The History of Yarran
By Evelyn Sneddon
The story of one of Yarran's first families...
My son Bradley Sneddon was born in May 1980 and started attending the Yarran playgroup which was based out of "The Cottage", which was located just down the street from Gosford District Hospital.
The year Brad was born, I believe there were 11 other babies born at Gosford & diagnosed with Down's Syndrome; an extremely high percentage for the birth rate.
Many of us travelled & rotated with our kiddos between Macquarie Uni & Newcastle Uni to attend the pilot early intervention program.
There was nothing on the Central Coast.
As parents, we had to deal with our children's disability, fight for services, fundraise and organise the services.
Back in those days, we were the pioneers...
A small committee made up of mums and dads fought hard to obtain funding for a teacher; a gentleman from the Netherlands.
At first, he was only funded part-time, so we had to ask those who could afford it to pay a fee and/or fundraise to get the remainder of his salary covered.
This set up went on for approximately 12 months with the support of the Gosford playgroup co-ordinator (Pat), physio & speech therapy through Gosford Hospital etc. and Macquarie & Newcastle Uni.
We started in a borrowed garage, which was located underneath Karen Crawford's house. Karen was one of the mums.
We were then moved temporarily into other borrowed premises, which were located on the grounds of a mental health facility at Kincumber.
From there, Wyong Shire Council graciously loaned - what was best described as - a leaking, mouldy, two car garage space on the back of a car park at The Entrance.
The condition of that building was best described as "the pit" but it was a home for the services our kiddos needed. Our dad’s donated time to help secure the building and fix the leaks etc.
A handful of committee members got wind that the Minister for Community Services (Mr. Rex Jackson) was going to be attending a nightly meeting at the sheltered workshop in Gosford.
I believe he was there to announce some special funding or program for young adults he was sponsoring at the time.
Sensing the opportunity, several of us rocked up with babies in strollers and toddlers in arms to "meet" Mr. Jackson and plead our case.
Fortunately, myself and a couple of others convinced Mr. Jackson that he needed to start looking into providing better services for the younger children, so we could work together and perhaps avoid the need for sheltered workshops. It was our hope that with better education opportunities and better life choices, our kiddos would be contributing members of our community and perhaps be able to enter the workforce.
Hence the beginning of the Yarran Early Intervention Service at Kariong.
Mr. Jackson wanted to shine a light on the possibilities of the community working with the "troubled" kids who were housed at the Kariong Detention Centre; after many discussions and negotiations, he floated the idea of putting a mobile classroom/school building on the grounds and securing funding for more staff to provide services for our kids.
Yarran came first, then the pre-school was an off-shoot.
The boys (inmates) at Kariong worked on setting up playground equipment, the grounds and even volunteered to play with and help the kids out on a regular basis.
I look back now and can't imagine life for our special needs kiddos without such important services.
My son Brad was the second person with Downs to be integrated into a regular classroom, allowed to socialise with normal kids and adapt a program to suit his needs.
These days it's still a fight, but those who come before will always look at what can and should be achieved in the name of equality and fairness.
I'd like to highlight committee members from the past; Paul & Margaret Thomas, Karen Crawford, Karen Hislop, Sue Rowley, Georgina Lamb, Robyn Walker and myself, just to name a few.
Good luck in the future, I believe wholeheartedly in life without barriers for these special individuals; they are so full of love and good nature, I hope we never lose the services which were hard fought for.