History & Milestones


ASfAR began with a focused research forum hosted by the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) in April 2009, which brought together leading autism researchers from Australasia. Its aim in doing so was to identify and fortify current autism research strengths in Australasia, to develop and plan future research directions in autism research, and to forge new Australasian autism research collaborations. This highly successful forum resulted in the formation of the Australasian Autism Research Collaboration (AARC), which worked over two years to establish the member-based Australasian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR) in 2011.


ASfAR was established as a member-based society. The inaugural meeting of ASfAR took place on the 10th September 2011 at the conclusion of the Asia Pacific Autism Conference (APAC) in Perth, WA. Delegates from across the Asia Pacific Region attended this meeting, which opened the call for members (student, full, affiliate, organizational and international members).


The first ASfAR research conference of this fledgling society took place in December 2012 at Macquarie University, Sydney, successfully convened by Dr Jon Brock.


The second ASfAR conference was held in Melbourne at La Trobe University, convened by the co-Chair of ASfAR (2011 – 2020) Professor Cheryl Dissanayake.  Professor Deb Keen served as Chair of the ASfAR interim committee and Professor Katrina Williams served as Chair of its first Executive Committee.


The third ASfAR conference was held in Perth at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in December 2016, convened by Prof. Murray Maybery.


The fourth ASfAR conference was held at the Gold Coast at Griffith University in December 2018, convened by Dr. Jessica Paynter and Associate Professor Marleen Westerveld.


  •  ASfAR established and conducted the first ASfAR Institute Webinar Series on Autism and Intersectionality.
  • The fifth ASfAR conference, held for the first time outside of Australia, and for the first time online, was organised by Autism New Zealand and Victoria University in Wellington in December 2020, convened by Dr. Larah van der Meer.
  • An ASfAR autistic researcher membership was proposed by Trevor Clark and Emma Goodall, unanimously supported by the ASfAR committee and included in the constitution.


  • The Margot Prior Award for early career researchers was established in honour and in memory of Professor Margot Prior, an autism researcher and clinician pioneer in Australia. One of the two Margor Prior Annual awards is for an autistic researcher.
  • The first ASfAR state-based conference for higher degree by research candidates and early career autism researchers was convened by Griffith University on the 13th August 2021.
  • The second ASfAR state-based conference in 2021 on “Mental Wellbeing & Suicide Prevention in Autism: Bringing Autistic People, Researchers and Health Professionals Together” was convened by the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) on the 9th December 2021.


  • The ASfAR biennial conference in 2022 was convened by Deakin University in Geelong at the Deakin Waterfront Campus on the 28th and 29th November 2022.
  • We launched a pilot mentoring programme – mid-career and senior academic ASfAR members mentored PhD research students. Feedback was encouraging and positive and we hope to continue this programme in the future.


  • The ASfAR 2023 conference was convened by the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand on the 6th and 7th December 2023.