2021 ASAN AUNZ Board Election

We have a very strong group of candidates for the Board this year. Please consider your vote carefully. We wish all candidates the best. Results of the election will be announced at the AGM on Sunday October 31, 2021


In order to vote you will have to register as a website user which can be done HERE

Choose two people for the ASAN-AUNZ Board 2021
  • Bec Poulsen 26%, 11 votes
    11 votes 26%
    11 votes - 26% of all votes
  • Barb Cook 24%, 10 votes
    10 votes 24%
    10 votes - 24% of all votes
  • Jessica Harrison 24%, 10 votes
    10 votes 24%
    10 votes - 24% of all votes
  • Mandar Nelson 14%, 6 votes
    6 votes 14%
    6 votes - 14% of all votes
  • Jen Harland 12%, 5 votes
    5 votes 12%
    5 votes - 12% of all votes
Total Votes: 42
Voters: 21
October 26, 2021 - April 16, 2024
Voting is closed

Voting closes on October 31 2021 at 1.30pm


Bec Poulsen

Candidate Statement

I have been a member of ASAN for a while now, and the work you do has shaped my own leadership and advocacy efforts on personal, professional, and community-based levels. I would like to become more actively involved with ASAN and feel that my own individual journey can provide a unique perspective on the board. I am at the end of my 4 years as a PhD candidate and will be transitioning to post-doc work next year in autism research, as well as developing the Autistic Research Network (ARN), which I founded through the Reframing Autism organisation. The ARN is an advocacy organisation to support Autistic community members and researchers, and act as a conduit between this community and autism researchers. I feel the time is right in my career to be able to contribute as a board member for ASAN. I’d like to tell you a bit more about my background.

I consider myself an entrepreneur and researcher at heart. I love music, particularly electronic dance music, travelling, renovating houses, spending time at the beach. I spent many years traveling in Australia and around the world in my music career and still do sometimes! Since my son was diagnosed with autism at age 2 (he’s now 9) and my own subsequent diagnosis, I have become increasingly involved in autism advocacy and research. I sit on several autism-related committees and councils and have recently founded the Australian Research Network (ARN) through my work with Reframing Autism – an autistic founded and led charity organisation that encourages and empowers parents and autistic people. I am love and am passionate about what I do.

I’ve always been a creative person who has been at the forefront of positive and inclusive change. For example, when I started producing dance music in 1993, there were few female producers in the industry (a very binary environment for the most part, at least in my sector, and I identified as female at this time). Soon after, the media began asking me how it was working in a male-dominated industry. I was always careful answering this, saying it was about skills and talents, not gender. I feel fortunate to have paved the way for other female DJ/producers, and remain a role model for them. I am inspired and encouraged by other producers’ success. I’ve always been a strong advocate for normalising the inclusion of female producers and DJs in the Australian music industry.

Since (mostly) stepping off stage, I’ve found a new love and passion in research and am well established in that space. After my son was diagnosed, I quickly went from not knowing anything about autism to becoming an Autistic postgraduate researcher, and consultant/peer reviewer for organisations wanting to include the Autistic voice. Being on multiple autism committees, I stay informed of the latest developments in autism research in Australia and globally across many disciplines. The research I do with Reframing Autism is all Autistic-led.

Through my work with the Australian Autism Research Council, my first-author editorial in one of the top international journals has just been accepted for publication with Liz Pellicano, Charlotte Brownlow, and Wenn Lawson (January 2022).
My entrepreneurial skills, music industry experience, understanding of the autism research and advocacy landscape, and passion for advocating for the Autistic voice particularly in research by establishing initiatives such as the Autistic Research Network will allow me to bring about positive change. I credit my neurodiversity for my musical and research successes, and I hope to support and inspire other Autistic people to pursue their passions in any way I can. I hope that my voice would be a useful and unique contribution to the ASAN board.

Governance experience and relevant skills

I participated in the Silvia Roger Academy Governance program in 2019 which was invaluable for learning the fundamentals regarding governance. This sparked my interest in governance, and lead to my becoming involved in autism councils and committees.

