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A national disability insurance scheme

A portrait photo of George Taleporos

Some people with disabilities have all their care and equipment paid for. Other people do not get enough help. This is not fair. A new insurance system would make sure that everybody gets the help that they need. Many people are asking the Australian Government to introduce an insurance system as soon as they can.

Posted by: George Taleporos, on 01/12/09

A woman using a wheelchair looking at her partner while crossing Federation Square in Melbourne

People with the same disability can get different support

Have you ever noticed that some people with disabilities cruise around in the latest wheelchairs, have the most high-tech aids at their disposal and enough attendant care hours to actually have a life? Meanwhile, others seem to constantly struggle just to get a little support.

My article Squeaky wheels stresses the importance of being a strong self advocate. Being able to speak loudly and clearly about your needs is essential for anyone to secure their share of the limited disability support dollars.

But the unfortunate truth is that in Australia today, some people with disabilities are covered by insurance, while others are left to depend on government services.

Shop around for a disability

When shopping around for a disability, you need to go for one that will be compensated. A road or a workplace accident will do, or if you really want to live in style, have someone really wealthy cause your disability through a negligent act. Genetic diseases, neurological impairments and unfortunate accidents where no one is to blame should be avoided at all costs.

The reality for people with disabilities in this country is that people with the same level of impairment have very different levels of support available to them simply because of how or where they acquired their impairment. You don't need a doctorate in social policy to understand that such a system is flawed and in desperate need of change to address the inequity.

A tale of two women

Consider these two women with quadriplegia:

Maria acquired a disability as a result of a tumor on her spinal cord. When it was time for her to be discharged from hospital, she could not return to her home because it was inaccessible. There was also insufficient support provided for her to live independently. She was forced to live in a nursing home and remains on a waiting list for accessible housing and a support package that is adequate to meet her needs. According to her case manager, such packages are rare.

Jenny acquired her disability as a result of a car accident.She was drink-driving and over the legal limit. After her accident, she was provided with a comprehensive rehabilitation program that assisted her to regain function. She also received a significant individual support package that not only purchased enough attendant support hours to meet her needs but also provided funding for transport, recreation and holidays. Her home and vehicle were modified for wheelchair access including environmental controls that were triggered through her state-of-the-art motorised wheelchair. She was provided with case management and training to assist her to return to work.

Jenny, like other people injured in a road accident or at work, is protected by an insurance scheme that provides funding to cover her disability support needs.Maria, on the other hand, is dependent on a system where demand for services exceeds the funding available. It is also predicted that the demand for support is about to increase dramatically. People with disabilities are living longer and unpaid carers from the Baby Boomer generation are ageing.

A national disability insurance scheme

In response to the inequity and the growing need for more support, some people with a disability are calling on the Federal Government to introduce a national disability insurance scheme. The scheme was one of the big ideas to emerge from the Prime Minister’s 2020 Summit in April 2008.

Under the scheme, all Australians who are born with a disability or acquire a disability before the age of 65 would be provided:

Disability support would no longer be held back by waiting lists. Instead it would be an entitlement for all, like Medicare, superannuation and the baby bonus.

Support for such a scheme is growing. And it is not just among people with disabilities, but also among the wider community, who are beginning to understand that disability can affect anyone at any time. With the promise from the current Labor government to develop and implement a national disability strategy, let us hope that the scheme will come to fruition and the ridiculous inequities that currently exist will finally be addressed. 

New inquiry

The Federal Government has asked the Productivity Commission to investigate the feasibility of new approaches for funding and delivering long-term disability care and support.

The inquiry will examine the feasibility, costs and benefits of replacing the current system of disability services with a new approach which provides long-term essential care and support for people with severe or profound disabilities however acquired. The inquiry will include consideration of whether a no-fault social insurance approach to disability is appropriate and would fit with Australia’s health, aged care, income support and injury insurance systems.

A panel will be appointed shortly and the Productivity Commission will report to the Federal Government in July 2011.



The Productivity Commission has released their report into Disability Care and Support. It is available on the Productivity Commission website (opens new window).

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Readers comments (7)

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Posted by: Sally, 04/12/2009 at 10:03am

Thank you for writing such a clear and concise article about the need for a national disability insurance scheme. What a difference this would make to peoples lives and well being.


Posted by: Denise, melbourne 16/01/2010 at 09:25pm

Excellent article, it really brings home the inequities in our society. Lets hope the scheme gets off the ground


Posted by: Heather , Melbourne 05/03/2010 at 03:33pm

An Insurance scheme is absolutely needed. I walked into hospital to have an operation on my foot to walk better. I came out in a wheelchair never to walk again. The Aids + Equipment scheme did not provide very much. I had to buy my own wheelchair,and cushion, toilet seat, ramp, shower chair pay for some modifications to my home etc. etc. I could not get back into my house without the ramp - I was told 4 months for an OT then 1 year to wait for the Aids program. I couldn't wait. What was I supposed to do - live on the verandah or in the shed ? The Aids program provided me with a mobility scooter to which I contributed a fairly small amount. Because I got the scooter they would not pay for a manual wheelchair. I have the costs of servicing the wheelchair and paying for tyres for scooter all on the meagre sum of $330 p.w. I don't know how or if people renting could afford this. They would probably have to go without the mobility scooter which is my legs and gets me out down the ramp to the chemist, supermarket independently and is a must to be mobile and join in society independently. Not all of us have someone to help shop, or push a wheelchair.


Posted by: Mardi , doveton 22/01/2011 at 02:49pm

Having been a support worker for 15 years I feel passionately that the only way we can move forward as a commnunity is to get every person who has a disability to use thier voice. LOUD and CLEAR. Dont let the National Insurance Scheme become yesterdays topic.Talk about it to everyone you know. Tell anyone who will listen. Its time for a positive change.One voice is all our voices.


Posted by: Kermit, 02/03/2011 at 07:19am

I'm pleased that the NDIS seems to have the support of both parties, and that there has been no fighting about how it is going to be paid for. There's just an acceptance that it needs to be done. I think some people might be disappointed though that it only includes support for those with the most critical needs.


Posted by: marie, 06/10/2011 at 01:22pm

I would like to have more information about the NDIS, how it is going to work, who will provide the fund and how people with disability will be assessed to obtained assistance. Will the people with disability have to pay for this insurance? what will the insurance cover?


Posted by: Florina, Lower plenty 12/12/2011 at 05:04pm

i feel like at the moment i have no support i call up heaps of organisations for help but they always say not enough funding to help me for treatment


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This is in reply to: Kermit

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