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The fight for the future of the NDIS

  • 18 March 2021
Right now, there is a fight on for the future of the NDIS. On one side is the Federal Government, determined to have total control over the Scheme, and to change its very fundamentals. On the other side are disabled people across Australia, disability advocacy organisations, allied health workers and disability service providers, urgently telling them to stop.

The Minister for the NDIS, Stuart Robert, and the NDIS CEO Martin Hoffman insist that everything is fine, and that they are really, truly consulting with disabled people and the disability community. But consulting, without listening, is just spin, and no amount of spin can hide what they are trying to do.

Minister Robert is adding fuel to this fire with increasingly inflammatory claims about people with disability using NDIS funds to buy yachts, and billions of dollars being potentially spent on sex work services. The NDIS CEO Martin Hoffman said the quiet part out loud in this interview, acknowledging that the ‘push to redesign how personalised budgeting works in practice is also being driven by the need to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the scheme.’ 

All this goes to the very heart of what it means to get support, to receive care, to have our lives entwined with services non-disabled people rarely encounter. 

Beyond the details of these proposed changes to the NDIS are broader disagreements about the very nature of how supports are provided to disabled people. Are we poor broken souls, who can have watchful charity if we behave ourselves, or full citizens who need supports to live our lives as we see fit? Who gets to decide and who gets control?

The charity model of disability drove disability services for centuries. Disabled people were seen as the passive recipients of the good works of non-disabled people. Our essential supports subject to the whims and fashions of others. The experts on disability being those who felt sorry for us and knew, of course, how to help.

'A rights-based support system, that gives disabled people a say about the care they recieve and who they receive it from, is what the NDIS was meant to be all about.'

This model was resisted by disabled people, and still is. The history of the disability rights movement in Australia includes pivotal moments when disabled people, particularly disabled women, protested about being treated this way.

The charity model still exists in Australia today, when it comes to our supports, the