Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 15, 2023


Autism Works

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (15:25): If you have been out and about in the city or on social media in the last few weeks, you are more than likely to have come across the new Autism Works campaign. For those who do not know much about the campaign, Autism Works is a newly launched community education campaign that features five autistic individuals: Deanna, Dorian Tisato—who many in this chamber would know—Bianca, Malcolm and Rebecca in their current workplaces.

From a community relations manager, to a teacher, to a radio presenter, Autism Works aims at promoting and building knowledge of autism inclusion across South Australian workplaces by shining a light on living examples of how autistic individuals achieve and contribute within our state's workforce. Led by the Office for Autism, which is headed by an autistic director as well as by an autistic adviser, Autism Works is playing an important part in delivering the Malinauskas Labor government's commitment to making our state a more inclusive place for the autistic people and their families.

As a Labor government, our priority is always centred around employment, not just for the obvious economic benefits it has for families, communities and our state but for the dignity it provides individuals. Having a job is more than putting food on the table, for many it is the reason to get up and out the front door in the morning. However, for many in the autistic community access to employment is often riddled with barriers.

Currently, if you are autistic, you are three times more likely to be unemployed than someone else with another disability and around six times more likely to be unemployed than the general population. While these statistics speak for themselves about the problem in front of us, autistic people themselves at every community meeting, every forum and every event speak about the importance of employment and have shared their personal experiences in facing many barriers in trying to enter and stay in the workforce.

As I have mentioned before in this chamber, autistic people are our country's largest disability group. In South Australia, we also sit above the national average of 35 per cent, with 41 per cent of our NDIS participants being autistic. We are not talking about a small minority of individuals. The new Autism Works campaign continues growing the Malinauskas Labor government's commitment to making SA the autism inclusive state.

However, we have not just released a shiny awareness campaign. Autism Works directs you to the new Office for Autism website: autismworks.sa.gov.au, which features a range of evidence-based resources both for employers who are wanting to build their knowledge of how to create a more autism inclusive workplace and guides and tips for prospective autistic employees. I encourage all who may have not already to visit the website and share these resources with your local community and businesses.

Whether you have seen it on a tram stop, on TV, if it has popped up on your Facebook feed, or perhaps even at the Adelaide Oval, I hope the new Autism Works campaign has made you stop and think, stop and think about all the myths and stereotypes about autism, and has started a conversation with not only yourselves but your loved ones, your colleagues and your friends.

We know that when we make our communities more inclusive for the autistic and autism communities, it benefits our entire community. When a state is a more inclusive place for autistic individuals to live, work and thrive, we all benefit because autism works.