Next Step Community Services receives national award

Resilience NSW Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, presenting Berinda Karp and Next Step CEO, Richard Eifler, with their award

Wyong’s Next Step Community Services Inc. has taken out the Suncorp Resilient Australia National Community Award at the 21st Resilient Australia Awards.

Next Step took out the national accolade and its $5,000 prize for its ‘Ask Me What I Need’ project, a five-minute autism awareness training video.

The video was designed to provide emergency service workers with strategies to implement when engaging with people identifying as autistic in emergency situations, and it was the culmination of 14 months of research, community consultations and surveys, steering committee meetings, collaboration and video production, all grounded by input from autistic adults.

Since launching in February, the video has garnered universal praise from the autism community and the emergency services sector for delivering a first of its kind resource that addresses the needs of autistic people whilst simultaneously bridging a training blind spot for first responders.

Autism STEP Australia CEO, Berinda Karp, project managed ‘Ask Me What I Need’ on behalf of Next Step and said everyone involved was overjoyed to see the video take out the Community Award for NSW at the state and now national level.

“It feels absolutely fantastic to have won this award.

“We were told by Minister, David Littleproud, that team Next Step’s reaction to winning was the best the awards team had ever seen,” Karp said.

With the video now available online via Next Step’s website and social media, Karp said her attention was now turning to the project’s future, with plans to expand ‘Ask Me What I Need’ into a series.

“Resilience NSW have indicated their support for moving the project forward and I am currently looking at proposals for making more autism awareness training videos that look more at what volunteers and first responders can do to support autistic people before, during and after an emergency.

“Eventually, I’d also like to see these videos disseminated more broadly, so more services can take advantage of this lived experience curated training,” Karp said.

Dilon Luke

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