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NDIS Evaluation

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) represents a major change in the way the services and supports for people with disability are funded. It presents both tremendous opportunity yet significant challenges.

Ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive the same care as other Australians is an important human rights obligation. This project will improve the ability of the NDIS to achieve this.

At this stage, with the exception of an evaluation conducted in Barkly, very little is known about the roll-out of the NDIS to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The 2011 Census indicated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience profound or severe disability at higher rates than non-Indigenous Australians at all ages, with 6.1% of Indigenous males and 5.4% of Indigenous females reporting a profound or severe disability.The Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2015 that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 1.8 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be living with a disability.The First People Disability Network (FPDN) estimates that the current number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally eligible for participation in the NDIS is around 60,000.3

This project will examine:

Recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities are not well served by mainstream services has led to strong advocacy and the development of culturally competent service models by the community controlled and NGO sector. This project is a collaboration of 3 such organisations; Machado Joseph Disease Foundation (MJDF), Synapse and First Peoples Disability Network and the University of Melbourne.

The project will take a co-design approach to developing a study of the roll out of the NDIS for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Co-­design, or experience-based co-design, is not only a way to actively involve consumers in the design, delivery and/or evaluation of services but also enables the design of systems where consumer and carer experiences are central.4 Our approach to the project will bring together expertise from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations working to provide services to people with disabilities, with researchers and policy makers. The approach to design and data collection will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, optimise existing data and knowledge, and develop local research capacity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It will bring together community, researchers, providers, policy makers and NDIA staff and develop an evidence informed approach to improving the NDIS and developing a workforce to support it. The project will involve four phases:

  1. Establishment of a project reference group
  2. Co-design
  3. Interviews
  4. Reporting and review.

It is expected that the project will identify strengths and weaknesses of the NDIS implementation. It will identify promising strategies to improve the ways the NDIA works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations.

Related resources:
  1. B. Nicholas, Y. Mandy & G. Matthew 2013, Paper 6: Disability, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Canberra
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017, 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, ABS, Canberra.
  3. V. Aimee & G. Declan 2017, Concern over speed of NDIS rollout in Indigenous communities as NSW launches approach, ABC News, available at:
  4. Palmer, V. et al. (2013). BMJ open 5(3).
Project leader

Margaret Kelaher

Administering institution:

The University of Melbourne