Disability advocacy

At a glance: 

"If you have a disability in our country, you're more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be living in poverty and more likely to be less educated than if you didn't have that disability... Pride in a socially just society has no price tag and the NDIS needs to happen."

Kurt Fernley Para-lympian (Australia Day 2013)

Why it matters

Almost one in two people with a disability in Australia live in or near poverty (45%). Globally, Australia is at the bottom of the heap, ranked 27th out of 27 OECD countries. In addition, Australia ranks 21st out of 29 OECD countries in the provision of employment opportunities for those with a disability.

Our current disability system is unfair and underfunded. Many people with disability receive little or no support to maintain a lifestyle which is considered basic to the average Australian.

A number of people with disability live isolated, vulnerable lives on the fringes of society. These include people who are homeless, indigenous people, people who use alcohol and other drugs, and people who have mental disorders which cause or complicate their disability. People with a disability who are, themselves, parents, and the burgeoning number of people with a lifelong disability who are ageing are also increasingly at risk of joining this group.

People in these cohorts often lack the skills to advocate for themselves, or the connections with family, service providers or other supports to advocate for them.

There is a great human cost to these people, to their families, to government and to our society as a whole in not addressing the needs of these people to live a decent life.

Why is it an issue

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, a government-initiated healthcare program, is "a new way of providing community linking and individualised support for people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers." (From their website, NDIS.gov.au

The NDIS, under the previous government, promised to provide tailored supports to meet the individual needs and aspirations of people with disability and, critically, to double the current levels of funding to meet those needs.

It would be easy to overlook those who are marginalised in the implementation of the NDIS system. We need a fully funded, robust system that allows for:

  • Early identification, comprehensive support and sustained engagement with vulnerable people
  • Flexibility between government departments and other services in meeting peoples support needs eg: mental health services, aged care services, family support and child protection services and the justice system
  • Flexible policy responses that allow for collaboration between services and packaging of supports across service types where required
  • Access to advocacy services and good quality supported decision making processes
  • Sufficient resources to meet the significant unmet need which currently exists for people with disability living in Australia

Visit the NDIS website to keep up to date with the latest on the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Get the facts: 
  • 1.3 million Australians have a severe or profound disability
  • 45% of people with disability in Australia live near or below the poverty line

  • Australia has the highest correlation between poverty and disability of any country in the OECD

  • Only 39% of people with a disability in Australia are employed. Australia is ranked 21 of 29 in the OECD. Rates of employment participation have fallen since the 1990s

  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) 2012 bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament in March 2012 with the support of all members

  • When fully implemented the National Disability Insurance Scheme will provide a fair and efficient funding mechanism to enable people with a disability to access support, services and equipment based on individual need and personal choice.


    National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill  | 2013

    Establishes a framework for the National Disability Insurance Scheme by: setting out the objects and principles of the scheme, including people with disability being given choice and control over the care and support they receive, and giving effect to certain obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; providing for the establishment and functions of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Launch Transition Agency, including implementing the scheme from July 2013; and providing for a review of the operation of the Act after a two-year period. The explanatory memorandum can be found here.


    Background information: Keep informed with our reports, downloadabble fact sheets, and shortlisted research.

    Submissions: Submissions made to the Government.



What can I do?: 

Get active this Federal Election

Ask your candidate - if elected:

  • Will you ensure full funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to give all Australians the support they need to live a decent life?
  • How will you ensure that people who are marginalised through poverty, lifestyle, or who are otherwise socially excluded, have access to the support they need from the NDIS?
  • How will you ensure that people with a disability who are ageing do not fall through the cracks of policy reform in the Ageing and Disability sectors?