March 19th, 2021
A few months ago I was formally appointed as the first openly autistic director on the Board of Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), Australia’s largest autism-specific service provider. Autistic representation on the board of an organisation whose business is providing services to autistic people and their families is important, but it’s just one level of governance in which Aspect has been working in recent years to better engage, and listen to, the perspectives, needs and aspirations of the community it serves.
Historically, many of Australia’s major disability service providers were founded by groups of parents with a common goal of providing the best supports they could for their children. Small groups of parents have grown into large organisations with hundreds of staff members providing a range of different services. Working with families is generally a common and continuous thread in those journeys, but the direct and genuine involvement of disabled people is far less universal.
So given the rich and varied histories these kinds of organisations have had, how do you then start to work towards bringing the people who are arguably your most direct and important stakeholders into the conversation in a meaningful way?