The Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, has honoued Amaze, the peak body for people on the autism spectrum and their supporters in Victoria, with the 2018 Public Advocate's Award.
Ms Pearce presented Amaze CEO Fiona Sharkie and Amaze Chair Judy Brewer, AO, with the award at a special ceremony held at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on Thursday, 28 June.
The Public Advocate's Award was initiated in 2010 to recognise organisations for their work with Victorians with disability or mental Illness, or who are otherwise vulnerable.
Previous recipients include Scope, VALID, Carers Victoria and the Summer Foundation.
Ms Pearce noted Amaze’s stated purpose included wanting every person on the autism spectrum to have the opportunity to exercise their own choice to participate meaningfully in, and make a valued contribution to, our society.
"This is a beautiful goal and matches well with OPA’s commitment to safeguarding and advocating for the human rights of people with disability," Ms Pearce said.
"The rollout of the NDIS has exposed how much unmet need there is for people with this condition."
According to the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers by Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 164,000 Australians with autism in 2015. This was a 42 per cent increase on the previous survey in 2012.
Other findings included:
- more than 3/4 of those with autism were young (aged 5-24 years)
- almost 2/3 of those with autism had profound or severe disability
- almost 3/4 of those with autism needed help with cognitive and emotional tasks
- almost of half of those with autism needed help with communication
- just 41 per cent of people with autism participated in the workforce, compared with 83 per cent of people with no reported disability.
"Amaze has been a leader in promoting the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention for people with autism, and linking families to services.," Ms Pearce said.
"Research has shown that the earlier a diagnosis of autism can be made, the earlier evidence based autism-specific early intervention can commence, maximising outcomes for children, adolescents and adults, and increasing the developmental trajectory across their lifetime."
As part of the award, Ms Pearce presented Amaze with a painting by Geelong artist Adrian Segon who received the 2017 Public Advocate Art Prize.
"Adrian is a lived example of someone with autism who has been able to exercise his own choice to participate meaningfully in, and make a valued contribution to, our society," Ms Pearce said. "I am delighted to present Amaze with an example of his work."