How To Have Your Say On Australia’s First Ever National Autism Strategy

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The federal government has announced Australia’s first ever National Autism Strategy, aiming to improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Australians with autism.

The strategy includes ways employers can be incentivised to hire workers with autism and increase representation in senior management roles and on boards.

Another proposed part of the strategy includes sensory-friendly public spaces and public transport options, as well as increasing accessibility to diagnosis assessments.

More than 200,000 Australians have received an autism diagnosis, but the actual figure is predicted to be much higher. This is likely due to a myriad of factors, from the time and cost to receive a diagnosis, to people not wanting to be diagnosed in the first place due to stigma.

People with autism face a life expectancy 20 years lower than the general population, are nine times more likely to die by suicide, are eight times more likely to be unemployed, and are at a higher risk of homelessness and violence.

This new national strategy is hoping to change that — and is asking for community consultation before moving forward.

The strategy is currently in its draft phase and the government announced the key areas of focus will include social and economic inclusion, health and mental health, diagnosis, services, and support.

Approaches to autism in Australia are currently dependent on state and territory governments, and means the scale of access to support varies depending on where you live.

South Australia has previously lead the way with the first appointment in the country of an Assistant Minister for Autism in 2022. 

(According to the Department of Social Services autistic people are almost eight times more likely to be unemployed. Image Getty)

The rates of autism diagnosis have surged in the past few years and Australia has higher rates of diagnosed autism than comparable countries. This could be because of improved visibility, support through the NDIS or better a understanding of how it impacts women and girls, as we’re seeing a rise in diagnosis for this group.

Clare Gibellini, one of the co–chairs of the strategy, told the ABC that because the national plan is the first time Australia has implemented a national framework there will be gaps. However Gibellini hopes that community consultation will help fill in the gaps missed by the government.

Public consultation and feedback for the draft strategy is now open via the DSS Engage website and receiving feedback until May 31st, 2024.