclift said when his son Perry attended one of Mansfield Autism’s family camps it was life changing.

“He’s now able to start moving forward and developing into a future that he wouldn’t have had without that term placement,” Mr Netherclift said.

He said there were many people waiting for the services that Mansfield Autism provided.

“There’s so little capacity for these services, we were very lucky it took us a year to get Perry in, but that’s quite quick.

“If there is more capacity to provide that service to other families it would be so changing for families.”

Penny Callaghan’s son Will stayed at the farm last year, after Will went missing in the Victorian wilderness last year.

“Will absolutely loves it here,” she said.

“He’s calm, he gets opportunities to ride the horses and he just loves being out in nature.”

She said the farm offered a great opportunity to support children with autism and their families.

“When you get that opportunity to have your child go somewhere where you know they are going to be well supported, it gives you a break as well, and then you both reset.”

A shovel in the ground at the farm
The farm near Mansfield, which is owned by the service. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Courtney Howe)

The residential care program on the farm is just one part of a master plan for the property.

The service would like to establish a new day and term school built on site, a family camp, equine therapy, sporting and recreational facilities.

Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said she was determined to help see the project completed.

“The education component is something I’m committed to working with the organisation to help seek funding, whether it’s through the state government or indeed the federal government,” she said.

“We are going to explore every possible grant opportunity to ensure that this project can get off the ground.”

“This is a project that has the support of just so many in the community statewide and it’s going to be an important statewide project that hopefully we can deliver in full in the not-too-distant future.”

Extracted from an article on the ABC News website

The Premier of Victoria, The Honorable Daniel Andrews statement concerning the funding