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Government’s National Autism Strategy could help foster neurodiverse workplaces

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

The government has released a draft of the National Autism Strategy, outlining key reforms to support autistic Australians. These reforms could help foster more neuro-friendly workplaces.

In Australia, the unemployment rate for people with autism is 31.6 per cent, three times the rate of people with disability and around seven times the rate of people without disability. Meanwhile, 53.9 per cent would like to be working more hours than they currently do.

The proportion of Aussies living with autism is increasing each year. This has been attributed to the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), making diagnosis easier.


Australia has some of the highest rates of autism in the world, and the growth is steeper than in many other countries. The prevalence is reportedly around double that of Canada, 1.6 times the US and around 2.5 times higher than the United Kingdom.

“Incentives in government policy, specifically the NDIS, is the key factor unique to the Australian context and potentially explains the additional growth in Australian prevalence,” said NDIS senior actuary Maathu Ranjan.

The growing number of diagnosed autistic Australians prompts the need for intervention at a government level. The upcoming National Autism Strategy will address many of the challenges faced by people living with autism.

A major area of concern is unemployment and underemployment. In fact, a 2019 study revealed that 75 per cent of Australians believe autistic people struggle to gain employment.

Workplaces could do more to accommodate autistic employees. Seventy per cent of people surveyed believe employers should make adjustments for autistic employees, 21 per cent would be more likely to shop at a supermarket with a proactive policy of employing autistic people, and 24 per cent would expect to receive training about autism if one of their colleagues was autistic. However, one in five said they would be very/concerned if an autistic person was appointed as their boss.

Breaking down stigmas surrounding autism is a great first step towards inclusivity. With autism affecting one in 100 children worldwide and, in Australia, numbers growing every year, the need for intervention has never been greater.

This is where the National Autism Strategy has a chance to create real change across Australia. According to the government, autistic people are nearly seven times more likely to be unemployed, have a life expectancy 20 years less than the general population, and have a higher risk of homelessness.

ASPL Group chief executive Kris Grant commented on the potential of this strategy: “This data underscores the disparity in across various domains such as health, education, employment, and community engagement for autistic individuals, highlighting the urgency for a strategic step forward in advancing equality and support for autistic individuals.”

“When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, neurodiverse individuals bring a wealth of unique talents to the workforce, fostering innovation and productivity. Studies reveal that their heightened attention to detail, creative problem-solving skills, and preference for structured environments significantly contribute to workplace success. Accommodating their diverse needs, such as flexible work arrangements and clear communication, is essential to harnessing their full potential.”



Disability is a persistent condition that limits an employee's capacity to carry out routine tasks. It refers to anything permanent or likely to be permanent, may be chronic or episodic, is attributable to intellectual, mental, or physical impairment, and is likely to require continuous support services.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.