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Aspect Recognition Awards Honour Agents of Change in 15th Annual Ceremony

9 April 2021

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Elise Muller is described as a ‘driving force for the Autistic community’, and one of Australia’s leading ‘change makers’ in autism. As a proud First Nations Australian, Autistic and part of the LGBQTIA+ community, Muller has overcome significant difficulties, adversities, bullying and hardship during her school age years to become a dual-elite athlete, qualified teacher’s aide and founder of Active Support – a social enterprise organisation for people with a disability who are at risk.

Muller also co-created the first-ever, person-first autism course with Torrens University and met with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Harry and Meghan to discuss inclusion of people with a disability in sport and schools. And last night, she was honoured with the Autism Community Award at Annual Aspect Recognition Awards ceremony, and the first recipient to win two Awards, having previously been acknowledged in 2015 as the national inspiration for Individual Achievement.

Now in its 15th year, the Aspect Recognition Awards celebrates the strengths and aspirations of exceptional people in the autism community. About 100 people attended the evening which saw seven awards presented to individuals, families, carers, and professionals whose efforts, passions or projects call attention to or tackle issues facing the autism community.

“The 2021 Aspect Recognition Awards aim to celebrate the incredible achievements happening within our autism community,” said Jacqui Borland, Aspect CEO.

“This year we saw extraordinary people acknowledged for educating, advocating, and endeavouring to make the Autistic community more inclusive and stronger.

“Their work, often born from their own experiences and understanding, has an enormous impact on those it touches. I would like to acknowledge all of the recipients and nominees for their remarkable efforts,” Ms Borland said.

Muller wasn’t the only agent of change recognised on the evening. Brother and sister duo, Lachlan and Alyssa Bolger have travelled around Western Australia over the past five years, explaining their lived experience of autism to school-aged children to foster inclusion, understanding and acceptance. They also established a budding business designing and making sensory toys.

Similarly, proud Worimi woman, Tanika Davis, is addressing the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with children on the spectrum after identifying the lack of culturally appropriate support and resources for First Nations communities.

This year also saw the first-ever, ARCAP research award created to acknowledge research that has been translated into respectful, effective autism practices that support Autistic people and their families and carers to realise their strengths, goals and aspirations.

For nearly 40 years, Dr. Jill Ashburner has conducted research that aids the lives of those on the autism spectrum, including sensory processing practices and the written expression challenges of students on the autism spectrum. She also implemented Research and Practice seminars to assist practitioners to learn about the research and how to implement it.

“All of our award recipients – from Autistic parents, Anna Cristina, and Orion Kelly - to organisations, such as Australian Museum and Autistic educators and advocates, such as Barb Cook – give selflessly of their time to educate the wider community about the impacts of autism and how we can all be inclusive.

“They all deserve equal recognition this evening.” concluded Ms Borland.

The Aspect Recognition Awards celebrate World Autism Awareness Month by recognising the achievements of the autism and Autistic communities in Australia.

The 2021 Aspect Recognition Award recipients include:

  • David Foster Appreciation Award – Anna Cristina – an Autistic parent and co-founder of The Autistic Realm Australia (TARA) for her dedication of service to provide education and understanding and support for people on the spectrum.
  • Autism Community Award – Elise Muller – for her extraordinary achievements and leadership in the sporting, education and social enterprise to assist the Autistic and disability communities.
  • Autism Friendly Achievement Award – Australian Museum – recognising the need for a more accessible and inclusive experience for visitors, regardless of ability, identity, age or background, Australian Museum undertook assessments to ensure the Museum was more autism friendly, which included a free, Early Bird, sensory-friendly program, which is supported by visual stories and trained staff.
  • Parent/Carer of the Year Award – Tanika Davis – a proud Worimi Woman, and founder of The I Am, Movement provide culturally appropriate support and resources, such as flash cards designed with Aboriginal artwork, which is engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on the autism spectrum in learning numbers, letters and emotions.
  • ARCAP Research Award – Dr Jill Ashburner – has dedicated 40 years of her work to improving the life outcomes for people on the autism spectrum, which includes conducting research into sensory processing, inclusive practices, the use of remote technologies to assist rural communities, and the practices and development of occupational therapy.
  • a different brilliant® Award (Youth) – Alyssa and Lachlan Bolger – have travelled around Western Australia talking to neurotypical, school-aged students to help them understand what life on the autism spectrum is like, established a Lego Club, and started a business creating sensory toys with the proceeds being donated to multiple charities.
  • a different brilliant® Award (Adult) – Barb Cook and Orion Kelly - Both Cook and Kelly were diagnosed late in life and have used their strengths and talents in communications to empower people with knowledge about autism and help raise awareness for people on the autism spectrum.

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