Autism chair and scholarship announced

La Trobe University has strengthened its leadership in autism research and support with a number of new initiatives announced last week.

As part of its new strategic direction, La Trobe's Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) has launched an Australian-first honours scholarship for students living with autism.

The centre's founding director, Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, has also been named inaugural Olga Tennison Chair of Autism Research.

Professor Dissanayake said she was honoured to accept the appointment and looks forward to furthering the University's research in autism for the benefit of society.

The Sylvia Walton Honours Scholarship will be awarded to an honours student with autism, to undertake research at OTARC. The successful candidate will be announced in February.

Professor Dissanayake said the creation of this scholarship highlighted La Trobe's commitment to furthering opportunities for the autistic community.

"At OTARC, we feel it's important to train the next generation of researchers, and to specifically build autistic research talent," Professor Dissanayake said.

"We can only do this by involving autistic researchers directly in the important research work we undertake at OTARC, and we want to grow the number of autistic researchers in the field."

From 2020, the scholarship will be awarded to two autistic honours students each year.

Professor Dissanayake also thanked former La Trobe Chancellor and current OTARC Advisory Committee Chair, Dr Sylvia Walton AO, and her husband, Mr Robin Walton, for their role in the creation of this exciting new scholarship.

Last year, OTARC celebrated 10 years of ground-breaking work at the first centre dedicated to autism research in Australia.

The announcement of a new scholarship and chair position were made at a special launch event detailing OTARC's 2018-2028 Strategic Plan.

The OTARC team collaborate with national and international scholars, industry partners and autistic people and their families to produce high quality, relevant research that aims to facilitate positive developmental outcomes for autistic people across all stages of life.

PHOTO (left to right): La Trobe Chancellor Professor Richard Larkins; OTARC Advisory Committee Chair Dr Sylvia Walton; OTARD Director and Autism Research Chair Professor Cheryl Dissanayake; La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar

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