Media Release: Dyslexia advocates celebrate a step forward on the path to inclusive schools 

23 October 2015

The organisers of Dyslexia Empowerment Week have extra cause to celebrate as the week draws to a close. 

Today Minister James Merlino announced new requirements to support all teachers to build their capability to teach students with disabilities. SPELD Victoria welcomes this commitment to build the capacity of all teachers in Victoria to focus on improving teaching and learning strategies for students with disabilities as part of their ongoing professional development. You can read more about that on the VIT website.

This announcement coincides with Dyslexia Empowerment Week which concludes tomorrow.  The Week is by the state's peak body for Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities, SPELD Victoria.  

SPELD is represented on the VIT Special Needs Plan Review Panel which advised the VIT on the roll out of providing additional guidance and support to schools. 

Clare Carmody Chief Executive Officer of SPELD (Specific Learning Difficulties) Victoria says "it is great to see an increased focus on inclusion, and a reinforcing of the existing standards." 

"Every teacher, every class in the state of Victoria is likely to have a student with a disability.  This is just a recognition that including all learners is an integral, irrefutable part of a teacher’s job description.  Inclusion is nonnegotiable. As such, these professionals need to be given support to continuously extend their learning in this area.  However, training alone is not the solution.  Our professional teachers need to be heard and backed up when they identify the resources they need to support.  Professional learning is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle."

"Engaging in learning is a shared responsibility, between students, families and their schools.  Dyslexia Empowerment Week celebrates the important role that everyone plays in ensuring that students with Specific Learning Difficulties get the best chance to achieve their potential."

"Teachers and families have long been crying out for more support to identify and respond to the unique needs of students with dyslexia.  Professional development in what works is important, so that kids can get timely, targeted reading intervention in early primary and support to learn in a way that suits them throughout their education."

About Dyslexia Empowerment Week

An estimated 3-5% of have a persistent neurologically based Specific Learning Disability (SLD), such as dyslexia. Dyslexia is not an intellectual disability – but children with dyslexia struggle to read and often feel as though they are failing each and every day.

Ensuring that all children are given the opportunity to learn to read is important, as is providing appropriate support and understanding to the one or more students in every Australian classroom with dyslexia. Organisations and volunteers across the Australian SLD community to have banded together create Dyslexia Empowerment Week (DEW), now in its third year. This year DEW is 18 – 24 October 2015 with over 25 events crowd sourced from schools and communities across the nation.

Dyslexia Empowerment Week is currently managed by volunteers from SPELD Victoria in collaboration with AUSPELD. #DEW2015

Families of students with learning disabilities it's time to be heard! The Governments review of the Program for Students with Disabilities

The Victorian Government is currently reviewing the Program for Students with a Disability (PSD). The terms of reference for the review include looking at support for students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities (SLDs) through this $480m p/a funding pool. 

SPELD Vic has been appointed to the Expert Advisory Panel for the review as well as a focus group panel.  We've been consulting with families and working with our teachers and psychologists to make a case for a strengths and needs based, whole classroom approach to supporting the needs of all students. We firmly believe that supporting students with SLDs is great way to lift the performance of struggling students and raise the potential of all students. 

More information on the review is available here.

Now it is your turn to share your story. It is really important the Government hear the direct experience of students with SLDs and their families as well as your great ideas about what a fair, efficient and effective system could look like. 

There are two ways that you can have your say in the review:

  1. Tell your story directly to the review team via email

Share the challenges you or your child have faced and what could have helped overcome them.  A couple of short paragraphs describing you and your child's experience as well as a few good ideas would be great. 

Here are a few questions to consider when responding – but your response can address much more if you want to!

·         What are some of the difficulties that you have faced in the schooling system and how do you think these could be addressed?

·         Did you have any difficulties accessing the PSD program and was the support adequate?

·         What support could help teachers and schools to better meet the needs of students with SLD's?

·         How can we ensure that the funding is used appropriately for supporting student outcomes?

You can email the PSD review directly and we'd love it if you cc’s in Clare Carmody, our CEO.  The link below includes a cc to Clare, but if you don't feel comfortable passing on your story please delete our email address. All submissions will be treated confidentially.

Click here to make a submission now

2. Online Survey

A second way the Government is seeking your input is by running a survey, hoping to hear from current and previous students, their families, principals, teachers and disability professionals that will ask for your ideas and suggestions on how the PSD can be improved and strengthened.

*The Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) Review survey has been extended to October 16- You can access the survey at:

house in sepia compressed


Dear members and friends

After much deliberation and consultation with members the board has decided to sell our property at 494 Brunswick Street.  

An auction is scheduled for 2pm on the 29th of August.  The sale will be managed by Chambers Real Estate - you can view the househere.