Although I am at the start of my governance journey, being involved in committees and councils for almost 3 years, I think the committees and councils I currently sit on have given me hands-on experience in governance processes.

Australian Autism Research Council (2019 – present)

International Society for Autism Research – Student and Trainee Committee – 2019 – end of 2021)

Australian Access Committee – Autism CRC Biobank (2020 to 2021

Mandar Nelson

Candidate Statement

My name is Mandar, pronounced mn-daaah, and I’m inordinately loud and proud of being Autistic.
I love the creative connections I can make between concepts, my ability to visualise in three dimensions, and my expert auto didactic skills.

My most relevant skills stem from a still-present childhood obsession with anthropology; allowing me to easily take in complex circumstances, see the patterns and paths within, and then clarify to create concise and actionable strategies to achieve goals. With many years spent layering and weaving intangible ideas into covetable consumables, I can transmute amorphous carbon concepts into diamonds.

Throughout my career, and most of my life, I have dedicated time to teaching a wildly diverse range of children and adults in areas such as art, design, languages, martial arts, roller derby, and rock climbing. Giving me a unique understanding of the many ways people of all ages and abilities think, act, learn, and grow. Working with Autistic people, their families, and their networks is what burns through me, drives me, excites & sates me. I especially revel in helping those in our community to embrace their strengths, to grow and develop their sense of self-worth, and to learn how to stand up, stand out, and advocate for themselves and others.
Being involved in their journey, even in a small way, is something that I feel honoured and privileged to be a part of every day.

Governance experience and relevant skills

I am one of five founding board members of The Victorian Roller Derby League.
Having written the initial constitution, I also helped correctly set up the group as a non-profit organisation.
I was also on the board for two years in the role of Public Officer.

Barb Cook

Candidate Statement

As an autistic/neurodivergent person, I bring a wealth of lived experience of the many issues and barriers I have experienced within society. I am a strong and dedicated advocate within our community and constantly working towards change in societal perceptions. My areas of focus are self-determination and self-advocacy, adults, employment and education, environmental barriers. I am also a registered developmental educator working with autistic and neurodivergent adults in private practice. I work from a holistic approach and person-centered approach.
I have also published works in research and publications and written extensively for a variety of platforms on autism and neurodivergence, in particularly for autistic adults. I am also an independent autistic peer reviewer for the journal Autism in Adulthood.
I feel my professional experience along with my lived experience can bring a variety of valuable contributions to ASAN.

For more information on my work visit: https://barbcook.com.au/portfolio/

Governance experience and relevant skills

I have worked on a variety of committees since 2011. These include co-founding two not-for-profit associations, the Australian Autism Aspergers Network Inc. and My Life My Decisions Inc. I have volunteered in the roles of vice chair, secretary, and general committee member.

2021 – Current Deputy chair: Developmental Educators Australian Inc. (DEAI) https://www.deai.com.au/
2019 – Current: Vice Chair: My Life My Decisions Inc. https://mylifemydecisions.org/
2020 – Current: Director/Founder – NeuroEmploy Pty Ltd (private company) https://neuroemploy.com/
2021 – Current: Director/Founder – NeuroDiversity Hub (Allied Health Hub – private practice) https://neurodiversityhub.com/
2020 – Current: Co-Design Committee Member and Program Facilitator – Teen Work Know How Project – Aspergers Victoria https://aspergersvic.org.au/Employment
2020 – Current: Advisory Committee member and content creator – Autism What Next? Project https://autismwhatnext.com.au/
2017 – Current: Community Council Member – Autistic Adult and other Stakeholders Engaged Together (AASET) Most recent project starting 1 January 2022 for 5 years. Engaged in the role of Community Council Member Advisor for this project.
2011 – Current: Co-founder – Australian Autism Aspergers Network Inc. https://www.facebook.com/AustralianAutismAspergersNetwork

Jen Harland

Candidate Statement

Like ASAN-AUNZ, I am passionate about Autistic voices being heard through Self-Advocacy, Systemic Advocacy, and other means. I believe that advocacy is very important to enable change in a person’s life and also in various aspects of society. I want to use my many skills and experiences (see below in the “”Other Boards and Committees”” section) to help ASAN-AUNZ in their mission and activities.

