Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: Panel Session: Autism Mentoring Program

Panel Facilitator: Debbie Hindle, University of Tasmania

Panel Members: Jasmine McDonald, Curtin University, Katy Lambert, University of Newcastle, Charlotte Brownlow, University of Southern Queensland, and Susan Hancock, Australian National University

There is a growing interest in how peer mentor programs can support students on the autism spectrum in their tertiary studies. This panel session responds to needs identified in a Tertiary Autism Mentoring Community of Practice for information on how to get a program off the ground. The panel features staff from three mentoring programs across Australia who will share their experiences of setting up and sustaining a successful program. Hear from Jasmine McDonald from Curtin University, Katy Lambert from University of Newcastle and Charlotte Brownlow from University of Southern Queensland discuss topics such as funding, gaining support from leadership, evaluation and feedback. This session is chaired by Debbie Hindle, from University of Tasmania’s Autism Mentoring Program.


Debbie has had a variety of roles in the tertiary disability sector through the University of Tasmania including NDCO and Disability Advisor. She currently coordinates a specialist peer mentor program for students on the Autism spectrum and an ADCET Project Officer. Debbie holds a Masters of Positive Psychology from the University of Melbourne and is part of the dynamic production team for one of the world’s leading workplace wellbeing practitioners. This combination gives Debbie a valuable edge in bringing the latest from the science of wellbeing to grow wellbeing and resilience in ourselves and the students we support.

Dr Jasmine McDonald has an extensive background in education of students on the autism spectrum as a parent, educator and researcher over the past thirty years. In 2014 she helped devise and now jointly runs the Curtin University Specialist Mentoring Program (CSMP). Additionally, Jasmine translated CSMP into a generic mentoring program for use at all tertiary sites now available on the national Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) website, and is currently involved with research developing an Autism CRC / CSIRO chatbot specifically designed to support tertiary students on the autism spectrum.

Katy Lambert has worked at the University of Newcastle, predominantly in Accessibility, since 2009. Katy has been one of the coordinators of the UON Specialist Peer Mentor Program for students with an autism spectrum condition since it was introduced in 2017.

Charlotte Brownlow is currently the Associate Dean of the Graduate Research School at the University of Southern Queensland. Her research focuses on neurodiversity, and she is particularly interested in research and practices co-produced with autistic people. She has been working with the autistic facilitators for USQs A-Skills program in the design and delivery since 2015.

Susan Hancock has worked in the ACT education support sector in the area of education support for 18 years. Currently a Disability and Equity Advisor (DEA) in the office of Access and Inclusion (A&I) at The Australian National University (ANU) providing professional support and advice for students with a disability and equity groups. At ANU Sue has worked on a number of projects and was involved in establishing the Participant Assistant program, assigning ANU student mentors to students with ASD to support their successful transition to university study. Sue was a member of the Steering Committee contributing to the development of a resource for students with ASD – How to Transition to Tertiary Education, Helpful Hints for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder.