Australia’s first on-campus community centre for autistic adults has opened, following a collaboration between Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) and Victoria University (VU).

The new centre offers services for autistic adults in the western Melbourne locale of Brimbank and facilitates opportunities for participants to enrol in Victoria University Polytechnic courses and gain recognised qualifications. Participants can also acquire job and independent living skills by engaging in programs and activities across the university facilities.

It is also an opportunity for VU students training in areas such as speech pathology, social work and community services, to participate in placements, internships and potentially, formal employment with Aspect.

Aspect CEO Jacqui Borland, said the number of adults diagnosed as autistic is increasing, leading to an elevated demand for support services and subsequently, a more substantial and skilled community services workforce. “Aspect’s partnership with Victoria University is ground-breaking because it achieves many critical outcomes for autistic adults, while investing in the future of our disability services workforce,” she said.

Victoria University vice-chancellor, Professor Adam Shoemaker, said the alliance with Aspect dramatically increases accessible learning experiences and employment opportunities for both students and community members.

“The collaboration is a demonstration of our flipped campus approach, which will see us actively provide Aspect’s adult participants with the chance to gain VU qualifications and access to programs at the St Albans Campus,” he said. “For VU students, partnering with Australia’s largest provider of specialised autistic services means they will have the best possible training and hands-on experience, which is as timely as it is industry relevant.”

Aspect participants have begun engaging in programs and activities across the St Albans campus including the aquatic centre, cooking facilities, presentation spaces, sporting grounds and general campus amenities, such as the library and cafe.

St Albans liaison officer Tom Broadley said: “I have personally experienced the life-changing impact of therapy and support services. I enjoy getting to know each participant as it allows me to understand what they are going through and suggest activities or programs they might like.”

Aspect will commence its first round of placements in mid-June, with four students studying Cert IV, Disability and Community Services and Diploma, Community Services, joining the new centre, which caters for more than 25 autistic adults and approximately 18 staff.

Adults diagnosed as autistic represent approximately one-third of the 3,800 people on the autism spectrum in the Brimbank local government area, according to the NDIS.

Photo: Brimbank City Council mayor Bruce Lancashire, VU vice-chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker, St Albans MP Natalie Suleyman and Autism Spectrum Australia CEO Jacqui Borland