Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

3 years on and more than 15,000 children with autism supported

Joint Media Release with:

  • Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

More than 15,000 young children with autism have accessed early intervention services under the Australian Government’s $220 million Helping Children with Autism package.

Today marks the third anniversary of the package, the first national initiative to help families and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said the Helping Children with Autism package provides early intervention services to young children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, including access to Autism Advisors, family support and playgroups.

“Early intervention and ongoing family support can make a huge difference to children’s quality of life, making it easier for them to attend school and participate in everyday activities,” Ms Macklin said.

“The Government is proud that three years into this important national initiative we have been able to support more than 15,000 young children with autism to have a better start in life.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Jan McLucas said as many as one in 160 Australian children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“Parents and carers of children with autism face many difficult and complex challenges and are at risk of feeling isolated and unsupported,” Senator McLucas said.

“This package is assisting thousands of families with the costs of caring for children with Autism and improving access to early intervention services during the most critical period of their development.”

Early intervention services where families can access professional assistance for their child are available in more than 1,180 locations across Australia.

More than 2,200 children have been supported through PlayConnect Playgroups and more than 4,000 parents and carers have attended Early Days Workshops across the country to date.

Six Autism Specific Early Learning Centres have also been set up across the country, offering early learning and care services, and helping children to grow in confidence and experience playing and learning with others.

The Helping Children With Autism package also includes:

  • the autism spectrum disorder website (
  • Medicare rebates for the development of a treatment and management plan for eligible children under the age of 13. Medicare rebates are now available for up to four allied health diagnostic services and for up to 20 relevant allied health treatment services per eligible child.

Building on the success of Helping Children with Autism, the Australian Government established the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative from July 1 this year.

Better Start gives children under the age of six who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and vision or hearing impairments including deafblindness, access to up to $12,000 in early intervention funding.

Families are able to choose how to use their funding by selecting service providers from a panel of professionals. They have until their child’s seventh birthday to use the funding.

Children in outer regional, rural and remote areas are also eligible for an additional one-off payment of $2,000 to help meet the costs of accessing services such as travel and home visits.

“Both Helping Children With Autism and Better Start for Children With Disability give parents choice about the early intervention services they access to support their children’s development,” Ms Macklin said.

The Productivity Commission has identified that giving people more choice about the services they receive would be an essential feature of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Families can register their child for Better Start by calling Carers Australia on 1800 242 636 and for more information parents can visit