A transcript of the speech delivered by Tom Bozic, President of the Sydney Autism Community Lions Club on the occasion of the Charter Celebration of the newly-formed North Queensland ASD Lions Club at the Townsville Castle Hill Lions Den in Townsville, Queensland, Australia on Saturday the 19th of June, 2021.
Dignitaries, Charter members, Lions one and all!
It is indeed an honour to be here in the Den here in Townsville, on this historic occasion – the launch of Australia’s third – and newest – autism Lions Club; the North Queensland ASD Lions Club.
My name is Tom and I am president and charter member of Australia’s first autism Lions Club – the Sydney Autism Community Lions Club.
It fills me with pride to be part of a growing movement within Lions – the Autism Lions Movement – and it is my hope that I can be a participant in the chartering celebration of each new club in that movement.
Apart from my own charter night in 2018, I was there in Melbourne where the Melbourne Autism Lions Club came into existence in 2019.
We have since built up a close partnership. We attend each other’s meetings via Zoom, we work on joint projects together (including the Lions Autism Media Project) and we’re even associate members of each other’s clubs.
And by the way, if anyone from NQASD wishes to be an associate or come to our monthly Zoom meetings, you’re more than welcome 🙂
This year is quite a special year – and not just because we’re coming out of a pandemic and still weathering the storm. This year we’re charterting not one but TWO autism Lions Clubs.
On August the 8th, Australia’s fourth autism Lions Club – the Northlakes Lions Club on the NSW Central Coast – will be celebrating receiving its charter. I’m definitely looking forward to that one. Hopefully President Russell from MALC who so wanted to be here tonight can be there as well. As they say, COVID-willing!
And the Movement grows ever still, with branches popping up all over Australia, including Canberra, West Melbourne, Geelong, and even a potential branch in the Macarthur region just outside of Sydney. Truly, it’s an exciting time to be in Lions and in the Autism community. Looking forward to a whole bunch of charter nights (and flights!)
And now to you, dear members of North Queensland ASD Lions Club.
I must be honest for a moment here. I have an issue with the name of your club, in particular, the letters ASD. Now, as most of you know, ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is the official term for the diagnosis as specified in the DSM-V diagnostic manual for mental health issues.
As a fully productive member of society and autistic adult – yes I’m autistic – I must take issue with this characterisation.
It is my fervent belief that autism is a difference NOT a disorder. It’s not something that can be cured nor needs to be. It’s a thing that ought to be nurtured and supported and embraced. I’m autistic and proud to be.
Oh, and all of our members are autistic too.
So my challenge to you, dear charter members is to think of ASD not as Autism Spectrum Disorder but as AUTISM SPECTRUM DIFFERENCE. This will put you all in the right mindset when coming up with and executing projects to support autistickind.
I also encourage your neurotypical membership to always listen to your autistic members and involve them always in your service projects. As we say in SACLC – nothing about us without us!
Having said this, it is important that your club’s activities reflect the makeup, interests and needs of your membership and community
Anyway, I would like to end my speech here tonight by saying congratulations on successfully organising and chartering your club. I don’t need to tell you that finding the necessary number of people to charter a club is no easy task. For that you should be congratulated. Revel in the moment. Celebrate tonight. But know that the hard work to bring out positive change in the lives of all autistickind, young and old has only just begun.
And let me say on behalf of SACLC that I look forward to a long and bright future, not just for our clubs but all clubs in the Autism Lions Movement, present and future.