Upskilling autistic adults and autism researchers to work together as research co-producers

Research Program

A large group of people are gathered togethered, in the midst of fallen yellow leaves.
A picture of the participants, Project Team and additional Autism CRC staff from the 2017 Research Program residential workshop.

The Research Program upskills autistic adults and autism researchers in research co-production. This ensures that what is being researched, and the way it is being researched is relevant to, and appropriate for, the autistic community.

The Research Program (formerly called the Research Academy) was first created and run in 2015, with an expanded Program run in 2017. We have graduated 28 autistic adults and 19 autism researchers from around Australia, and internationally. The 2020 holistic program is co-designed and delivered with autistic adults, with five of the seven Project Team members identifying as autistic.

Participants in the Research Program develop practical knowledge and experience in co-production through a series of training and development initiatives. Applications for the 2020 program have now closed.

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

Our objectives

The objectives of the Research Program are for participants to:

  • learn and further develop the skills for co-production
  • increase their engagement in co-production
  • network with potential co-producers from around Australia, enabling them to share experiences, follow up and share opportunities
  • enhance their practical knowledge and experience to build and reinforce skills
  • develop an understanding of the benefits of co-production, and
  • gain membership into the Sylvia Rodger Academy.


  • The Research Program was first run in 2015 with 14 autistic adults and 12 autism researchers participating in the program.
  • The 2015 delivery was well received – you can read the evaluation report here. We learned we needed to make the residential workshop for autistic participants shorter and deliver some of the content online. Also, we needed to teach the researchers more about the lived experience of autism. 
  • In 2017, we delivered the Research Program in a modified format, based on feedback from the 2015 delivery. Fourteen autistic adults and seven autism research took part in the program. This modified delivery was extremely successful – you can read the evaluation report here.
  • In 2020, we are making the program holistic by providing practical placements for autistic participants, so that theory and practice can be combined. 

Case studies


“One of the biggest impacts of being a part of the program was finding my tribe in real life…. it validated that I was not broken, I was different. I emerged from the workshop with confidence that I was okay - that I actually have things to say that are valued by others within my community and the professional community.”

Read Rochelle's story


“I had spent a lifetime trying to find out where I fit in, and through the program I learnt I could be myself.”

Read Richard's story

Our Team

  • Jac den Houting and Gabby Hall are autistic people and graduates of the Research Program. They both work in autism research, and are influential in the co-production of autism research.
  • Wenn Lawson is a well-respected and highly experienced autistic leader. He is also an internationally renowned autism researcher and has been a member of the Project Team for the development and delivery of the Research Program in 2015 and 2017.
  • Ainslie Robinson and Ashton Bartz are autistic people who are passionate about encouraging and equipping their peers. Ainslie has been the Project Officer for Future Leaders 2019 and 2020, and Ashton is the Project Officer for the Research Program and the Governance Program.
  • Liz Pellicano is a world leading expert on co-production. As an autism researcher, she is dedicated to ensuring that research reflects the philosophy of ‘nothing about us without us’. 
  • Olivia (Liv) Gatfield is the Executive Officer for Autism CRC’s Sylvia Rodger Academy, and has been the Project Officer for the Research Program in 2015 and 2017, and the chair of the Future Leaders Program. 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.

Apply to join the Research Program

If you are, or know of someone who would like to be involved in a future program, please click the link below to learn more.

Applications for our 2020 intake closed on Sunday 19 April 2020.

Find out more

Past Program Evaluation Reports



Dr Olivia Gatfield
Executive Officer
Sylvia Rodger Academy

07 3377 0602
0411 094 346
(Please note that Olivia is part-time but will respond to your query as soon as possible)