SunPork Group - Autism and Agriculture

Autism and Agriculture is our world-first initiative that employs autistic adults with a high attention to detail in specialist animal care roles.

The program has resulted in an on-boarding and support framework that allowed SunPork Farms to place autistic adults into fully integrated, full or part-time employment, on our farms in Queensland and South Australia. 

An evaluation of the Autism and Agriculture pilot program by Curtin University, on behalf of the Autism CRC, provided recommendations to the wider agriculture industry to extend the employment model and animal welfare strategy across Australia and the world.

Some of our goals:

  •  To identify and employ the diverse skills and talents of autistic adults in animal care.
  • To develop innovative solutions that continue to provide optimal welfare for livestock.
  • To build capacity within the agricultural sector to employ autistic adults.

Collectively our program represents a financial commitment by
SunPork Farms and Autism CRC exceeding $800,000.

While the outcomes of our program are significant for autistic adults, the impact of the innovation on SunPork Farms and the Australian pork industry may outweigh them.

The program has made SunPork employees aware of autism and they are now focused on what can be achieved with, and by, these employees rather than any accompanying impairment.

The employment process has resulted in replacement of existing work instructions and training resources for all employees as well as a significant improvement in some amenities. 

Far from representing a charity exercise, this program has changed the entire company culture for the better and the enthusiasm and pride in the program is permeating to other parts of the Australian pork industry.

SunPork Group - Autism and Agriculture
SunPork Group - Autism and AgricultureStaff

Why Autism?

SunPork Group - Autism and AgricultureStaff

Autism affects more than 1% of the population. Adults on the spectrum are often unemployed, underemployed and socially disadvantaged despite having the necessary skills required.

Skilled employment can be difficult to find and hard to retain. Traditional recruitment practices such as a job interviews can cause distress and are poorly suited to otherwise capable employees. Workplace understanding and support is often poor.

In 2015 United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, joined by business leaders from Microsoft, SAP and Towers Watson, among others, launched a Call to Action inviting businesses to make concrete commitments to employ autistic adults, supporting the creation of equitable employment for autistic individuals and a workforce that better reflects the general population.

Consistent with the UN Call to Action, SunPork Farms recognises that some autistic adults possess unique empathy for animals. We also believe that there are many aspects of our animal work that align with other attributes of individuals with some forms of autism: an exceptional ability to focus and pay attention to detail, and finding comfort in repetitive activities. Furthermore, many autistic adults struggle with social interaction and perform well on solitary tasks.

Get in touch with us

Media and community enquiries strictly through:

Cally Jackson, Autism CRC
07 3377 0609
0424 409 155

To obtain further information about our pig care positions please contact:

Kirsty Richards
0407 282 592