Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) has been successful in receiving $8.2 million from the NSW Government’s WestInvest Fund to build a first-of-its kind community connection hub in Liverpool, having identified a significant need for autism-specific services in the area, due to long waitlists for both autism assessments and therapy services.
In January, it was announced Aspect was also successful in receiving $5 million from the NSW Government’s WestInvest Fund to build a new 2-storey, state-of-the-art primary school in Box Hill.
“We are thrilled to be able to further invest and expand our services in the Liverpool and Hills Shire LGAs. The fact that we have been successful with both submissions is a demonstration of the NSW Government’s confidence in our ability to deliver on our commitments and to provide vital services to people on the autism spectrum.
“The funding allows for us to focus on a core enabler of the Aspect strategic plan, which is to lay the foundations to equip Autistic people to thrive in life by providing pathways that support them to develop the right skills and capabilities. We applaud the Government’s commitment to addressing the needs of both of these growing communities,” says Jacqui Borland, CEO of Aspect.
The Community Connection Hub will include an assessment clinic, therapy rooms, multi-purpose spaces which can cater for group programs and social activities, educational workshops for learning life skills and job seeking, and an all-inclusive sensory playground catering for the physical needs of participants, as well as an undercover outdoor recreational space.
The centre will be co-designed with people on the autism spectrum to create an inclusive, autism-friendly and safe space where services can be accessed, to build independence, emotional resilience and physical wellbeing, as well as establishing positive connections within the wider community.
Rachel Kerslake, National Director, Individual & Community Services, Aspect, states:
“Our vision for the Community Connection Hub is an incubator for change, building community understanding of neurodiversity and the autism spectrum, while providing an inclusive and social place to access services and support in order to improve the quality of life outcomes for people on the autism spectrum, their families, and carers within the Western Sydney region.
“The purpose-built centre will set a new benchmark for future autism specific hubs in other regions within Australia, and aims to drive change on how services for people with a disability are provided.
“Following Covid-19, our community is yearning for more connectedness. We hope that providing a community centre will enable Autistic individuals and their support network to connect and socialise, and develop friendships and belonging in the community. This centre will also encourage engagement with the wider community, develop individuals’ confidence and provide long-term, transformative mental, physical and social benefits minimising economic impacts and pressures on other support systems,” adds Kerslake.
Aspect has been providing autism-specific education and therapy services for over 50 years. According to NDIS figures approximately 2,600 individuals identify as Autistic in the Western Sydney region and require tailored services and social support infrastructure. Currently it is estimated 1 in 70 Australians are diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
“We look forward to continuing to be a part of the Western Sydney community and providing much-needed services,” concludes Kerslake.