The Victorian autism plan (the plan) was launched in December 2019. It sets out actions to create a more inclusive, accessible and safer Victoria where autistic people have greater opportunities to participate and contribute to our community.
This refresh is part of a commitment to review the plan at the midway point. It aims to ensure the plan continues to reflect and respond to emerging policy challenges and opportunities.
The refresh is not a second, new plan. It is a systematic examination of the original plan. We assessed the progress made, currency of actions and areas of opportunity. The refresh is a strengthened plan to improve outcomes for autistic Victorians.
The objective and vision of the refreshed plan are the same as in the original plan:
An inclusive Victoria where autistic people enjoy lives with real opportunities for choice, participation and contribution within our community.
The plan has four pillars, aligned with the pillars of Inclusive Victoria:
- inclusive communities
- health housing and wellbeing
- fairness and safety
- opportunity and pride (previously ‘contributing lives’).
The Autism Plan Advisory Group (Advisory Group) is an external group of experts who have been central to the refresh process. The Advisory Group comprises people from autism-led organisations and other relevant autism and disability organisations.
The Advisory Group also helped us develop the original plan. They understand the context of the plan and have a contemporary understanding of autistic inclusion and participation.
We heard about how the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) affected autistic people. The Advisory Group emphasised the importance of accountability and measurement, as well as:
- early identification, intervention, and connection to supports
- timely and improved access to health and mental health supports
- inclusive education and open employment pathways
- research, data and evaluation.
The Advisory Group also raised the centrality of peer-to-peer support, providing autistic people with opportunities to draw resilience, wellbeing, connection and capacity from each other. Related to this is the need for increased autism advocacy support.
These areas of focus were important touch points through the refresh process, informing the Advisory Group’s discussions with government departments.
The refreshed plan also looks at progress against the original plan. We have completed some actions. We have replaced, reframed or reinforced others and introduced new actions in order to capture investment, effect policy reform or develop service systems.
Consistent with the original plan, the refreshed plan focuses on inclusion. In relation to access and participation, actions include:
- changing community attitudes and promoting the value of social and economic inclusion of autistic people
- increasing the safety and wellbeing of autistic people using public transport
- ensuring sport and recreation programs and spaces are inclusive and appropriate for autistic people
- improving autistic people’s participation and employment in the creative industries.
In relation to health, housing and wellbeing, actions include:
- increasing access to autism assessment, diagnosis and early intervention
- supporting autistic Victorians to access COVID-19 assessment, treatment, testing and vaccines
- improving mental health outcomes for people with disability
- the need for national research that explores current assessment biases of assessment tools used by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
In relation to fairness and safety, actions build on lessons learned from the pandemic, such as:
- involving autistic people in emergency management planning
- taking a proactive approach to providing accessible communications during emergencies
- supporting frontline correctional staff through training, information and access to specialist staff for advice
- the need to work more closely with the NDIA to better support people, including autistic people, in the justice system.
In relation to opportunity and pride, actions include:
- improving the learning and wellbeing outcomes of autistic students through the Autism Education Strategy
- strengthening individualised support for autistic students participating in Vocational Education and Training
- continuing to increase employment of autistic Victorians.
The refresh has reinforced a recognition of the diversity of autistic people, evolving understandings of autism and the importance of using an intersectional approach in the development, implementation and evaluation of policies, programs and services.
The input of autistic people will continue to be invaluable as the refreshed autism plan is implemented. A focus will be on ensuring the plan remains relevant and responsive to emerging evidence and advice from people with lived experience about strategies to achieve the plan’s vision.