SMARTER holds camping event

National 3 minutes, 6 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

THE president of the Society for the Management of Autism Related Issues in Training, Education and Resources (SMARTER) yesterday called on the public to assist them in raising awareness on individuals with autism and their acceptance.

“SMARTER believes our individuals with autism need support and it is the society that needs to give them the acknowledgement by facilitating, accepting and embracing them into society,” said Malai Hj Abdullah Malai Hj Othman at the opening of SMARTER’s sixth camping expedition.

“We need the (public’s) help by being advocates of individuals with autism to ensure that they are not unfairly discriminated against and to maintain their rights as citizens with disabilities through understanding of the Convention on the Right of the Child and the Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities,” he said.

He said SMARTER’s camping expedition provides an opportunity for its students to learn valuable lessons while enjoying life experiences.

“With the two-day camp, our individuals with autism can enjoy going camping in the woods like normal children and also learn skills while having fun,” he said.

“Hopefully, such events can raise the profile of our individuals with autism through interaction with other members of the public like the students from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) who are here to volunteer as part of their Discovery Year programme,” he said.

The Australian High Commission, who co-organised the camp alongside SMARTER, said in a statement that the 10 Flinders University undergraduate students who are in the country for an attachment programme with SMARTER also participated as volunteers.

The head of the delegation, lecturer Debbie Smith, said that their participation has allowed the students to learn practical skills of working with individuals with autism while putting what they have learnt into practice in Brunei.

“This programme is part of the New Colombo Plan Mobility grant which funded us. The idea is to give an opportunity for our undergraduates to better understand the regions around Australia, to help make links and connections with people from these places for the future,” she said.

“This is the second year that students have come to Brunei under this programme and it will continue on for at least until 2018 so our students can immerse themselves in the culture of the country and get to know the individuals and their families that they will be working with for another two years,” she said.

According to the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, the New Colombo Plan Mobility Programme funds undergraduates from Australian universities to participate in semester-based or short-term study, internships and research in 38 host locations across the Indo-Pacific region including Brunei.

Smith said that the visit was also a result of her personal connection with the sultanate.

“I previously lived and worked in Brunei for eight years, I also helped SMARTER set up back in 2001 and have always maintained that link even after I went back to Australia having worked at UBD,”

“I spoke with (SMARTER president) Malai Hj Abdullah last year and the Australian government was very supportive of the idea to collaborate with SMARTER for this programme and that was how it came about,” she said.

Smith said that the group from the university located in Adelaide will also attend the 8th National Conference on Autism towards the end of this month where she and her colleague will present some papers alongside other agencies like the Special Education Unit, Pusat Bahagia and the Ministry of Health.

Minister of Health Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi officially opened the camping expedition at the Berakas Forest Reserve and Recreational Park.

Also present was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health Hj Zakaria Hj Serudin.

The Brunei Times