Saying goodbye will not be easy.  Hundreds of people worked tirelessly for decades to secure and maintain that home as a stable base for the SPELD.  It has been a place where thousands of people have received (often life changing) assessments and learning support.  It has been the HQ for hundreds of events that have taught thousands of teachers and parents how to better support students to learn and achieve at school and home.

But the truth is, if we are to serve the 47,000 Victorian students who need our help, we need to outgrow that home.  We need to move across the state, and online, we need to be there where and when people need us - in homes and schools.

SPELD’s strategy sets us up to advance from a focus on one-to- one center based assessment and tutoring services to direct more of our energies on development, advice and support services for members that proved to be so successful in the past, married with the technologies and techniques that the evidence shows drive learning.

The next five years will see us reaching further out to dramatically transform learning and peer support in schools and families across the state.  I trust that this is the right decision and am positive that as we grow we will keep with us the important values and achievements this house represents. 

These values are best encapsulated by the quotes from our history....

Addresses to Open the SPELD Centre - Thursday 29th June 1978

It is often said the worth of a society can be judged by the way it treats the very young and the very old. I believe it to be true. But it is also true that a real test of compassionate people lies in its attitude to the handicapped. By this test, Victoria stands increasingly high through the concern, commitment and involvement of the Government. But this we regard than no more than our duty, and what I find truly impressive is the commitment of private citizens through organisations such as SPELD….

I suppose that, as one member of the association said this week, SPELD should eventually put itself out of business by establishing such a firm bond between parents, teachers and professional advisers in an atmosphere of compassionate community concern that its works would become superfluous.
SPELD has helped awaken the community to the problem of learning difficulties but we still have great need of its sense and direction, and so it is that SPELD has moved here from Collins Street. These premises provide all the facilities which the association needs – an office, a consultation room, a library, a conference room, a coffee room for the comfort of parents after consultation – and it has been financed by more than $72,000 raised over five years by private appeal to members of the association and interested supporters. For our part, the Government pays the consultant’s salary.

But it is the people who give themselves who give the most. This is when out community is at its best – when it cares for its weaker members. Government cannot legislate compassion and self-respect. They cannot impart dignity and human understanding. But there are in Victoria, fortunately fine citizens that can and do.
The Hon R.J. Hamer. E.D. MP, Premier of Victoria

I’d like to finish by giving a message to all SPELD members. Now that this Centre is in existence don’t relax your efforts. There is still a lot of work to be done. Your professional sub-committee has just completed the preparation of a statement of where we stand today. Starting from there, I hope that every member will now carefully consider our hopes and priorities for another successful ten years. 
Dr T.G. Hagger


...We must go on working because this area is still in great need of our community.
Dame Elizabeth Murdoch 

These quotes acknowledge the efforts of the members of SPELD, hundreds of volunteers every year equalling over 23,500 annual members since 1969 who have worked out of that house to serve tens of thousands of Victorian students.  

46 years since our first meeting was attended by 500 members we are still seeking to grow.  Our growth, to reach more students, regardless of income or location is supported by an awakening in community awareness driven by volunteers and practitioners from within and without SPELD.  We are growing almost as quickly as in our first days.

What next?
I have 
written some FAQ’s and made short videos answering some of immediate questions:

Why sell?            

What does this mean for the SLC and Assessment Services?       

How was the decision made?    

Does this mean that SPELD is in financial trouble?            

What will be done with the proceeds of the sale?            

Is the money going to be spent on expensive management consultants?             

How will the management of the money be overseen?

How can I ask more questions/raise concerns? 

Watch the videos here.

Please join us to honour our history and celebrate all of the good things yet to come:  

Farewell to 494 Brunswick Street

Lunch from 12pm on 16 August 2015

RSVP with dietary and access requirements by August 10

I hope to see you there.


Clare Carmody
P:(03) 9480 4422 | M: 0450 718 054

SPELD in the paper today

Today The Age featured the story of one of our members as it covers the challenges of VCAA special provisions…

“Charlie Frances has dyslexia and completed his VCE last year.

But the 19-year-old builder still gets annoyed thinking about how he had to lodge three time-consuming applications, over three years, to use a computer during his VCE exams and assessments. "I told them I hadn't lost my dyslexia."

"My handwriting wasn't legible. I'd hand something in that was the right amount of words that I was happy with, but no one could read it."

In an ironic twist, Mr Frances had to hand write an essay explaining why he needed support.

"They were literally telling me to write in 800 words or less why I can't write an essay in 800 words or less."

Charlie's story of the mountains of dyslexia unfriendly paperwork he had to do to apply for VCAA special provisions sounds funny, the way he tells it.  But it's a sad story for the many students who can't even get an application in.  Gladly VCAA is talking the serious issue that is failing hundreds of students that need to get the accommodations they get in class, equitably applied in exams. 

Read the story:

Who is on SPELD Victoria's PSD review super team?

