Autism group has “no confidence” in ACT Government

Media Release

Members of Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD) passed a no confidence motion (see in

  • Ms Joy Burch, Minister for Education and Minister for Disability; and

  • the ACT Government.

SOfASD advocates for autistic people in the ACT, including students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

SOfASD members lost confidence in the Minister who claims recent abuse of an autistic student in an ACT school is an “isolated incident” and was the actions of "one individual" (see or There are repeated reports of the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner saying this is not an isolated incident (see here, here and here). The ASD community in Canberra is aware of numerous “incidents” but lacks faith in the ACT Government's ability to address them.

Senate Committees do not inquire into an “isolated incident”. The Senate Education and Employment Committee, currently inquiring into students with disability in the school system (see here), was told of other events like the ACT Minister's so-called “isolated incident” (see here and here).

Some autistic students refuse to go to school because of how they were treated (see ACT School Refusal Attendance Report).

Many autistic children need clinical behaviour support but the ACT Government has a long standing policy of not using behavioural science, or Applied Behaviour Analysis, to address risky or challenging behaviour in autistic children in the ACT (see ACT Government on behaviour management/support for ASD). The Government mislead the Assembly. To our knowledge, the Government never corrected the record … nor apologised for misleading it.

The ACT Government's Therapy Assistant Program and various other services do not support autistic students with behaviour challenges. Autistic students are excluded from this and other disability services programs – their needs are not addressed.

A desperate and inappropriate action from one individual is a very predictable response to the broken system that is administered by the Education Directorate and is the Minister's responsibility.

The ACT Government brought together an Expert Panel, but the ACT Government's panel are the very people responsible for training teachers, who advised on the ACT education system and who monitor services for children in the ACT. They are the architects of the system that they are now reviewing. They are not independent. This is a very clear conflict of interest.

SOfASD members have no confidence in the ACT Government's review process into this matter. The Government is already filling a position (see; apparently, it is not even waiting for the outcome of its Expert Panel review. The position does not require qualification or experience in behavioural science … and the job does not involve direct help for autistic students.

The Minister is using the Expert Panel as an excuse for not engaging with stakeholders until its too late: she already decided the outcome. Apparently, she hopes this latest publicity firestorm has passed.

Some members of the ACT community who are affected by ASD have expressed “no confidence” in the Minister and the ACT Government over these matters, which is something politicians themselves are unlikely to achieve.

Bob Buckley,
Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder