What a relief that Spring is upon us! It is especially welcomed by us Victorians who have had to endure Stage 4 restrictions due to the second wave of COVID-19. At OTARC, as elsewhere, families have been hit particularly hard with juggling care and home schooling their children, including autistic children, and work. COVID has also claimed a pioneer of autism research, and inaugural Chair of our Advisory Committee, Professor Margot Prior, who is sorely missed. You can read our obituary about an amazing leader, mentor and friend, who leaves an impressive legacy for us to uphold.
Senate Inquiry Into Autism
The Senate Committee Inquiry into services, support and life outcomes for autistic people is now underway to which OTARC made a submission, which you can read about in more detail below. Our Vice Chancellor, Professor John Dewar, and I had the pleasure of meeting with the Senate Committee Chair, Senator Hollie Hughes. Being a mum of an autistic teen, it was clear that Senator Hughes felt the relevant issues keenly, and which are so in need of being addressed. Having also participated in the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Autism in 2016, I am hopeful that the learnings from the latter initiative will be leveraged to take us even further than the 101 recommendations put forward in the report (PDF of report here ). Sadly, as with most things, the Victorian Autism State Plan appears to have lost traction, another casualty of Covid-19. Hopefully this will be revived in the not-too-distant future.
As Vice President of the International Society for Autism Research, I have been attending the annual INSAR Strategic Planning meeting which was meant to be held in Washington DC. Instead, the meeting is being held virtually, just like every other meeting since March 2020! We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the Black Lives Matter initiative, and how best to increase the number of Black autism scientists around the world, and to also increase diversity more generally. We have, thankfully, seen an increase in global participation at INSAR, a necessary first step. In my role, I am Board Liaison for a number of Committees, including the Autistic Researchers Committee who had their first event (also online) with over 150 participants, another recent achievement of INSAR. Below you will read about the achievement of one of our own autistic researchers who made the finals for the La Trobe 3-minute thesis competition. Congratulations Beth!
ASfAR Virtual Conference in December
In light of the New Zealand-Australia travel bubble not progressing, the Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR) biennial conference will now be held virtually in early December. There will be good representation from OTARC at this meeting. I have been Vice President of ASfAR (another initiative of OTARC facilitated by Professor Prior) since its establishment in 2011. I plan to step down from this position at the AGM which will be held during the conference. We will bring you another newsletter following this meeting, where I can hopefully share with you the success of our first virtual ASfAR Conference.