I believe that I do have the enthusiasm, commitment, skills, and experience to be of value to ASAN-AUNZ. Like in the past and present, I also still want to contribute to and for the autistic community in the future and I believe that I can pursue that in a board position at ASAN-AUNZ

Governance experience and relevant skills

Vice President Education (2nd highest position on the committee) of my Toastmasters club for 2017/2018.
I used my organisational skills to draw up the run sheet for the weekly meetings. I also liaised with all of the people in my club to ensure the smooth running of the meetings and to make sure the members were progressing through their manuals. I also stood in for the club president when needed. I attended the relevant training and also committee meetings. In the meetings, I contributed ideas pertaining to the club.

President of my Toastmasters club for 2018/2019.
I gained leadership experience. I closed all of the meetings every week. I scheduled committee meetings and attended those meetings. I also contributed ideas pertaining to the running of the club. I also attended the relevant training

  1. Giving Feedback on Research.
    I attended Autism CRC’s Research Academy in 2017. Since then I have been an advisor to researchers, giving feedback on their research regarding autism.
  2. Attended Leadership Courses.
    A. I attended Leadership W.A.’s LeadAbility course in 2019.
    B. I attended Autism CRC’s Future Leader’s course in 2019.
  3. I have co-design experience. I have been involved in projects with ASAN-AUNZ, Autism CRC, National Disability Services.
  4. I have public speaking skills and experience. I attended Toastmasters (2016-2019). I have given speeches to various groups of people about autism and my lived experienced.
  5. I have been involved with and have contributed to and for the Autistic community.
  6. I also have co-facilitation skills. I co-facilitate Spectrum Space’s Women’s Council and have been the assistant facilitator in Spectrum Space’s Daily Living Skills program.
  7. I have been involved with systemic advocacy.

Jessica Harrison

Candidate Statement

I am nominating for the Board because I support the vision of ASAN AUNZ and I believe I could be a useful contributor to the Board. I am an autistic autism researcher, who is disabled, chronically ill, and a part of the LGBTIQA+ community. I understand, therefore, the complexities of intersectionality with autism. I have advocated for the autistic community in my roles as a researcher and advisor for a mental health and education provider.

I believe my research reflects the vision of ASAN AUNZ. I use my empathy research to give the autistic community a voice in academia, to promote an autism-friendly society, and to challenge other researchers to do better. Through my work, I showed that five empathy measures, including the most popular, should not be used because they have design issues. I used this to warn researchers against using poor measures, especially when they only strengthen negative assumptions about us. Negative assumptions that contribute to the stigma and discrimination we experience.

I challenged researchers to think about their assumptions before trusting results that confirm their expectations of autistic deficits. I showed that researchers use lower-quality methods when their empathy research is on autistic samples. Research on non-autistic adults is done to a much higher quality. I called this out in my recent article and challenged researchers to follow ethical guidelines, be accountable, and do better.

These are just a few examples of how my research reflects ASAN AUNZ’S mission to make the autistic voice heard in all levels of society and to make society more autism friendly. I started researching autism for two reasons: 1) I could not bear to see how autistic people were mistreated due to stigma and discrimination, and 2) Nothing about us, without us.

Governance experience and relevant skills

I have been involved in my local headspace advisory council and consulted with the developers of my university’s program for autistic students. In these roles, I advised organizations on program development and event planning; client/student priorities; increasing engagement with clients, autistic students, and the broader community; support needs for autistic students and clients; and sensory and communication accommodations for autistic students and clients. I collaborated with fellow advisors, program developers, psychologists, social workers, the local council, researchers, mental health organizations, education providers, and the people we were supporting. I also assisted with advertising and did public speaking. In this roles, I pushed for autistic inclusion in designing appropriate supports and accommodations for autistic people.

I am confident to advocate for the autistic community even against resistance. I would be honoured to serve on the Board of ASAN AUNZ.