Daniela Dawes hugs her daughter outside the Ballina courthouse yesterday.
Daniela Dawes hugs her daughter outside the Ballina courthouse yesterday.

Coroner's outburst at Dawes inquest


DEPUTY State Coroner Carl Milovanovich yesterday blasted three State Government departments for their absence from the first day of a coronial inquest into the death of Jason Dawes.

Mr Milovanovich's ire was directed at the Department of Community Services, Department of Disability Services and Department of Education before a packed Ballina courthouse, and with the national media present.

Jason's estranged parents, Daniela and John, also were present, but they sat apart in the courtroom.

The inquest heard that Jason, diagnosed with autism, was suffocated by his mother on August 4, 2003, at the family home in Kings Langley, Sydney.

Daniela had called in sick to work, and then suffocated Jason. She also tried to commit suicide.

In June 2004, Judge Roy Ellis, in the Parramatta District Court, found Daniela guilty of manslaughter and put her on a five-year good behaviour bond.

The inquest is examining external factors which may have contributed to Jason's death, especially the lack of government services to support the family.

About 20 witnesses have been called to appear, including representatives from area health services, Ballina Early Intervention Service, Department of Education and Training and private schools.

Senior Constable Steven Dempsey, officer-incharge of the task force investigating Jason's death, yesterday told the inquest that quicker action from Ballina Early Intervention Service and from the Department of Community Services may have deflected the tragedy.

Snr Const Dempsey criticised both Ballina's Rainbow Child Care Centre, where Jason was placed at 18 months old, and the Ballina Early Intervention Centre, where he was treated for autism two years later, for inadequate recordkeeping.

He also said the Ballina Early Intervention Centre director from 1987-1999, Bernard O'Neill, was evasive and vague when giving the police information.

Psychologist Dr Tony Attwood, a Brisbane expert in autism, recommended early intervention when he diagnosed Jason's disorder in 1994, Snr Const Dempsey said.

But services were only provided in 1996 by the Ballina Early Intervention Centre.

The centre was unable to explain the twoyear delay, Snr Const Dempsey said.

Lack of government funding was a major factor in the inadequate response of government services, he believed.

Daniela Dawes said she felt vindicated by Mr Milovanovich's comments.

"Everybody in this community knows how hard I fought to get Jason extra services," she said.

"It is only because I was strong that I was able to get him the help he did receive."

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