AARC: End of year update and announcements for 2022

29 Nov 2021

We are pleased to announce the release of the latest report from the Australasian Autism Research Council as well as its membership for next year.

Following the release of their last report in April, the AARC members took the remainder of 2021 as an opportunity to reflect on where they’ve come from and where they would like to focus in the future. You can read about these reflections and the AARC’s recent achievements in the AARC 2021 Brief Update.

New members & co-chairs for 2022

We received more than 50 EOIs for AARC membership, including more than 30 from autistic people. The AARC were impressed by both the passion and diversity of applications and found it difficult to decide between so many quality applicants, but we are now able to announce that the AARC has selected 7 new members (for a 2 year term), as well as reappointing 6 of the current members who were up for renomination for an additional year.

“The quality of EOIs was very high and it is an inspiration to read such passion from applicants.” Dr. Wenn Lawson (2018-2021 AARC co-chair)

We are particularly pleased to announce the first AARC members from New Zealand:

  • Helen Fitzgerald – parent and ally for Maori health – Auckland;
  • Gabrielle Hogg – Autistic advocate and Augmented & Alternative Communication (AAC) community representative – Auckland, and;
  • Larah van der Meer – Research and Advocacy Manager, Autism New Zealand – Wellington

As well as the four new Australian members who have also been appointed:

  • Gerard Atkinson – Autistic professional working in policy and program evaluation – VIC;
  • Vivien Leung – Autistic psychologist and Culturally & Linguistically Diverse (CALD) community representative – VIC;
  • Vi Nguyen – parent and advocate for CALD carers and families – NSW, and;
  • Fiona Van Leeuwarden – Autistic clinical health researcher and parent – NSW (regional)

The new members are not the only changes to announce. After being the autistic co-chair of the AARC since its inception Dr. Wenn Lawson (Autistic researcher and parent) has decided to step down from that role but will continue to be part of the AARC. Professor Liz Pellicano (Macquarie University) who has been co-chair at the AARC since January 2020 is stepping down as an AARC member.

We are pleased to let you know that Dr. Melanie Heyworth (founder and CEO of Reframing Autism) and Associate Professor Charlotte Brownlow (University of Southern Queensland) will be leading the AARC as our co-chairs in 2022.

“We thank Wenn and Liz for their exceptional leadership, which has set the AARC up for another productive and exciting year in 2022, and we look forward to working with colleagues in Australia and New Zealand to drive significant change for the Autistic community.” Dr. Melanie Heyworth (2022 AARC co-chair)

They will be joined by continuing members Dr. Emma Goodall (Healthy Possibilities), Malcolm Mayfield (Autism CRC Board & Autism STAR), Rebecca Poulsen (Autistic researcher and parent), Mikala Sedgwick (researcher, parent and Indigenous community representative) & Dr. Lizzie Smith (National Disability Insurance Agency).

The AARC would like to thank and acknowledge the other departing members: Geraldine Robertson (Autistic leader and advocate), Shelly Dival (Enabling Spaces), Pam Macrossan (CEO of Autism Queensland), Travis Saunders (Inclusive Trails) & Katie Koullas (founder & CEO of Yellow Ladybugs). We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Katharine Annear who left the AARC earlier in the year.

Find out more about the AARC