Senate Select Committee on Autism

My time in Parliament, in many ways, has been defined by my passionate advocacy for the community of Australians with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the family members and carers who cherish and support them.

Our family unexpectedly joined this community over a decade ago, when my gorgeous son Fred was diagnosed with autism in 2012. Fred is the light of our family’s life in so many ways. Whether it’s all the developmental milestones he’s passed; his love of Godzilla, New York and San Francisco, old-fashioned media; or just he and I watching David Attenborough specials, there is no-one more loved, or who brings more love to this world, than our ‘Freddo Frog’. 

While we did not choose to become part of such a large community, we have found it to be one united by a great passion and determination to succeed. These children and adults work so hard every day, rising to challenges that too few fully understand. They don’t ask for much, but they do look to us in government to empower and support them, to work tirelessly in pursuit of a future where they can flourish. It is exactly that pursuit that I am committed to fight for.

In 2012 I founded the Country Autism Network, acting as Chair until 2019. I worked day-in and day-out to make a difference for families in regional communities across our nation, who have a loved one with autism, just like mine. In 2019 I set about continuing this work in government, I established and was appointed as Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Autism, to inquire into and report on the services, support and life outcomes for autistic people.

The Senate Select Committee on Autism’s is the first-ever inquiry that has properly investigated how to facilitate meaningful reform in the autism space through a whole-of-life lens for anyone across the breadth of the spectrum.

The Committee’s findings are detailed in Services, support and life outcomes for autistic Australians, which lays out the significant challenges within this space and the recommendations to address them. The work of the committee and the final report are the first step towards a better future for Australians across the autsitic spectrum and those who care for and support them. However, despite the pride I feel for the work we have done so far, this must be a launchpad for future action rather than a milestone to rest at.

Key challenges:

Life outcomes for autistic Australians are unacceptably poor. This comes at an enormous personal, social and economic cost. The drivers of these poor outcomes are also complex and interrelated, the committee heard that key drivers of poor outcomes for autistic Australians include:

  • poor understanding of autism within the community and among service providers;
  • workforce capacity constraints;
  • delays in diagnosis and early intervention;
  • a complex and poorly integrated service environment;
  • services that are not designed to meet the needs of autistic people; and
  • generic disability strategies have proven ineffective at improving life outcomes for autistic people

Key Recommendations:

While not an exhaustive list, some of the key priorities identified by the committee include:

  • building understanding of autism within key professions and across the wider community;
  • improving access to early diagnosis and intervention;
  • improving service integration and coordination;
  • improving education, employment and health services for autistic people;
  • supporting parents and carers; and
  • establishing a national autism research agenda

Achievements and goals in parliament surrounding autism

  • Established Senate Select Committee on Autism ( 28.11.2019) and appointed as Chair from 5.12.2019 to 25.3.2022;
  • Appointed to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme from 22.7.2019 (Deputy Chair from 9.8.2022).
  • Publication of Services, support and life outcomes for autistic Australians
  • Secured $1.2 million in the 2022-23 Federal Budget to support Autism Awareness Australia in expanding the existing ‘Autism: What Next?’ website to provide resources to help individuals and families navigate the first year following an autism diagnosis.

Read the Final Report of the Committee:,supportandlifeoutcomesforautisticAustralians.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

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