Autism advocacy group welcomes Victorian Autism Education Strategy
The long-awaited release of Australia’s first dedicated Autism Education Strategy received praise from an autism advocacy group, saying that the program will greatly improve existing educational programmes for people living with autism.
Amaze, a support group for autistic people and their families in Victoria, has been calling for a specific targeted strategy for autistic students to improve their education experience and outcomes and is pleased to work closely with government to help shape and inform the Victorian Autism Education Strategy.
Fiona Sharkie, CEO of Amaze, stated that all eyes are on Victoria with the introduction of this Australian first and its importance.
“Every autistic child has the right to be welcomed, supported, accepted and have the opportunity to thrive at their school,” Sharkie said.
“For the past four years, Amaze has been advocating for big education reform to deliver a fairer and inclusive education system for autistic students. Today’s announcement is a great first step on an important journey to achieve the long-awaited aspiration of true inclusion for autistic students,” she said.
According to Amaze, around one third of autistic students do not make it past Year 10, with many leaving school even earlier. Sharkie said the Victorian Autism Education Strategy “should make a significant and meaningful difference for every autistic child and young person in Victoria’s government school system.”
“Amaze, and the Victorian autistic community, would like to see clear indicators and targets to measure success of this important strategy. By 2024, a key indicator that the Strategy is ‘successful’ is a substantial increase in the number of autistic students completing Year 12 and moving into work or further study,” Sharkie said.
More importantly, families want to see an end to schools discouraging and refusing enrolment of their autistic children, and for unfair suspensions and punitive practices to be a thing of the past.
The Strategy is underpinned by the Disability Inclusion: Education for All package announced in last week’s Victorian State Budget. Central to the package is the reform of the Program for Students with Disability which provides individual funding for their support at school, plus a new funding allocation for schools build their skills and support for support students with a disability who don’t qualify for individual funding.
The majority of autistic students in mainstream government schools fall into this category, and now stand to benefit from new funding for schools to better support them. In total, these new initiatives will double the number of students with disability receiving extra support at school, as well as significant investment in development of school leaders and staff to create a holistic, inclusive education environment.
“Amaze looks forward to continuing its work with the Victorian Government and the community in 2020 and beyond, to ensure Education Minister James Merlino’s promise of ‘education for all, where all means all’ is achieved,” Sharkie said.