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Increased employment support needed for autistic Australians

It is estimated there are over 200,000 autistic Australians. Autism is a complex, lifelong condition that begins in early childhood, with wide-ranging characteristics including difficulty in communicating and interacting socially, and highly focused or repetitive behaviour.1

These characteristics are just some of the contributing factors that have led to only 38% of autistic people who are working age (15 – 64 years of age) being part of the Australian labour force1 yet leading employment agency atWork Australia says it doesn’t have to be this way. Currently, research shows:

  • Around 3 in 10 autistic Australians are unable to work due to their disability;

  • The remaining 7 in 10 can face difficulties finding a preferred job, experience restrictions on the type of job available to them or require regular supervision and assistance;

  • The median income of those who live with disability, including those who are autistic compared to those who aren’t, is half. 2

atWork Australia client, Will Sawyer, who is autistic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has received support to build his capabilities and confidence and is now working full-time.

Having worked in a number of roles, Will sought advice and practical support to help him find more sustainable, long-term employment. “I really struggled to get into the workforce, especially with some of the barriers I face as a neurodivergent person. At times, my ADHD made me feel like applying for jobs was an impossible task – I didn’t know where to start,” said Will.

Structured support assisted Will to develop his confidence speaking to managers and develop strategies to better manage his ADHD at work. Will now works full-time as a Customer Service Representative, assisting with social media and customer enquiries for a large organisation. “This job is another step in the right direction for me and hopefully will get me one step closer to my goal of starting my own business, it’s a really supportive workplace, and I work with some really great people.” continued Will.

As someone with lived experience, Will is passionate about empowering neurodivergent individuals, “I hope to see more spaces for neurodivergent people in employment settings where they can thrive,” said Will.

Will, and the support he received, is an example of how the Federal Government's recent announcement of funding for Brisbane's Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) can provide advice and resources for prospective employers to better support autistic Australians. For people like Will, this can mean a better understanding of their capabilities and how to set employment goals that are right for them.

It is vital that we collaborate with community networks so our clients can receive the best support on their journey into employment. atWork Australia are here to help build people's confidence and work collaboratively with clients to find creative solutions so everyone can find employment that is right for them.

To find out more about atWork Australia’s support services, please visit:


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings methodology. ABS.

  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). Autism in Australia. Retrieved from

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