Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) Package
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles


Practice focus

This promising practice focuses on the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer (ALO) Positions. The program adresses the underutilisation of the HCWA package by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in remote areas of Queensland.

The ALO positions are linked to the Education and Support component of the HCWA Package.

Delivered by

The HCWA Package is delivered jointly through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA).

The information for this Promising Practice Proflie was submitted by an Executive Level Officer at FaHCSIA who was involved in an evaluation of the HCWA Package.

Service type

The HCWA Package is a national autism and early Intervention program that provides information and support for children (under the age of seven years) with autism and their families.

The ALO positions were specifically created to help promote and deliver the HCWA Package to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.


The ALO positions were implemented in targeted remote areas of Queensland.


The FaHCSIA component of the HCWA Package is centred on a new market-based and individualised approach to funding early intervention services. Eligible children receive an allocation of up to $12,000 that can be used to purchase services from providers that deliver eligible services and are members of the Early Intervention Service Provider Panel (the Panel). Families are made aware of autism and available services through a range of education and support services.

An evaluation of the HCWA Package revealed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children were not proportionally accessing the Package. As a result of this finding, the ALO positions were created to broaden access to information about the Package and to improve access to early intervention services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who live in rural and remote communities.

The ALO positions are attached to the Early Days Workshop component of the Package. This is where information and support for parents and families dealing with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ASD-like symptoms are provided through face to face, telephone and on-line workshops. Early Days Workshops provide flexible and targeted support for parents and carers of children living in rural and remote areas. The workshops focus on:

  • enabling parents and carers to better support their children with ASDs or ASD-like symptoms;
  • helping parents and carers to learn new coping skills;
  • helping parents and carers to more effectively manage the pressures they face in raising their children; and,
  • offer opportunities for parents and carers to create links within their local ASD community.

The ALO positions are funded by FaHCSIA and attached to the Education and Support component of the HCWA Package. Autism Queensland and other members of the Early Days Consortium of Autism Specialist Providers (EDCASP) were funded for two years to create two ALO positions.


MOST promising aspect

Identifying the need for the ALO positions as a result of an evaluation of the HCWA Package demonstrates a promising approach in repsonding to a specific community need. The ALO positions have resulted in providing cultural awareness training to providers of the HCWA Package and the facilitators of the Early Days Workshops. This provides a more tailored approach to providing awareness of the HCWA Package for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to be better informed about the services available to them to help support their children with ASD. A feature of this approach is that through greater family awareness of the support available to them, rural and remote communities will benefit with better health outcomes as families increase their involvement with services.

Evidence base and opportunities

The problems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders particularly in light of some families' lack of awareness about autism and the reluctance to seek a diagnosis, was recognised through an evaluation of the HCWA Package. The program's response to create and enlist ALOs demonstrates a willingness to provide active culturally relevant assistance for families in accessing resources to help their children.

Through the national Early Days Workshops, the ALOs have the potential to open a soft entry gateway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to access both targeted and mainstream services in a non-threatening way. Through this gateway, other health related issues for families are more likely to be identified and appropriate referrals made.

At this time, the effectiveness of the practice in the context of increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families accessing the HCWA Package is yet to be determined. It is unclear through the information provided for this Promising Practice Profile whether the ALOs provide an information-only service, in which case they are less likely to be effective. However, the aim of the workshops place parents and carers in touch with other parents of ASD children in the local community shows promise.

Cultural relevance

Cultural practices and materials

The ALO positions are intended to provide information and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture to a broader network and to encourage the take-up of the HCWA Package for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people. The ALOs were recruited with the aim of building strengths-based and trusting relationships between the service providers who deliver the Package and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (including local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations). ALOs provide support and guidance to Advisor Services in their work with these communities in an effort to break down the barriers in accessing the HCWA Package. These barriers include:

  • problems in registering children, lower levels of awareness of autism;
  • the lack of culturally appropriate information sources;
  • other significant health issues;
  • barriers in accessing mainstream services;
  • issues associated with required paperwork; and,
  • a reluctance to seek a "label".


Evaluation status

An external evaluation of the HCWA Package has been conducted and is publically available, however the ALO role was not included in this evaluation. Instruments used in the evaluation included input from service providers and other stakeholders. For future evaluations, the design of the survey tools will by undertaken by the ALO's.

Link to evaluation


Demonstrated outcomes

Information about demonstrated outcomes were not provided in this submission to the Promising Practice Profiles.


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