The need for an adequate description of special education provision in Australia is pressing, and it is appropriate that, in this International Year of the Child, the urgency of this need was recognized by the Schools Commission who requested the present study to be undertaken. It has not been an easy task. Many federal and state departments and voluntary organizations are involved in providing educational programs. Some of these have been remarkably helpful and supportive, but we have not always been successful in our requests for information. Thus some aspects of the great labyrinth of special educational provision in Australia remain undocumented. We have, however, been able to describe most areas of present provision in considerable detail.
In spite of the complexity of service delivery, special education in Australia has made notable progress in recent years. Many teachers indicate dedication and keeness, even though they often report inadequate training for their special responsibilities. The right of the handicapped to appropriate education is being increasingly recognized by governments and parents, and a growth in advocacy can be expected for this and other rights of the handicapped in the next few years. More handicapped students are being educated in the 'mainstream' of the education world - the neighbourhood school.
But further developments are needed before every handicapped person has high quality, free, and appropriate schooling for his/her needs. The most disturbing aspect of present provisions is the many handicapped children and adolescents in institutions who have no access to education. This group, often the most severely handicapped, have the least powerful advocacy. These children can be easily forgotten, and whatever the effect of this report for the future of special education, we are concerned that it should have benefit for the education of children in residential care. We hope, of course, that it will result in a better education for all handicapped students. We hope too, that those who are intimately involved with special education, in special schools or integrated special settings , or with the learning and behaviour difficulties of children in regular classrooms, will find much of interest in these pages.
This edition is a consolidated version of the two volume report submitted to the Schools Commission, and does not include the questionnaires and other documentation originally included in the appendices.