History of Language Development Centres in Western Australia

Language Development Centres exist today because of Marie Donovan, a visionary who pioneered the development of education services for students with Specific Language Impairment in Western Australia. As a result of her inspirational teaching and leadership, Western Australia has services, catering for students with language vulnerabilities, that is unique in the world.

In 1980, as Principal of the Mosman Park School for the Deaf, Marie Donovan recognised the necessity for an education system that supported the specific learning needs of students with normal hearing but severe communication disorders. She approached the then Director of Special Education with her vision of establishing a school for these students. Marie then researched service models in England. Her study and research of Specific Language Impairment (SLI) now called Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) in 1982, led to the establishment in West Australia of the first Australian school for students with SLI.

As Marie led the development of the first school she realised that there was an unmet need in other locations.  As more students were identified, Marie persistently lobbied government and education decision makers to establish more centres across the Perth area. By 2002 there were five metropolitan Language Development Centres.

The cohesion and consistency that is evident today is a tribute to Marie’s vision, leadership and determination. In essence, Marie built the knowledge and leadership that characterises Language Development Centres and associated services today. A true pioneer in education.

West Coast Language Development Centre Background

Growth and Expansion

The West Coast Language Development Centre began in 1984 at Tuart Hill PS before relocating to Kapinara PS and then to Balcatta PS. With significant growth from 1999 the administration relocated to Padbury PS and the Ridgewood Early Childhood Unit, before returning to Padbury. During that time the Centre opened and closed several satellite sites to cater for the population growth in the northern suburbs. The numbers have grown from 68 (pre-primary to year 4) in 1998 to over 320 today (Kindergarten to year 1). This is a clear indication of the early intervention model.

New Services Added

In 2000, a formalised Outreach service called the Speech and Language Team began and was centrally located and managed under the disabilities (Centre for Inclusive Schooling) umbrella and funded centrally. In 2005, four Consultant Principal Speech and Language positions were created with the aim to review the centralised processes and to develop Outreach services more connected to mainstream needs, with stronger links to the expertise built up in Language Centres. In 2006, the Speech and Language Team was decentralised and located under the line management of the Consultant Principals with the purpose of locating services closer to schools, with access going through the principals. Another key purpose was to ensure more equity of access across the state with links to Language Centre expertise. The Consultant Principals worked together to develop a more connected, cohesive service model that included the LDCs and Outreach. In late 2012 the Outreach Service (as a state-wide service) and student program were integrated under the leadership and management of the 5 LDC principals.