How one bus driver sparked change in Airlie school
THE generosity of one man has reignited the dream of a Whitsunday teacher, who is on a mission to provide inclusive education for children with different learning needs.
Spearheaded by Airlie Beach Hotel courtesy bus driver Wayne Fairbrother, along with casual drivers Wayne Henderson and Grant Wade, the trio have donated $3000 towards the development of the region's first sensory garden designed for kids with autism.
Mr Fairbrother has long been in the business of saving his tips from courtesy bus driving around the Whitsundays and donating them to various organisations in the area.
He is now putting the call out to others in the community to get behind the latest worthy cause.
"I'd like to challenge other courtesy bus drivers around town to step up to the plate as well," Mr Fairbrother said.
"Let's put these tips back into the community."
The project is being led by Whitsunday Christian College teacher and learning support coordinator Melissa Braddock, who has selected a space within the school for the development.
It will provide the school's students with autism and sensory difficulties, a space for them to relax and regulate their emotions.
It will also be an inclusive space, where teachers can bring their entire class.
"For those students who have sensory difficulties, they will have areas within the school they can use to help their bodies regulate while they are still interacting with their peers," Mrs Braddock said.
The garden has been in the pipeline for more than a year, and after it was denied a government grant earlier this year, Mrs Braddock admits she thought her dream was over.
"I thought that was it, there was no way it way going to come about," she said.
"I didn't give up though and I would talk to people about it whenever I got the opportunity.
"It went from nothing to suddenly this dream is coming alive."
The sensory garden will now be completely funded by the community and is expected to cost about $10,000.
Moloko Homes Whitsundays and Bunnings have already jumped on board the project with material and labour donations.
Mrs Braddock's passion for creating inclusive learning spaces within the school is driven by her own experiences as a student and her daughter Olivia, 12, who has autism.
"I wanted to get into learning support because I struggled at school - I just didn't learn in the way I was being taught," she said.
"I was able, through my daughter, to understand her needs with autism and that there are other kids who have their own needs.
"I really wanted to make a difference for the kids with different learning needs."
Mrs Braddock has also been a driving force behind the school's first sensory room, where she says has helped to improved autistic student's time at school and their learning.
"Having the room there has reduced the number of meltdowns the kids with autism at the school were experiencing," Mrs Braddock said.
"It's there for when the kids need it and it has helped them to self-regulate and calm themselves down."