About Australian Disability Enterprises

Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) are generally not for profit organisations providing supported employment opportunities to people with disability. ADEs provide a wide range of employment opportunities and they operate within a commercial context.

There are ADEs across Australia providing supported employment assistance to approximately 20,000 people with moderate to severe disability. ADEs are funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

What are ADEs?

An ADE supports people with disability to engage in a wide variety of work tasks such as packaging, assembly, production, recycling, screen printing, plant nursery, garden maintenance and landscaping, cleaning services, laundry services and food services. ADEs also offer similar working conditions as other employers and an opportunity for people with a disability to contribute to their local community.


Although some originate from as long ago as the nineteenth century, the ADE sector in Australia generally has its roots in the early 1950s when families of people with disability established sheltered workshops to provide vocational activity for people with disability. At this time employment opportunities for people with disability were extremely limited.

The introduction of the Disability Services Act 1986 enshrined principles and objectives for disability service delivery into legislation. From this time, the older style sheltered workshops moved into a business services model, as employment for people with disability emerged as a national priority for the Australian Government.

Nearly ten years later in 1996 the Australian Government announced further reforms to improve service quality, to match service funding to the support needs of people with disability receiving assistance, and to link funding to employment outcomes.

Since that time, a reform agenda has been introduced to the ADE sector. The mainstays of the reforms are the introduction of a legislated Quality Assurance strategy, a funding model that links payments to individual support needs, and most recently a focus on wage determination for supported employees

For more Information see the Government’s Quality Assurance Strategy.

The Future

Funding of ADEs is gradually transitioning to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS supports people with permanent and significant disability to have more choice and control. The NDIS will deliver a new system of individually tailored support for people with disability based on need, where funding goes to the individual.

More information is available at NDIS Transition.

Jobs for people with disability

The Australian Government is committed to supporting high quality and durable employment outcomes for people with disability and a vibrant and sustainable supported employment sector.

The Government is investing $17 million on business development to improve the viability of ADEs. This forms part of a $189 million additional support package for ADEs.

These initiatives will be delivered from 1 July 2015 until June 2019 to assist ADEs to be ready for the full roll-out of the NDIS in 2019.

Australian Disability Enterprises Excellence Award

The ADE Excellence Award recognises, encourages and promotes the significant contribution that ADEs make in improving the lives of people with disability. The Award provides an opportunity to recognise ADEs as viable businesses that provide employment to people with disability.

The Award acknowledges organisations that:

  1. provide best practice and innovative training opportunities;
  2. achieve strong wage outcomes;
  3. provide safe working conditions, social inclusion and participation for the employees; and
  4. quality of service to people with disability.

The Award is held annually, and previous winners include:

What if I want more information?

For further information about ADEs:

You can also visit Australian Disability Enterprises to locate your nearest ADE.

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