Blog Post by Clare Carmody

Last week, the Department of Education launched a comprehensive review of the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD).  One of the areas of investigation is provision for students with specific learning difficulties.  

Representing SPELD's members I have joined the Expert Panel and will be asking members for support with this.  There will also be room for public consultation and if you like this post below, I'll be sure to let you know when that opportunity is announced.  

SPELD Victoria has been invited to put forward a small team to consult on the review.  Today, I want to introduce you to that super team for the review consultation. 

This team, shows the diversity of skills and strengths that are with our organisations.  We have parents, adults with dyslexia, teachers, principals, psychologists and people with outside expertise in funding program and governance.  It’s a real mixed bag that is already providing great conversation as we prepare for our consultation with Dr Graeme Innes on August 5.

Meet our PSD review team members... 

Peter Hutton

Peter Hutton hated his own school experience, where he felt that education was being done “to him”. As Principal of Templestowe College he developed an educational model that allows students to individualize their education and share control in the running of the school.  Peter is a school principal with a radical solution, no school bell, no school levels, staff selection and curriculum is even decided by students. Result? No bullying, collaboration, innovation in school dynamics.

Watch Peter’s Ted Talk here

“They call Peter the Rebel Principal and I can’t wait to join his learning revolution.  I am blown away by the passion and lateral solutions thinking he has demonstrated by his contributions to the conversations so far.” 

Linda Lucas

Linda Lucas has over 20 years’ experience in the arts and government and has developed an authoritative and strategic knowledge of these areas.  More recently she was a key team member delivering the largest reform to regular funding to arts organisations by the state government.   Beyond her commitment to enhancing cultural life, Linda is dedicated to a future where children with dyslexia are respected and their learning is effectively supported by informed teaching and the best tools.  As a mother of a wonderful teenage boy with dyslexia, who has endured many ‘interventions’ and ‘programs’ (at her behest) and supported him through the impacts of ill informed teaching, she is strong parents’ advocate.  

 “Linda was my funding manager in my previous job and deeply understands these programs on both sides.  As a systems thinker she can reconcile both the complicated nature of working within bureaucratic machines with the agile and undeniable power of engaged families.”

Suzanne Dixon

MEd, BA, BEd, TPTC ,Grad Dip Spec Ed.

A message from Sue:

“I’m honoured to be with this 21st Century SPELD as an advocate, a practitioner, a policy maker and a leader with 50 plus years of accumulated knowledge and experience in provision for students with additional and different educational learning requirements.

My experience has included: State-wide system Special Education consultancy; P-12 School Principal; CEO of Early Intervention, Vocational and Adult Disability services; Representation on State and National Government Committees and Working Parties for policy and funding; Teaching and sessional lecturing at Tertiary level in Special Education; Chair of a Principals’ Professional body; and, Special Education Senior Consultant in an International organisation.

Thank you SPELD for this exciting opportunity.”

“The long list of Sue’s senior roles in education demonstrates why so many organisations have trusted her to lead them strategically through times of challenge and growth.  Having worked with Sue on our Student Learning Centre Service I have witnessed first hand her uncanny ability to bring together values, policy and practice in a way that always puts kids first.” 

Frances Coffey

Frances is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist. Her work life has been predominantly with DET schools in their School Support Service, with several years as a private school counsellor,  some private consulting, also a couple of years at Bristol University in a research position. 

As a psychologist working in schools, Frances is acutely aware of the complex issues around supporting students on the autism spectrum and students with learning disabilities. She has also been involved with the PSD system from all sorts of angles - supporting parents, schools, other professionals with navigating the system, assessing and writing applications, and also at regional level as a "reader" - reading applications within the evaluation process.

And of course, for several years Frances have been a consultant psychologist with SPELD.

“One of the things that constantly awes me about our Psychologist team is their ability to see the whole child and really integrate who they are as an individual with what they need to thrive in the system.   To me, Frances is this knowledge personified.  Her insistence on genuine fairness for young people marginalised by structural social injustice will bring an important and often undervalued perspective to our conversation.”


Karen Starkiss

Karen Starkiss is an educator with over 30 years’ experience. Over the past eight years Karen has been one of working independently as a LD trainer and assessor helping transform the lives of thousands of Australian students and teachers. Karen’s training is always in high demand across Victoria and the nation.  Her recent success in rolling out statewide teacher training in the ACT and NT means will be valuable in helping SPELD achieve its vision of every Victorian child having the opportunity to achieve their learning potential. 

In addition her outstanding professional expertise Karen has personal experience as two of her three children are dyslexic.  Karen’s bio shows her commitment to working where the needs are for the children most struggling in our schools. 

“Karen is constantly showing me, and schools around the country how supporting kids with SLD’s is the key to supporting all kids reach their potential. She has the track record to prove this works. 

