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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14984


Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (10:12): April is World Autism Month. Autism affects one in 58 children. As a matter of fact, 85 per cent of Australians diagnosed with autism are under the age of 25. That's why it's important that, as a society, we better understand and certainly encourage those diagnosed with autism and give them all the help and assistance they need to reach their full potential.

My Western Sydney electorate of Fowler is, as you know, Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, incredibly diverse. It's very colourful and very vibrant. However, my electorate is also over-represented with people with a disability, and, in particular, families that live with autism. As a matter of fact, more than half of all families living in New South Wales with autism live within a 20-kilometre radius of the Liverpool CBD.

Being one of the most multicultural communities in Australia means that families in my community often struggle to access and fully understand the services available to them. Raising a child with autism certainly requires incredible patience and persistence. Sadly, 80 per cent of families that live with autism are single-parent families. Clearly the impact of raising a child with autism undoubtedly adds incredible stress to relationships. That's why we must work towards cultivating a community founded on acceptance and understanding to better ensure that those with autism are not limited or defined by their diagnosis.

My grandson Nathaniel is on the spectrum, and I very much understand the challenges faced by these families. Nathaniel is an incredibly bright and able person, he's someone I'm extremely proud of, and it gives me reassurance that those with autism can achieve great things if they are offered the right support.

I'm proud to say that the Autism Advisory and Support Service in Liverpool is a great source of comfort to families not only in my community but across the state. It operates a 24/7 service and supports families in desperate need. Grace Fava, who only recently received the Order of Australia, founded the AASS. She often sees families who are at their wits' end and in dire need of help. She supports families struggling to access support through agencies like the NDIS and those feeling let down by the system. Like her organisation, we should all be working towards building a community that ensures that those with autism are accepted in the normal fabric of our society, without prejudice, without limitations, and can, like the rest of us, reach their full potential.