ACT's dysfunctional support for autistic people

like a stop sign but says "No. Wrong door."
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2021 10:48:19 +1000
From: Bob Buckley (SOfASD Chair) <>
Organisation: Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory
To:, Andrew Barr <>
CC: Sara Stanley <>, Ms Emma Davidson MLA <>,,, Rachel Stephen-Smith <>, Craig Shannon (PWDACT) <>,,

Dear Chief Minister

I write to you as a systemic advocate for autistic people. Systemically, the ACT Government's former "no wrong door" policy has become a "no right door" policy. Note: the "no wrong door" policy was missing its punctuation, while the "no right door" has none.The letter below asks that a person who lodged multiple complaints with the ACT Police complaints department some time ago is asked "to contact them herself" apparently to lodge another complaint about complaints not being processed. This suggested course of action is:

  • impractical due to the barriers acknowledged in the letter itself, and
  • offensive in that it suggests people would keep doing the same thing, that is contact the ACT Police complaints department, and expect a different outcome.

This letter came after I wrote twice to the ACT Police Minister. He did not get the message that these processes are not working and that the situation for a family of an autistic young man is untenable, especially in relation to ACT Police. Apparently, ACT Police think that adding more documents to some file or making further complaints will somehow help the situation. ACT Police needs to complete their complaints process and start moving on.

Note, the letter below also acknowledges that ACT Police have numerous "alerts ... on our system" about contact with police, yet they insist on further unnecessary contact.

Just to be clear, a young autistic man has been terrorised by ACT Police. He lives in abject fear of any further contact with them but contact is largely unavoidable none-the-less. This also severely affects the health and mental health of the rest of his family. While one family is currently on our "radar", this is a systemic issue, not an isolated experience.

There are complex issues that need to be resolved but ACT Police are simply avoiding any prospect of moving forward in these matters. This leaves vulnerable young people in with severe mental illness and families in disarray. It is unacceptable.

I cannot understand why the Minister had the police liaison section contact me, when clearly they can't help. This seems to be an matter with the complaints section. Didn't the Minister open the "wrong door"? ACT Police don't really need to contact me; they just need to do their job and process the complaints so matters can move on.

The family tried the ACT Ombudsman. That was another "wrong door": the ACT Ombudsman's office said they can't investigate because the police haven't completed their complaint process. I'm alarmed that the ACT Ombudsman can't investigate why the police complaint process wasn't completed yet and why no progress is being made.

I wrote twice to both the both the ACT Police and Disability ministers. Clearly, the ACT Police Minister doesn't "get it". If the Disability Minister tried to explain relevant aspects of disability service and support to the Police Minister, that clearly didn't work.

The Disability Minister had the Integrated Service Response Program (ISRP) contact me. It turned out that this agency also thinks adding paper to people's files fixes problems: they want consent forms when there is no need for a consent form. I'm just telling them one of their (inappropriately lapsed) clients needs their support. They don't need to discuss anything with me - the family will let me know when things improve. The family already had an ISRP file but the agency is using paper work as a barrier to service access for a family like this who need urgent support.

Please understand that expecting people with disability to chase up services that haven't delivered in the past, and provide no credible basis for believing they will in future, is not effective service delivery for people with disability. This is a dysfunctional service model.

Some considerable time ago, ACT Health was asked to look into mental health support for autistic people in the ACT with mental illness. The request was ignored: see

Subsequent communication from an ACT Mental Health official (13/4/2021) promised "We will be commencing this body of work in this quarter, rather than earlier in the calendar year, due to competing work priorities". As yet, we see no sign that this latest deadline will be achieved ... unless of course the ACT has a different meaning for "this quarter" than usual.

I am contacting you because the current system didn't work. Contacting relevant ACT Ministers has not worked. Families contact me when they are desperate, when all else has failed. They know there is very little capacity for systemic advocacy for autism, but they tried everything else and it failed. They know we can't deliver the support they need but they are desperate. If we can't get support by contacting relevant ministers, then there really is no hope.

These systemic issues are not isolated to a single family. The ACT Government needs to do better than this for autistic people. This is a disgrace.

Bob Buckley

Chair, Speaking Out for Autism Spectrum Disorder (SOfASD)

a voice for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the ACT

Please note SOfASD's policy on unanswered questions.

SOfASD recognises and respects the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians of our region, and for their continuing culture and contribution to our community.

-------- Forwarded Message --------

Subject: RE: meeting next week [SEC=OFFICIAL]
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2021 01:01:09 +0000
From: Kenehan, Jane <>
To: Bob Buckley (Convenor) <>


Good morning Bob,

Apologies for the delay. We have chased up the complaint XXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX put in to our complaints department. Unfortunately due to privacy, XX XXXXXXXXXXX (XXXXX) will have to contact them herself, they would not give us the information, it has to come from the complainant.

Email or call on 0261316789

I understand there is barriers to XX XXXXXXXXXXX making phone calls and sending emails due to ZZZZZZZ’s behaviour, however she will have to find an opportunity, most likely at work on a work phone or computer.

The current alerts we have on our system for ZZZZZZZ are extensive, giving attending Police the best possible chance of a positive outcome.

Regards Jane




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