ACT News

Ricky Stuart takes daughter for sneak peek at state-of-the-art respite centre

Ricky Stuart House will be a special place in Canberra because parents will not need to feel guilty when they drop off their child with a disability.

That's the view of Kaylie Stuart whose 18-year old daughter Emma has autism.

With less than a month to go before the building's opening, Ricky Stuart and his 18-year-old autistic daughter, Emma, ...
With less than a month to go before the building's opening, Ricky Stuart and his 18-year-old autistic daughter, Emma, visited the Ricky Stuart Foundation respite centre in Chifley. Photo: Graham Tidy

On Sunday Kaylie and Ricky Stuart took Emma for a sneak preview of the purpose-built respite facility for children with a disability.

The state-of-the-art centre in Chifley will open on February 23, due in part to the efforts of former ACT Minister Joy Burch.

Ricky Stuart, with Emma and foundation director John Mackay, left. His dream for a respite home was made possible ...
Ricky Stuart, with Emma and foundation director John Mackay, left. His dream for a respite home was made possible through the generosity of sponsors, project managers and architects.  Photo: Graham Tidy

"Joy did an amazing job getting this started," Ricky Stuart said.

Emma turned 18 late last year and won't be able to stay at the house which will cater for children aged six to 12 years.

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However Mrs Stuart said the facility would become significant for many Canberra parents.

"The important thing for me is that Mums can drop their kids to respite, guilt-free, and then have a break," she said.

Foundation director John Mackay said Mr Stuart's dream for a respite centre for Canberra children was made possible by the generosity of sponsors, project managers and architects.

Harvey Norman contributed $85,000 worth of washing machines, TVs and bathtubs.

Mr Mackay said the centre would be the best of its type in Australia.

"We've put the very best we could into the design and all of the equipment," he said.

"Where Emma stayed last night is a converted old house but this is purpose designed."

A sensory room will have objects to touch as well as a large glass column with colourful bubbles moving around.

"Children might come here for an hour while Mum goes to the supermarket or gets a haircut or they might come here for three weeks while the family goes overseas," Mr Mackay said.

"You just need some time out, the whole family needs some time out, usually particularly the mother who has the child all day and all night and just needs a break.

"It's basically like a kids' motel but you've got specialist carers here all the time.

"Some kids might stay here and go out to school during the day.

"Some people have said to us this is so good the kids won't want to go back home."

Mr Stuart said he was proud to build a "home away from home" for children with a disability, that was homely rather than institutional, and gave families some down time.

"It was important for us to make this home really special, that the kids wanted to be at," he said.

"It's okay for us to go away and stay at a hotel and have a nice holiday away, it's got to be the same for the kids who stay here."