Autism cage timeline: from Canberra classroom to the United Nations
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Autism cage timeline: from Canberra classroom to the United Nations

March 10, 2015: A two by two metre cage in blue metal pool fencing is constructed in a Canberra Primary school at a cost of $5195.

Over the next 17 days a 10-year-old boy with autism will be placed in it on at least a handful of occasions. On one occasion he struggled so violently to get out that he broke the lock.

The metal pool fence structure at the centre of the ACT's withdrawal space crisis.

The metal pool fence structure at the centre of the ACT's withdrawal space crisis.

Photo: Supplied

March 27: The structure is taken down after the ACT Human Rights Commission makes a complaint to the Education Directorate.

April 1: An internal inquiry is launched and expected to report within a few weeks.

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April 2: World Autism Day and Education Minister Joy Burch holds a press conference to announce that an "inappropriate structure" is at the centre of the inquiry. Over the next few days the story will make headlines across the nation and internationally.

May 1: Terms of reference are announced for an inquiry into students with complex needs and challenging behaviour to be headed by emeritus Professor Anthony Shaddock.

September 8: Directorate's internal inquiry finally issued 182 days after the cage first went up. Principal is removed from her position after being labelled the sole instigator of the cage.

November 18: Professor Shaddock presents his findings, calling for major reform of the territory's schooling system, including an urgent review of funding for students with special needs, training for teachers and aides on the front line and far greater support for principals trying to balance staff safety with potentially violent student behaviours.

November 25: Under sustained questioning from the Opposition, the directorate reveals eight bureaucrats were also sanctioned over their role in the cage affair but none lost their jobs.

January 19 2016: After a string of ministerial mishaps including the handling of the cage inquiry, Joy Burch resigns as Education Minister.

April 2016: Co-convener of Autistic Families Australia Briannon Lee travels to Geneva to meet with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to discuss the influx of serious abuse cases flooding disability advocates in the wake of the cage scandal. Costa Rican human rights lawyer Catalina Devandas Aguilar invites Australian families to make a formal submission.

May: Boy at the centre of the cage scandal is isolated from his classmates after an escalation in his challenging behaviours.

June 2: The roll-out of the Shaddock reforms is revealed to be problematic for the directorate with its first oversight report showing timelines not being met, meetings not being attended, expertise not being available and information being double-handled. Just two of 50 recommendations are met.

June 7: New Education Minister Shane Rattenbury pledges $21.5 million to fund the 50 recommendations arising from the Shaddock review – the single largest allocation in the education budget.

June 20: Submission on abuse delivered to the UN.

June: ACT Human Rights Commission is notified of the boy's isolation and invites the directorate to mediation with the family.

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July: Boy at the centre of the cage scandal is moved into high school six months ahead of time to manage his behaviour.

August 4: Second oversight report into Shaddock reforms finds nine of 50 recommendations are met with Mr Rattenbury promising lasting cultural change will occur across Canberra schools.