“On the first weekend of the Fellowship, a safe space was created. I felt like I could take the mask off.”
It was in 2021 that Kim Hutchinson discovered her autistic identity, an important revelation in her ongoing quest for self-discovery, bringing both enlightenment and grief. “It was a key to understanding my differences, past traumas, and my connection with the world,” Kim explains. However, it also unearthed deep regret for years of mental and emotional suffering under unrecognised neurodivergent traits.
Struggling with mental health challenges, Kim decided to take a break from her decade-long public policy career in 2022. This pause led to profound realisations about her identity and aspirations. “My life story has been working towards a sense of belonging,” she shares. “I wanted to find a way to create more inclusive environments.”
The Possibility Fellowship in 2023 was a catalyst in this journey. “On the first weekend of the Fellowship, a safe space was created. I felt like I could take the mask off,” Kim recalls. “Gift giving and story activities fuelled my desire to challenge autism and neurodivergence stigma.”
Kim’s involvement in activities like the Warm Data Lab unveiled her interest in addressing not only employment challenges but also broader barriers that hinder autistic people from connecting and contributing within their communities. Reflecting on this, she notes “Whether pursuing their dream job or participating in community activities, obstacles like inadequate accommodation, lack of awareness, stigma, unconscious bias, or discrimination persist. The ability to contribute is vital for overall wellbeing and establishing a sense of belonging.” Kim also noted the need to challenge stereotypes and recognise the unique strengths of the individual.
Recalling a poignant moment at a wedding, Kim shares “The mother of the groom, thinking she was making a joke, thanked the bride for loving her son even though he was on the spectrum. Hearing this broke my heart because, in her mind, being autistic or different somehow made you less deserving of love. It really hits home the pervasive nature of unconscious biases, even among well-meaning individuals, and how challenging it can be to address them.”
As the principal of What Unites, Kim is on a mission to empower people and organisations to embrace diversity by fostering collaboration, inclusivity, and community through shared purpose. Driven to raise awareness about autism and champion neurodiversity, Kim shares, “The Possibility Fellowship inspired me to consider the small steps and actions that could make a meaningful impact.” This led her to complete a lived experience speaker training course, culminating in a paid speaking engagement to help shed light on autism and mental health challenges.
A pivotal moment emerged for Kim during a core gift interview offered by Befriend, inspiring her to become a Master Facilitator. Kim is now exploring ways to facilitate a sense of belonging for neurodivergent individuals by helping them to explore and embrace the unique gifts they have to share with the world. Kim elaborates “Gift discovery offers a pathway to purpose and wellbeing. I am excited to be able to share this transformative process with others, and incredibly grateful for Befriend’s support along the way.”
In addition to this, Kim helps government and community organisations put people at the heart of the policies and programs they design and deliver. Kim expresses her passion, stating “I am dedicated to amplifying the voices of individuals and groups often overlooked and marginalised in decision-making processes. Diversity creates strength, as increasingly complex problems require a range of perspectives and abilities to solve them.”
Kim concludes her interview noting her sense of newfound purpose: “I’m not just going through the motions of living anymore. My life feels very expansive now, like my world is opening up. The Possibility Fellowship has not only helped me connect with my purpose but continues to spark more possibilities and opportunities, instrumental in shaping and guiding my journey in new and different ways.”
This story was gathered in partnership with Kim as she concluded her experience in The Possibility Fellowship 2023. Written 14 December 2023.