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AASQA awards celebrate achievements of students with autism

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Curtin University last night hosted the second annual Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) Awards, which recognise the special talents and dedication of young people living with autism.

Twenty students, from high school, TAFE and university, received awards across three categories at a ceremony attended by the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, Governor of Western Australia, Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry, members of the Perth business community and award winners’ family and friends.

AASQA Founder and Director Professor Tele Tan, from the School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Curtin, said the awards acknowledged students for their achievements over the last 12 months.

“Our students have shown incredible dedication, interest and ability to overcome challenges in the Information Technology field over the past year and they look set to continue making great contributions to science and engineering in the future,” Professor Tan said.

Seven students were recognised for passing an international exam for software testers, offered through the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB). The students spent months studying for the foundation level exam and verification via an e-learning platform donated by industry partner and software quality assurance leader Planit.

Professor Tan said that being certified for passing this exam would give the students greater confidence in themselves as software testers.

“In the longer term, this international exam will also help them to obtain employment as the qualification has a high standing in the industry. This year, seven candidates sat for the exams and every student passed, which is testament to their hard work and incredible talents in this area,” Professor Tan said.

Among those who received certification for having passed the exam was TAFE graduate Suzanne Bourquin, 41, of Mandurah. With a keen interest in IT, Suzanne said she took the ISTQB course and exam to expand her knowledge of a particular area of IT.

“The method of learning in an online format made it easy to fit in with everyday life,” Suzanne said.

“Professor Tan was very helpful with how to do the course and so approachable. I also had a mentor who was available almost 24/7. She was incredibly helpful and her sense of humour helped me not be so anxious in the mock exams.

“My plan is to seek employment in the IT field. I have just registered with a job agency that understands and helps autistic people find jobs and I will also search for work independently.”

Nine students received AASQA Australian Computer Society Foundation Scholarships to help support undergraduates through Work Integrated Learning, which are paid internships offering students full-time or part-time placements.

Four students received AASQA VET Scholarships, which offer up to $5000 to cover course fees for IT programming or software development courses at Certificate IV (CIV) and Diploma level. AASQA, the Autism Association of WA and the Department of Training and Workforce Development ran the scholarship program, which aims to harness the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum.

AASQA provides high-level expertise and services in assessment, training, education and work placements for individuals with Autism in the software testing industry. More information about the program can be found at

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