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Defence builds cyber capability with talents of people with autism

Defence is contributing to the Government’s enhanced national cyber security efforts in a unique and impressive way.

The Dandelion@Defence program is a joint initiative between Defence, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Danish company Specialisterne, turning the traits of autism into a competitive advantage in the area of cyber security. The Dandelion@Defence program harnesses the talents and develops the skills of a highly capable and diverse, yet previously overlooked, segment of the Australian workforce—people living with autism.

The program utilises the strengths of high-performing autistic individuals, such as a remarkable eye for detail; accuracy and consistency; a logical and analytical approach to detecting irregularities; pattern-matching skills; and a high tolerance for repetitive mental tasks. These exceptional skills create a competitive advantage for Defence in the achievement of its mission, while at the same time opening up a world of opportunity for adults with autism.

Nine talented individuals were chosen from over 50 applicants. They were selected through a unique yet rigorous two-stage assessment and selection process, designed to tap into these strengths.

The Dandelion@Defence program provides a highly supportive and tailored working environment that enables the individuals to reach their full potential on both a personal and professional level. The nine individuals began their journey as cyber security analysts with Defence in September 2016 and have quickly made some very impressive progress with their allocated work.

‘I believe the Dandelion@Defence program will not only change the way we think about people with autism, but will go some way to both enhance our capability as well as alleviating the shortage of skills we face in the critical area of cyber security,’ said Chief Technology Officer, Mohan Aiyaswami.

‘What is important isn’t the money; it’s giving something back to society that’s important. Without a job … I feel like I’m not giving anything back, I feel it’s my duty—it’s the right thing to do … we have an understanding of how society works, even if we don’t fit in.’ Participant, Dandelion@Defence program

Even more importantly, in addition to the capability benefits for Defence, the employment provides the individuals with a broader personal and social benefit, including a sense of independence, increased social opportunities, greater confidence when engaging with the community, and improved physical and mental health.