Government mental disorder report ignores autism

Dear Prime Minister

The Health Department's recent report on The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents in Australia does not once mention autism. In this respect, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia regards the report as negligent. The report was signed off by the Health Minister.

Autism is a growing issue for Governments in Australia since:

  •     by 2015, over 2% of Australian children were formally diagnosed autistic
  •     the number of autistic children is growing at a substantial rate … at least doubling every 5 years.
  •     autism is the biggest primary disability in the NDIS and the NDIA's plan and projections (and budgets) omit observed growth in numbers.
  •     education and employment outcomes for autistic people are abysmal.

Note also that on 23-2-2011, the Health Department wrote:

The [Health] Department does not collect data on autism prevalence. The Department is not aware of any evidence of any major shifts in prevalence of autism in Australia.
see http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content....pdf

Despite years of data (see http://a4.org.au/prevalence2015) from the Government's own Helping Children with Autism package, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and from Centrelink's Carer Allowance database being available, the NDIA seriously underestimated the number of autistic people who would be eligible for NDIS Tier 3 funding. The NDIA has not properly/adequately engaged with autism-related stakeholders. This resulted in serious problems in the South Australian NDIS trial.

Governments, professional bodies and many disability service providers in Australia fail to recognise and address the behavioural needs of many autistic people … see Behavioural needs of autistic Australians must be met. Mishandling of behavioural issues in Australia received international condemnation (see https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2016/co...).

The Commonwealth Government had a program for Disability Peak Bodies, but it never directly funded a national peak body for autism.

Since your Party came to office, none of the Ministers responsible for disability has agreed to meet with Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, the national grassroots organisation representing autistic people in Australia.

The Government, especially its Health Department, cannot ignore the existence of autism and plan services and supports for people with disability and mental illness effectively. Will you address any of these oversights?

Yours sincerely
Bob Buckley
Convenor, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia

6/2/2016


Out of courtesy, a copy of the email was sent to: Bill Shorten, Minister.Ley@health.gov.au, Catherine.King.MP@aph.gov.au, senator.katy.gallagher@aph.gov.au