Daniela Dawes
Daniela Dawes

System failed Jason Dawes, inquest told

By DAWN COHEN

A SEVERELY autistic boy suffocated by his mother had failed to receive timely treatment as a toddler, the coronial inquest into Jason Dawes' death heard yesterday.

A packed Ballina Courthouse heard Jason was assessed at 18-months-old by Ballina Early Intervention Centre director, Bernard O'Neill.

However, Mr O'Neill had no formal qualifications in working with disabilities.

And, it was a further six months before Jason received expert assessment from psychologist Dr Angela James, who recommended a language deficit program.

But the boy did not receive this crucial service for nearly two years.

Jason's mother, Daniela Dawes, suffocated the 10-year-old on August 4, 2003, at their home in Kings Langley, Sydney.

In June 2004, Judge Roy Ellis found Ms Dawes guilty of manslaughter in the Parramatta District Court, and put her on a fiveyear good behaviour bond.

The Ballina Early Intervention Centre speech pathologist, Libby Brownlie, said in a police statement, she first encountered Jason's situation by accident when she met Ms Dawes in September, 1996, at the centre's committee management meeting.

The centre's volunteer management committee, consisting of parents, investigated Mr O'Neill following complaints laid by the Dawes family and other parents in 1999. They found he had failed in his duties.

Mr O'Neill said he referred Jason for speech therapy to Ballina Community Health Centre, but admitted he did not ensure the boy received the service.

After rebuking government departments for their absence from the hearing on Monday, Deputy State Coroner Carl Milovanovich welcomed the surprise announcement after the lunch break yesterday that government representatives would attend court today.

"It seems my comments, well-in- tentioned, have got some results," he said.

Mr Milovanovich's ire on Monday was directed at the NSW Department of Community Services, Department of Disability Services and Department of Education.

On Monday, Leo Prendergast, director of the Rainbow Children's Centre in Ballina, denied accusations the centre kept inade- quate records of Jason's attendence, explaining government regulations require files be kept only for six months after a child leaves.

The inquest continues.



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