Autism policy in the 2010 Tasmanian election

Both Liberal and Greens had some autism/ASD specific elements in their policies before the 2010 Tasmanian election.

The ATAC group (see asked a few specific question of the parties and published an advertisement in local papers publicising the positions of the parties (seeƒ/files/adwed17.pdf).

Initially, Tasmanian Labor did not respond. After the advertisement appeared in local newspapers, Labor sent a response (see

Even Labor's late response is very disappointing. It seems that Labor did not understand that the audience for the response was people interested in ASD-related issues, not the general disability sector. They start with comments like ...

"The Bartlett Labor Government remains committed to providing a range of high quality integrated services for all people with a disability, including children with Autism Spectrum Disorders".

Such a response shows that the Tasmanian Labor Party does not appreciate that ASDs are a distinct disability group with distinct needs that governments have to address. It shows that they do not recognise that generic disability services often/usually fail to meet the needs of the rapidly growing group of people with ASD and their families.

Labor's response to Question 1 is "No" but they go on to explain that while they regard screening for 10 or 12 other condition to be important, they will not screen for ASD. This is not a message the ASD community is looking for.

Response to Question 2 is "No". Again, the response goes on to demonstrate their limited understanding and to say they want GPs to treat autism, a model that is not based on evidence and is not know to work anywhere in the world as far as I am aware.

Their answer to Question 3 is "No". Again, rather the essential ASD services, Labor says it will limit services to generic disability services that either are known to not work for people with ASD or are not known to work for people with ASD (and experience indicates that generic services are rarely appropriate or effective for people with ASD).

Question 4, "No" again. Labor should have asked itself Why would the ASD community be asking about this if "a range of services provided through both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education" already met the needs of children with ASD. Labor should be aware that nowhere in the country, including Tasmania, could it be said "education resources support students ... including those with autism". Even if it were true 5 or 10 years ago (which is wasn't), resources have not doubled or quadrupled respectively to meet the growing number of students with ASD. Lies like this just anger the community.

Why mention school psychologists in this context unless their qualifications are ASD specific? Few psychologist in Australia are trained adequately to assess or treat ASD. The initiative does not involve specific ASD training so there will be little or no benefit for students with ASD.

How many students with ASD are there in Catholic and Independent schools? While this funding may well help students with a disability in non-government schools, it is likely to benefit mostly students with disabilities other than ASD.

The response to Question 5 starts out acknowledging there is an issue for ASD, but say it will help people with disabilities generally ... which means that people with ASD are less likely to benefit as much as people with other disabilities.

Question 6 again is "No". Labor will continue schemes that have failed to support ASD organisations adequately. Since people with ASD have pervasive and severe or profound disability, their families lack the capacity to compete for miniscule grants. And they get little benefit from generic services in the community services sector. Labor does not recognise/appreciate the challenges people with ASD and their families face.

Question 7 is irrelevant as Labor in Tasmania has no practical plan to address the needs of people with ASD and their families.

The real challenge here is for Labor in Tasmania to try to understand the needs of the ASD community. If the current growth in ASD numbers continues, it will soon be the biggest disability group. It is shameful that Labor has such a poor understanding of the enormous needs of this extremely vulnerable group of people.

PDF icon ATAC Response.pdf2.91 MB
PDF icon adwed17.pdf20.79 KB