''During my teaching career I have taught in a number of schools from large inner city to small village schools, from social priority to affluent areas. I have taught primary and secondary students and teenage 'school refusers.'  I worked for one county as a School Improvement Consultant going into failing schools and working with the staff to improve standards in teaching and learning. My last position in the UK was as a head teacher of a primary school, which was categorised as “Causing Concern,” with a deficit budget. I worked with the teachers, parents and students to double the number on roll within 18 months and take it to the top of the Devon League Tables for 2 consecutive years in 2005 and 2006 and 10th position out of over 17,000 primary schools in England for standards despite the fact that we had the most children with severe learning difficulties in the county.’

Karen will ensure that what we suggest about funding for kids with SLD’s is the best use of resources for all.”

Jason Henham

Jason is Managing Director of Slate Consulting, an Australian-based consulting firm committed to helping professional services, non-profit, and government organizations dramatically improve their performance, while creating a great experience for their employees.

Passionate about health and education, Jason has served on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Contemporary Mental Health, Washington D.C.’s largest drug abuse support agency. He is currently President of SPELD Victoria, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of those affected by specific learning difficulties and has recently been Treasurer for Ozchild, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children.

Meet Jason here

“In my opinion there is not one person in the world better at helping organisations and governments understand what they need to do to help their people to reach their potential. He, like everyone on this team will provide enormous value to the conversation.” 

So, like the look of our super team?  Want to join? 

If you want to get involved and have your say about funding for students with disabilities in our schools email me at I will message you about it in a few weeks.  

CEO Tour

Our new CEO Clare Carmody is heading on tour next month to meet with parents support groups around the state.

Clare will share:
An introduction to Specific Learning Difficulties and Disorders
SPELD's strategy, advocacy work and new services

She will seek:
Your thoughts on how SPELD can best serve parents in your local area
Willing parents to express their interest in becoming SPELD's local champions

Locations and Bookings:

SPELD Lunch for members and friends 12pm 16 August RSVP with dietary requirements

Upper Plenty Primary 7pm, 19 August

Mt Martha Primary 7pm,25 August

Diversitat Northern Community Hub, Geelong in partnership with Kids Like Us 4:30pm, 1 September…

Slate Coal Mine Wonthaggi visiting the South Gipsland Dyslexia Support group screening of the Big Issue 6:30pm, 4 September

St Josephs Primary School, Brunswick West 2:30pm, 8 September

Ethic. Cafe, Street Woodend visiting DyslexiClever Support Group (Macedon Ranges) 9am, 11 September All welcome. Enquires to Marg: |0409 550 238

Sunbury Heights Primary School visiting SOLD support group 7:15pm 11 September Enquire via S.O.L.D.

Download Schedule 

Notable Australian’s Struggle with Learning Difficulties Stigma

Speld Victoria Media Release: 31/05/2015


An article in the Sydney Morning Herald today notes that David Day's new biography, due to be released next week contains claims Paul Keating lives secretly with a Learning Difficulty.  The article also notes that Mr Keating has did not cooperate in any way with the biography. This follows six days after dyslexic author Jackie French was awarded Senior Australian of the Year. 


Regardless of whether or not this claim is true, it highlights a dichotomy faced by Australian adults with dyslexia. 


Dyslexia, and other Specific Learning Difficulties affects 10% of Australian’s on a continuum from mild to severe. 


Speld Victoria Chief Executive Officer Clare Carmody says that sadly most people with dyslexia don’t actually know they have it and often those that do feel the need to keep it a secret their whole lives. 


“By definition dyslexia is intellect independent so the damaging, common community misconceptions that dyslexia is an intelligence or motivation issue are completely false”. Ms Carmody says.


Speld’s Patron and notable Dyslexic, Keith Houghton, Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University says that it is regrettable that some of the most successful dyslexics never feel confident enough to come out’ because they are concerned about the stigma.


“The world is designed for people that are competent with words and dyslexia is a barrier to entry. I am continually amazed to meet people that have succeeded in the world of words that have been blessed with the gift of dyslexia”. Professor Houghton adds.


As Patron of Speld Vic he is a driving force behind an adult support group - a place for adults to share their story, their strengths, their hope.


“If you are dyslexic you are not alone.  You may not want to come out but you are not alone.”


Speld Victoria’s Adult Peer Support Group which runs on the first Wednesday of every month.  Professor Houghton will be sharing his personal story at first meeting of 2015 on Wednesday March 4th at 6:30pm at Speld Victoria, 60 High Street Preston.


Speld's free and confidential advice line is 1800 051 533 or


Media Contact


Clare Carmody 0450 718 054 


Congraulations Jackie French 

Media Release 26 January 2015 

SPELD VIC and Auspeld would like to congratulate Jackie on her award and recognise her hard work towards assisting those with learning difficulties. 

"failure is not an option" 

Watch her powerful acceptance speech below- what an inspiration to us all! well done Jackie! 


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