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Awarded for community service
Born: 8 November 1960 - Melbourne, Victoria
Entered on roll: 2017
“A tenacious supporter for the most vulnerable in our community”
Without a mother’s love built on community support there would not be Giant Steps in Tasmania.
By fighting for the best interest of her son, Deidre Triffitt inspired a community and motivated a Government to enact change.
In 1986, when Deidre’s son Corom was 18-months old, he started experiencing epileptic seizures up to 15 times a day. A specialist in Sydney told Deidre that Corom would become physically and mentally worse, with no chance of improvement. It was recommended Corom be institutionalised. It was eventually confirmed that Corom was showing signs of autism.
Tasmania did not have specific services for children with autism at the time of Corom’s diagnosis. In 1991, Deidre called for the establishment of a support group of parents for children with autism, and later discovered the Canadian Institute of Neuro-Integrative Development’s Giant Steps program. She had found the support needed, but not without immense financial hardship and personal sacrifice. The four-year search cost $300,000 and involved Corom having treatment at the Canadian Giant Steps satellite school. Deidre and husband, Kim worked as cleaners for 12 months to help pay for Corom’s tuition.
The holistic, multidisciplinary and intensive Giant Steps program was what Deidre dreamed of for Tasmania. Giant Steps founder, Darlene Berringer was drawn to Corom and his parents’ dedication, and visited Tasmania several times to assess the prospects for a school, raise awareness of the needs of children with autism and gain political and community support.
Deidre formed the Giant Steps Steering Committee and lobbied for a Giant Steps school. In 1994, the State Government committed $225,000 to support the establishment of the school.
Giant Steps Tasmania commenced operation as a non-government school for children with autism spectrum disorders in 1995.
In 1996, Deidre received an Advance Australia Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the community.
Corom is a happy young adult with carers and family who support and watch over him at his independent unit on the family property in Deloraine.