News Story

Federal Political Battle Paused for Giant Steps

On 4th August 2013, political differences were put on hold when Liberal Senator Eric Abetz and ALP Senator Lin Thorp each took time away from campaigning to speak at a handover ceremony of early intervention playground equipment from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) at Giant Steps Tasmania. 

Senator Eric Abetz is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and Senator Lin Thorp is a former Minister for Education and Skills in the Tasmanian Labor Government.  Also in attendance at the function were Mr Mark Shelton MP (member for the state parliamentary seat of Lyons), Mr Eric Hutchinson, (a candidate for the federal seat of Lyons), and Deputy Mayor Bob Loone and Councillor Deb White from the Meander Valley Council. 

Giant Steps Tasmania is a not-for-profit, independent, specialist school and therapy centre for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder serving all regions of Tasmania from its campus in Deloraine in the northern part of the state.

School Principal, Tim Chugg, said, “To fulfill our charter we rely on both government funding and community donations to enable us to provide a positive, respectful and caring environment in which people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder can have the best opportunity to learn and flourish.

“This playground equipment will fill a void in our program that we would otherwise struggle with.  The faculty very much appreciate that we have demonstrated bi-partisan political support at the handover, and we recognise the generosity of the Deloraine ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who donated the equipment.”

Church spokesman, Lionel Walters, a member of the presidency of the Church’s Devonport stake  (diocese), said, “The equipment will allow students aged 3-7 who cannot safely access the main playground to achieve improved muscle tone, physical conditioning, gross motor skills and fitness levels. Students will learn to share, take turns, help each other and co-exist with peers. It is invaluable experience, and our members are pleased to provide funds and labour for the project.

"Together with our associates of other religious traditions, we believe that it is through service and generosity - both as individuals and as churches - that the message of faith is most meaningfully expressed," Walters said.

This project aimed to assist in the school’s mission of “guiding students towards achieving optimum independence.”

Both of the Honourable Senators spoke.  Each recognised the good work done by the school over many years, and acknowledged the community service given by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other organisations as vital to the provision of services such as those available at Giant Steps Tasmania.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Senator Abetz unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the equipment and the donation from the Church.

A tour of the facility and morning tea provided an informal opportunity for discussion between the various interested parties, allowing more understanding regarding the work of the Church in the community. Senator Abetz is particularly interested in maintaining freedom of religion in Australian society and has given speeches on the value of religion in a secular world.

He recently quoted Tom Frame, Australian Anglican Bishop, who said, “We need your voices, individually and collectively, to provide a reminder to our society, and especially self-appointed elites, that our Christian heritage is in fact what has made our nation and western civilisation strong.”

Latter-day Saint members, Kim and Diedre Triffitt, were instrumental in the establishment of Giant Steps in 1995.  The school caters to students and clients ages 3 to 30 with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  It continues to be an important and valued service for families across Tasmania.

The Church’s humanitarian program is broad-ranging and includes large-scale projects in times of disaster through to smaller-scale projects in local communities such as the donation of the early intervention playground equipment in Deloraine.  Since, 1985 the Church has donated over $1.5 billion in aid internationally

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.