Future Leaders: Empowering autistic adults to explore and develop their leadership skills and networks to positively impact their communities

Future Leaders Program


The Future Leaders Program is Australia’s first holistic leadership capacity-building program for autistic adults. It is designed to empower autistic adults to explore and develop their leadership skills and networks to positively impact their communities. The Future Leaders Program is delivered in partnership with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). 

The Future Leaders Program is for people who are at the beginning of their leadership journey and would benefit from mentoring by established leaders in the autistic community, to build and develop their leadership skills.

Importantly, the program is designed by, and for autistic people to create a positive community of peers who learn from, empower and encourage one another to pursue their goals.

Future Leaders first started in 2013, with the current format first offered in 2018. If you like, you can read more about the history of the program and watch some short videos from our 2018 graduates.

Autism CRC's Sylvia Rodger Academy and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) have both partnered to offer the program in 2019 and 2020.

Applications currently closed

Applications for this Program are currently closed.

To be kept informed of future Programs, and other Programs offered by the Sylvia Rodger Academy, click the link below.

Keep Me Informed

What does being a Future Leader involve?

The 2020 Future Leaders will have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and experience by:

  • completing online training modules (June to August, 2020)
  • attending a 3.5-day/3-night residential workshop in Brisbane (28 to 31 August, 2020)
  • undertaking a 50+ hour voluntary practical experience project (September to December, 2020)
  • being mentored by an autistic leader or Project Team member (September to December, 2020)
  • being part of a community of emerging and established autistic leaders who learn from, encourage and support each other

Future Leaders are required to participate in all of the activities listed above.

More information about each of the activities can be found in our Applicant Information Pack.

There is no cost to participate in the program, and travel and accommodation expenses for the residential workshop will be covered.


  • Future Leaders first started in 2013 and brought together 23 autistic young people aged 18-30 who attended the Asia Pacific Autism Conference and received mentoring and exclusive training sessions. 
  • In 2016, Autism CRC conducted an evaluation of the 2013 program. This involved interviewing some of the graduates and mentors.
  • After completing the evaluation, Autism CRC started working with autistic leaders to develop an expanded program which includes new features like online modules and a voluntary placement. 
  • The 2018 program included 14 autistic adults aged 25 to 40 from across Australia. Read the 2018 evaluation report.
  • In 2019, the program was opened up to include adults of all ages and included 15 autistic adults aged 18 to 60 years. Read the 2019 evaluation report.
  • Autism CRC and Aspect are collaborating together to offer the program in 2019 and 2020.
  • This year, applications are open to autistic adults aged 18 and over from all across Australia. 

Our team

Future Leaders is delivered both by and for autistic adults. In 2020, five of our seven Project Team members are autistic themselves. 

  • Geraldine Robertson, Malcolm Mayfield and Wenn Lawson are all well-respected and highly experienced autistic leaders. They were all mentors for the original Future Leaders in 2013 and have reprised their involvement as Project Team members and mentors.
  • Rochelle Johnson and Ainslie Robinson are both autistic women who are passionate about encouraging and equipping their peers. Rochelle is continuing in her role as a Project Team Member and mentor for this year’s program, and Ainslie is the Project Officer for Future Leaders 2019 and 2020. 
  • Olivia (Liv) Gatfield is the Executive Officer for Autism CRC’s Sylvia Rodger Academy, and has been appointed as the Chair of the Future Leaders Project Team. Liv is dedicated to empowering autistic people and works with autistic adults to co-develop and co-deliver the Programs offered by the Sylvia Rodger Academy.
  • Jon Martin was the convenor of the 2013 Asia Pacific Autism Conference which was the birthplace of Future Leaders. He’s not autistic himself, but has a long history of seeking to include and amplify autistic voices and perspectives.

Future Leaders is also overseen by a Management Committee comprising nominees from both Autism CRC and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). 

The members of this committee are Jacqui Borland (Aspect CEO), Karletta Abianac (2018 Future Leader), Judy Brewer (former Autism CRC Board Director), Olivia Gatfield (Autism CRC Executive Officer, Sylvia Rodger Academy), Tori Haar (Autism CRC Project Coordinator) and Tom Tutton (Aspect National Executive Manager Aspect Practice).

Apply to become a Future Leader

If you are, or know of, an emerging autistic leader who would like to be involved in as future program, please click the link below to learn more.

Applications for our 2020 intake closed on Friday 24 April.

Find out more

Further reading


Ashton Bartz
Project Officer, Future Leaders
Sylvia Rodger Academy

0428 994 540
(Please note that Ashton is part-time, but will respond to your query as soon as possible)

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is the major sponsor of Future Leaders. The Sylvia Rodger Academy is an initiative of Autism CRC, which receives funding from the Australian Government.