Representatives from the autism community (A4, the Australian Autism Alliance, Amaze and ASfAR) met productively with officials from the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care on 1/8/2022. Prior to meeting, the group provided a Brief that contained information and issues of concern (see below).
The meeting discussed the Government’s election commitment to develop the National Autism Strategy (NAS) and the Department’s anticipated role in developing "a National Roadmap to specifically target health and mental health outcomes" for people with autism. The development of the Autism Roadmap will acknowledge that the number of people with an autism diagnosis is increasing significantly and that autistic Australians need improved health and mental health outcomes.
It was clear that development of the NAS and the Autism Roadmap should address:
- recommendations from the Senate Select Committee on Autism and the Disability Royal Commission reports.
- the mental health of autistic citizens specifically. A project involving funding for autism and mental health from the 2021-22 federal budget started in May 2022; Health officials intend to report to the autism community on its progress.
- further review of government support for autism diagnosis.
- autistic employees as well as autistic patients in the capability framework across the nation's health sector.
- the significant variability in diagnosis rates for autism, not just between ages and gender, but geographically between states and territories.
The meeting agreed that co-design of the National Autism Roadmap in the health sector is crucial. Health officials suggested that the consultation model used for the development of Health's ID Roadmap demonstrated a good approach to community engagement, and could be adopted for this project. Health officials committed to engaging initially through the Australian Autism Alliance to discuss the co-design process, and how we can design a process for best outcomes in the 12 month project period. There is opportunity to ensure the needs of the diverse autistic stakeholder group are captured in the development of the Roadmap (First Nations People, parents who are also autistic, people who can’t represent themselves – noting 40 % of autistic people have communication difficulties).
Bob (from A4) expressed concern that, given so many autistic people also have ID, the autism community should have been included in developing Health's ID Roadmap. For this reason, he suggests the development of Health's ID Roadmap was not an especially "good approach". He is also wary of expending effort defining co-design rather than getting on with the NAS, an Autism Roadmap and programs that improve health and mental health outcomes for autistic Australians.
Health officials will address the issues raised in our meeting (and the associated Briefs) via relevant parts of their organisation and operations.
The representative group from the autism community highlighted that future projects for autistic Australians must involve the autism community in co-design, and is pleased that co-design of the Roadmap for Improving the Health and Mental Health of Autistic Australians will have widespread engagement of the autism community.
The previous communiqué is here.