South Australia Appoints The First Ever Minister For Autism

"After years of advocacy by the autism community ... I can tell you, this government is listening."

autism south australia

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South Australia has made history by appointing the country’s first ever minister for autism.

Assistant Minister to state Premier Peter Malinauskas, Emily Bourke, has now added Assistant Minister for Autism to her portfolio.

Malinauskas said he created the new role to prioritise the neurodevelopmental condition in terms of policy and representation.

“My ambition is that South Australia is the national leader when it comes to people who are from the neurodiverse community, we want to be a policy leader when it comes to engaging with people who have autism,” said the Premier on Monday.

“We have made major commitments with the aim of implementing a whole-of-government autism inclusion strategy, starting with our schools.”

South Australia is also pushing ahead with its election promise to invest nearly $30 million for autism lead teachers, boost the number of autism-qualified preschool staff, as well as speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and counsellors in public schools, according to SBS News.

“Education is the great equaliser — so that’s where we’re going to start,” said Bourke in an interview with the ABC. “There are a lot of kids not finishing school who are autistic. They’re getting through to Year 10, and often not getting any further.”

“We need to change this because if we don’t provide these opportunities for every individual child and student to reach their potential, then we don’t have the opportunity for them to go into the workforce after as well.”

Additionally, Bourke will set up the Autism Education Advisory Group, and oversee a new state autism strategy within the state disability plan.

Bourke does not have lived experience with autism, but said the Malinauskas Government has has been in frequent, open dialogue with autism awareness groups.

“After years of advocacy by the autism community … I can tell you, this government is listening. And we have heard you,” she said.