MS BIRD (CUNNINGHAM) (10:42): Last night I left this place sick with anger. I was furious about the comments made by Senator Hanson in the education debate about children with autism. I was so angry about it that I did not trust myself to be able to speak about it; I was really, really hurt on behalf of people. When I opened my Facebook, a very good friend of mine, Judy Sharp, had put up a post. Her son Tim is an internationally famous artist; he is better known as Laser Beak Man. If people want to look at his work, it is laserbeakman.com. He has an amazing life story. I sent Judy a message and asked her if she would you like to put her words on the record in this parliament because you have so much more to offer than what the senator had to say.
This is what Judy had to say:
Tim Sharp is 29 years of age he lives in Brisbane. He is the creator of a colorful super hero called Laser Beak Man. He is an internationally acclaimed artist, writer and keynote speaker.
The day after Tim Sharp's third birthday, he was diagnosed with Autism. The specialist told his mother his difficulties were so severe and so all encompassing that there was no hope. He told her that Tim would never speak, he would never go to school and he would never learn anything. He said the best thing would be to put him away and forget him.
When it was time to go to school his mother was told he would need to go to a Special School. She went to the special schools, saw some really dedicated teachers happy kids and great programmes, but it didn't feel right to her. She wanted opportunity and that there would be an expectation for Tim. She wanted Tim to be included as part of the community, that is how he and his brother and his mother lived. She couldn't understand why people were trying to keep her son separate. It took her two years to find a school that would give Tim a go. A small school of 120 students with adequate support given to Tim at all times, including specialist one-on-one.
Judy goes on to say that Tim's first art exhibition—his story has been told on the ABC's Australian Story, if people want to have a look—was opened by the previous Governor-General, Dame Quentin Bryce, and his next exhibition was opened by Rugby League coach Wayne Bennett. Tim's artworks are hung in galleries and collectors' homes around the world. A short film about Tim has been shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There is an exhibition about Tim in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. He has twice been the Queensland finalist for Young Australian of the Year. His art is shown everywhere and he speaks at TED Talks. He is very famous but, more importantly, he is a very strong and wonderful advocate for people with autism and what they can achieve. Judy is very disappointed at the comments, and she writes, 'Your cruel words, Pauline Hanson, "We need to get rid of those people because you want everyone to feel good about themselves," broke the hearts of tens of thousands of families across Australia.'