Our history

Mrs Olga Tennison 2017

OTARC was established in 2008 as a joint initiative of La Trobe University and Autism Victoria (now trading as Amaze). Professor Cheryl Dissanayake is the inaugural Director.

The establishment of OTARC was made possible with donations from the late Mrs Olga Tennison OAM. These were matched with funds from La Trobe University. The Centre is named in acknowledgement of Mrs Tennison's generosity.

OTARC has been involved in three federal government projects

Early Days workshops

Early Days workshops

Raising Children Network - Autism

Raising Children Network - Autism

Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (Margot Prior Wing)

Victorian Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre (Margot Prior Wing)

Key achievements 2008 to 2022

  • Development of effective early identification strategies and tools to aid earlier diagnoses of children
  • Establishment of Australia’s first Early Assessment Clinic for Autism so that children can be diagnosed prior to 3 years of age (funding for this centre ceased in 2015)
  • Joint establishment of the Margot Prior Autism Intervention Centre, that delivers evidence-based early intervention to pre-school children
  • Launched world-first early detection of autism app ASDetect, and translated it into Spanish and Mandarin
  • Enhanced collaboration between autism researchers nationally through supporting the formation of the Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR)
  • The development of an autism-specific undergraduate subject at La Trobe University to educate students about autism, called PSY3ASD – Understanding and Support for Autism
  • Increasing knowledge and capacity of researchers and health professionals. Global knowledge transfer on evidence-based practice in early identification and intervention
  • Essential participant in the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism
  • Creation of a world-first online training course for colleagues and managers of autistic employees, called Supporting a Neurodiverse Workforce
  • Development of world-first suicide prevention website The Suicide Response Project specifically targeting neurodiverse and LGBTIQA+ communities, to help friends, family and peers come to their aid
  • Creation of resources for neurodiverse students transitioning to higher education at the Neurodiversity Hub
  • Trained all Victorian and Tasmanian Maternal and Child Health nurses in early autism signs
  • Trained female health volunteers in Nepal in early autism signs
  • Trained all early childhood medical professionals in Tianjin (China’s fourth largest city) on early autism signs
  • Wrote numerous policy submissions to higher education, autism and mental health inquiries and commissions
  • Creation of two Honours scholarships for autistic psychology students, beginning in 2019.

OTARC Annual Reports