The Autism and Agriculture Program
The Autism and Agriculture Program was a world-first initiative of SunPork Farms and Autism CRC to employ autistic individuals in piggeries. The program was developed as a pilot which could then be evaluated and modified for use within the agriculture industry. In conjunction with Specialisterne Australia, the autism-specific program was developed and trialled in two SunPork piggeries – one in Queensland and one in South Australia. The program led to the employment of seven autistic employees in Queensland, and nine in South Australia.
The program was evaluated using interviews, focus groups and surveys with autistic employees, co-workers, mentors of autistic employees, supervisors/managers of autistic employees, unsuccessful candidates, and families/carers of autistic employees. The evaluation findings demonstrate the program was largely successful. Elements that worked well and elements that could be improved were identified in the following areas: recruitment; training; supervision and management; how the work role was designed and described; how to sustain employment; and independent living.