Over 60 local people from autistic and autism communities attended a forum in Gawler last Monday night to provide the State Government with feedback on its proposed State Autism Strategy.

The event was co-hosted by the Assistant Minister to the Premier and Assistant Minister for Autism, the Hon Emily Bourke MLC, and local Member of Parliament, Mr Tony Piccolo.

Mr Piccolo said the development and creation of the strategy was in response to years of advocacy by the autistic and autism communities.

“The strategy will support a dedicated, whole of government approach to create a fairer and more inclusive society,” said Mr Piccolo.

The strategy will focus on key priority areas which autistic individuals have raised as particular challenges and barriers to them fully participating in community life, including:

• Community understanding, knowledge, and acceptance

• Improving access to government services

• More responsive education, training, and workforce practices

• Provision of more safe spaces

Mr Piccolo said the feedback will help inform the strategy, which will in turn shape future government policies as both an significant employer, and provider of community services.

The forum heard from families whose children had struggled in the education system, faced roadblocks in the NDIS system, and were generally excluded from a range of life experiences because the lack of understanding on the part of decision makers.

“The strategy will help create greater understanding in the community about what autism is and the needs of autistic and autism community members,” said Mr Piccolo.

“Through a whole of government approach, we should be able to build greater capacity in our education, health and wellbeing systems that better meet the needs of the autistic and autism communities.”

“By taking the lead, the government can then influence assumptions and practices in the private sector, which should lead to greater fairness and equity in employment.”

A strong message from the forum was that the NDIS must have more flexible funding guidelines as the current practices create a great deal of hardship for people in the autistic and autism communities.

Mr Piccolo also took the opportunity to address the Gawler Council on the matter and asked Council to consider opportunities for creating safe spaces for people in public areas.

Feedback on the discussion paper closes on 20th February 2023 and can be provided online at yoursay.sa.gov.au/state-autism-strategy

Mr Piccolo said if any community member wanted to raise any issue regarding the wellbeing of people living with disability they can contact his office on 85 222 878 or via email at light@parliament.sa.gov.au and he would be happy to make time to chat with them.