House works for Kirk

Sarah, Kirk and Justin are the subjects of The Dreamhouse.
Sarah, Kirk and Justin are the subjects of The Dreamhouse.

It sounds like a normal scenario for most parents, happy in the knowledge their child has flown the nest and can operate independently in the big bad world, but for a Melville family it’s a dream come true.

Kirk Barker is the active, sociable, autistic son of Peta and Peter Barker and older brother of Ryan; he is also one of the stars of the six-part ABC-TV series The Dreamhouse that screened for the first time last Thursday night to rave reviews.

Filmed by Perth-based production company Artemis International, the series followed the lives of three young people with intellectual disability for 10 weeks last year, recording the inevitable ups and downs as they moved out of home and away from their family network for the first time.

Joining Kirk in a City of Subiaco-owned home leased by Foundation Housing, one of Perth’s largest providers of affordable housing, were Justin and Sarah, who both have Down syndrome.

More than a year since filming finished, Sarah is the only one to have returned to the family fold, leaving the duo to their bachelor pad where six of the 12 volunteers who became support workers during filming have stayed on to help out with daily meal supervision.

‘Kirk is doing brilliantly. I thought when filming finished that he would be exhausted and want to come home but it went the other way! He blossomed,’ Mrs Barker said.

‘He put his foot down and said he was never coming home. I was gutted.’

Mrs Barker said Justin reacted the same way and she and his mother worked together to ensure they could maintain the independence they were loving and clearly capable of.

‘Kirk was more capable than I thought. It was hard to let go but it just proved how capable he is. He is very busy, he works two days a week and has activities on other days, so I see him about once a fortnight and we talk on the phone twice a week,’ she said.

‘We thought Kirk would be a lot older when he started to live more independently, probably not for another 10 years or so, but he has gone ahead in leaps and bounds.’

The former Melville and Koorilla primary school and Leeming Senior High School student catches buses and trains to work at Activ in East Victoria Park and Tafe on his own and has enjoyed learning how to cook.

Mrs Barker said after living on adrenaline for years, her back went out and after about three months of rehabilitation, she began to establish an exercise routine and concentrate on improving her own health.