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Hopeful vision for a better NDIS

  • 10 February 2020


A vision of equality and dignity inspired the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which was introduced in Australia on the 1st July 2013. Developed by the amazing people with disabilities, family members and supporters, moulded by the Productivity Commission, and finally embraced by the Australian community and parliament, the NDIS is a major social reform that offers people with disabilities the chance to move forward, claim their rightful place in society and live out their potential.

Community supports for people with disabilities evolved over many hundreds of years, reflecting attitudes to difference and the social systems for managing poverty. It was only in the 1970s that Australia saw large institutions developed in the early years of the colony begin to close. For many people, life in the institution was replaced by life on the streets, or a regimen in group homes, which replicated institutional life. It took many years for governments to realise that despite being housed in the community, people with disabilities were often not part of the community, or able to achieve their goals and potential.

An adequately resourced support system based on the individual needs and aspirations of Australia’s people with disabilities, whether they be physical, intellectual or psycho-social, has taken nearly 50 years to establish and will probably take even more time to fully implement and consolidate.

Prior to the NDIS, formal supports for people with disabilities were fragmented, poorly funded, and inequitable, based firmly on an outdated welfare model. The NDIS as proposed turned this on its head, promising a national, universal system allowing people with disabilities themselves choice and control over their services — what is needed, and how, when and where it is provided. This vision is clearly alive, even while the reality is very much a mixed bag.

My personal experience during the first 18 months of involvement with the NDIS was frustrating and particularly deflating for someone who had written submissions, emailed politicians and understood the potential of the scheme. My only contact seemed to be with an immovable, impossible-to-navigate bureaucracy determined to stand in the way of me receiving any support I was promised.

I’m now in my second year as a part of the scheme, and the NDIS is beginning to offer me the sort of transformative support originally envisaged. ‘Small’ things, such as access to the support services I need for a few days holiday (something that hasn’t been possible since I’ve been