Akna (second from right) with school friends.
Image: Shehani De Silva
Shehani and Senaka De Silva learnt that their daughter, Akna, had Down’s syndrome three weeks after her birth.
This dramatically changed their lives. Determined to secure a better life for their daughter, they researched all possible options, eventually deciding to emigrate from Sri Lanka to New Zealand, which had an outstanding early intervention program. It was very hard to be away from their family and friends but Akna thrived.
Senaka was offered an excellent job in Australia but Immigration rejected the family, despite several appeals, claiming their daughter’s condition would be a burden on the taxpayer. Citizenship conferred by New Zealand finally enabled them to come to Australia in 2007, but without any disability support.
Despite prejudices and obstacles, Akna finally entered a mainstream school, where she is loved and accepted by her classmates. Shehani and Senaka’s ceaseless advocacy for their daughter’s rights has been the driving force in their life and has taken them around the world.