In January the Australian Autism Alliance, of which Amaze is a member, launched a 2019 Federal Election Manifesto, titled #Change4Autism. The four priorities were: removing NDIS barriers, a National Autism Strategy, advocacy services, and the establishment of a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability, the last of which was announced by the government in April 2019. Amaze is continuing to work with the Australian Autism Alliance on all four priority areas of the manifesto.
January also saw our first Inclusion Champions, St Kilda Football Club, become the first AFL club to commit to a permanent “Chill Out Zone” – a space autistic kids, adults and other people who might be overwhelmed by the a busy environment, to relax in. The space at Marvel Stadium plays the game on big screens with no sound, and has beanbags for relaxing and sensory-friendly activities. In the 18 months we have been working with St Kilda, Amaze has created a social script for attending games at Marvel Stadium, facilitated training for staff and players and experienced how they are making games more accessible.
In March, we held a “Raising autistic teenage girls” forum and launched accessible menstruation resources created in partnership with Cottons and Family Planning Victoria. March also saw the release of the third round of findings from our Community Attitudes Towards Autism, and Experiences of Autistic People and their Families research, which centered on employment.
April also saw the extension of our Autism Advisor service – you can now contact us for advice 8am-7pm weekdays via phone, email or webchat.
In May we worked with Spectrum Intersections and released a resource for parents of transgender/gender diverse autistic children. We also launched our Autism and Inclusion at Kindergarten resource, and sent copies to over 2,400 kindergartens across Victoria.
In July, after months of consulting with autistic people and their families, we launched a new AA accessible website. The website provides easy access to Amaze’s free resources, including online learning, a list of Victorian support groups and information sheets for autistic people, families, educators and professionals. Our resources were downloaded 28,626 times throughout 2019.
October saw the biggest announcement of the year – grant funding to deliver a national autism helpline, Autism Connect.
In November our Community Attitudes Towards Autism in Australia research, which was led by Professor Sandra Jones from Australian Catholic University, won a 2019 Autism CRC Awards for Achievement in Autism Spectrum Research for autism research translation. We also teamed up with Big4 Melbourne Holiday Park, and Emma Watkins (aka the Yellow Wiggle!) and launched a social script for autistic Big4 guests and their families.
In December the Victorian Government launched a five year Victorian Autism Plan. Amaze played a critical role in the development of the plan – our CEO Fiona Sharkie is a member of the stakeholder advisory group; our staff facilitated workshops, and provided expert advice on developing the plan.
Throughout the year, our staff facilitated many events in the community.
Over the past 18 months we have made four policy submissions: assistive technology and the NDIS; think markets in the NDIS; accessible building codes; and the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health. We further ensured the needs of autistic people were conveyed through our membership on 14 government advisory groups and committees, including the NDIS Autism Advisory Group, Victorian Education Strategy Advisory Group, and the NDIS CEO Forum. We also met with Members of Parliament at both a State and Federal level.
We engaged with media on topics including education, complex needs and employment. This resulted in coverage from major media outlets including Nine News, Mamamia, ABC, Sydney Morning Herald, and Sky News. We also released Talking About Autism, an information kit for journalists.
Our autistic staff wrote on topics including identity language and autistic pride day. Prue Stevenson, one of our autistic consultants, appeared with Emma Wiggle for the Big4 launch, and spoke alongside tennis champion Dylan Alcott at an ANZ event for International Day of People with Disability. She also featured in a 20 minute Perspective Shift episode on SBS.
And to finish off the year we invited autistic people, parents (some of whom were also autistic), and health professionals who have contacted our Autism Advisor service to share their stories in a video we released this week. We would like to thank all the participants and filmmakers Rah Dakota and Hayden Somerville for working with us on this project. Watch it below.