Autism New Zealand 2016 Awards

The awards were presented for outstanding achievements in our community at the Autism New Zealand Conference Awards Dinner 19th August 2016.

Outstanding achievement by an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

This award seeks to acknowledge and celebrate an outstanding achievement by a person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. This achievement can be in any field – for example, education, sport, music, community involvement, and / or may involve overcoming personal challenges.

The award was presented to Salem Foxx.


Salem has been dancing since before the age of three. He lives and breathes dance and calls himself “Ballet Boy” (He has a blog, youtube channel and facebook page called "Ballet Boy NZ"). He has been fortunate to perform in four productions with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and this year he plays Burt in Mary Poppins.

Salem sees having Asperger’s as a gift. He teaches classes and gives private dance lessons and the difficulties he has had understanding instructions himself has helped with his teaching.

He has excellent exam results – 96% for two jazz exams and 100% for contemporary dance in 2015. He has won numerous awards including the Attitude Creative Achievement Award last year, and his is performing at the Attitude Awards this year. - "Salem's Ballet" Attitude Live documentary 

Outstanding achievement in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder Research and/or Practice

Innovative and ground-breaking research and practice are crucial to our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders, and to ensuring the best support can be offered. This award celebrates an outstanding achievement of a researcher/practitioner or team working in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The award was presented to Doctor Laurie McLay.


Dr. Laurie McLay is a senior lecturer and coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury. As a former committee member of the Canterbury/West Coast branch of Autism New Zealand, she contributed much to the Branch with her extensive knowledge of Autism.

Her current research interests include treatments for sleep disturbance of children with autism. While undertaking this research herself, and her research team have  seen substantial and sustained improvements in children's sleep disturbance. They continue to investigate the effect of resolving sleep problems, on children’s daytime behaviour.

Dr. McLay and her team hope to continue to work with children and families nationally over the coming year.

Outstanding contribution by a practitioner supporting people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Excellent practitioners, (for example health professionals, support workers, teachers and others) work passionately to enhance the quality of life of and broaden the options available to people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their family/whānau. The award will recognise an outstanding contribution by a person working to support people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The award was presented to Bernie Wastney.


Bernie (Ngati Porou) is the driving force behind the DVD “In My Shoes” distributing 22,000 free copies throughout New Zealand and in 14 countries worldwide. She single-handedly raised the required funds, developed the script, oversaw the editing, production and supporting website.

She has assisted more than 300 parents in the Manawatu to access financial and resource entitlements by providing information, hands-on help with form-filling, and moral support. Her lobbying was instrumental in gaining additional ASD-related services at Palmerston North Hospital.

Bernie is a very humble woman. She is a real taonga both to Maori and the ASD community at large.

Outstanding contribution by a volunteer to the Autism community

This award will recognise the dedication and support provided by a volunteer in the community. This person will have made a real and positive difference to the life/lives of a person/people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are looking for an outstanding contribution made by a person who may volunteer with an organisation, or may provide support and help in an informal way in their neighbourhood.

The award was presented to Brian Pulefolau.


Brian, with his wife Betty,  founded the Pasifika Autism Support Group to provide support and information for Pasifika families – including their own – and has worked tirelessly advocating for the many families in the support group.

His experience, from the assessment process to finding out what support or services are available, motivated him to develop this group after his eldest son, Roman, was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. 

In 2010 Brian sat on the ASD Advisory group that provided advice on the development of the New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guidelines. He has also presented Pasifika parent's perspective at MOE, MOH, Altogether Autism and church workshops.

Pasifika Autism Support Group PASG

No fewer than 15 people nominated Brian, and  he is a worthy recipient of this award.

Nominations were judged by a panel comprising one representative from each awards category, plus one Autism New Zealand staff member.

For more information please call us on (04) 803 3501 or email