House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018


What's Your Superpower?

7:35 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have some very special guests in the gallery tonight. Laura Lewis and Deborah Oxtoby are two incredible advocates for people with autism in our community. Hi, Deb. Hi, Laura. Hi, Jeff. They flew down from Brisbane to be here tonight. I hope this speech can do justice to the amazing work that you do and to the difference that you're making to so many people's lives.

This year Laura and Deb started a social group for children with autism. The What's Your Superpower? group meets every Friday night at Waterloo Bay Leisure Centre. In just one month they grew to over 100 members. They're growing faster by the day, and when you hear their members' stories and how much the group has helped them it's easy to see why.

I first met Laura at one of my weekend mobile offices. The thing that strikes you most when you talk to her is just how passionate she is about the work that she's doing. Laura's oldest son, Clay, has autism spectrum disorder. She recently shared a beautiful piece that she wrote on her blog about the struggle that she's been through since Clay's diagnosis. I would read the whole thing here, if I had enough time. It's called 'To feel like you belong'. I encourage everyone listening to give it a read. About the What's Your Superpower? group Laura says:

I met my peers and we could just look at each other and understand.

What a touching line that says everything about this wonderful group. It's not just about giving children the chance to hang out with other people just like them and it's not just about giving their families a space to socialise without being judged; it's about helping others understand—really understand—that people with autism aren't so different. Deb told me the group breaks down barriers and encourages acceptance. That's why I'm so happy to be here tonight speaking on their behalf and getting their good word out.

Laura's son, Clay, is a great example of a person with autism overcoming barriers. After he struggled to find part-time work after school, Clay started his own bin-cleaning business. It's been a roaring success. He's in great demand in the Bayside area. The glowing reviews on the Clay Needs No Moulding Facebook page all point to what a professional, hardworking young man he is. I'm pleased to say the tight-knit Bayside community has thrown their support behind What's Your Superpower?

Deb told me that, after Clay's story ran in the local paper, some local businesses approached their group to ask them what they could do to help. It really highlights the importance of what this group is doing. Laura and Deb started What's Your Superpower? to give kids with autism and their families a place to have fun and be themselves on Friday nights. Now they're looking to inspire others across Australia to start their own groups. What's Your Superpower? has helped reduce social isolation for these children, raise awareness in the community and bring local businesses and local representatives like me in to bat for them. If you're in the Brisbane area, you're welcome to join them. Or, if you can, start your own group with other like-minded parents. You can also spread the conversation and advocate for greater support for people with autism.

The government is also doing its part, with two very important announcements on the weekend. We've announced the new Autism Advisory Group made up of autism experts, service providers and people with autism. This group will advise the NDIA on autism and how to deliver the best outcomes for people with autism. We've also announced $7.8 million in funding to fix six autism-specific early learning and care centre to stay open until 2020 and continue to provide intensive support to children with autism. Thanks, Laura. Thanks to you, Deb, and to your husband, Jeff, for being here tonight. There are great things ahead for What's Your Super Power? I look forward to seeing the group and its members thrive into the future.


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