Autism advocate and federal MP to give seniors talk
BY TATE SPITERI
MYRTLEFORD’S impressive U3A program will again inspire seniors to continue learning and to think differently with two high profile guest speakers talking at the Myrtleford RSL Hall next Friday.
Judy Brewer, who is the founding chair of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) and Pro-chancellor of Charles Sturt University’s southern region, will speak at the event along with her cousin, Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi).
Ms Brewer, who resides in Mudgegonga, will talk about the huge dimension that was added to her life when her son Harrison was diagnosed with autism 20 years ago.
In her words, she took the unusual pathway from farming and “chasing cows” as the owner/manager of Grossotto Poll Herefords to having an on-farm, off-farm career in advocacy.
On top of being the founding chair of Autism CRC, Ms Brewer is also the founder and inaugural Convenor of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, a director of the Autism Council of Australia, a member of the Autism Alliance and an ambassador to the Asia Pacific Autism Conference.
She drew parallels to the continuous learning she has undertaken through autism research to that of the U3A program.
“When Harrison was diagnosed, we didn’t know anything about autism, it was hidden in our community,” she said.
“The last 20 years I’ve really learnt so much by being engaged in the autistic community and working with autistic adults.
“I am so grateful to have had that chance because it has made my life so much richer in every way and that’s what I want to talk about (on October 12).”
Ms Brewer said there was a lot of discussion about disability, but that it was time to explore the notion of disability, and whether it really is disabling, or just different, to the ‘normal’ majority.
“There’s not really right and wrong, there’s just different ways to do things and that’s what makes life for autistic people so difficult, the world is trying to shape everyone to be normal,” she said.
“The topic of the talk is that normal is simply a setting on a washing machine and that it is actually a pretty meaningless term.”
Ms Brewer said that society had now learnt that people who thought differently added huge value to the community, work place and to all decision making.
“It is just crazy that autistic adults have the lowest level of employment of any disability group, in many ways they should be the easiest people to hire,” she said.
“We have a long way to go and it starts very much around education, it’s the community that can make the difference and the employers by putting their hand up to say they are interested and that their workplace could be enhanced by someone who thinks differently.”
Next week’s talk will take place on Friday, October 12 at 2pm.
For more information on event or U3A, contact Jan Mock on 0401 064 030.
GUEST SPEAKER: Judy Brewer, pictured at her Mudgegonga home, will give a talk about her experiences and advocacy in relation to autism during a Myrtleford U3A event next week.