About People with Disability in Australia

Did You Know?

Percentage of people in Australia with disability. Description: Image of a circle with a section coloured in with text next to it. Text reads 18 per cent of All Australians were people with disability. Information sourced from 2015 Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers. Image showing people with disability are underemployed. Description: Image of a clock with bottom third coloured in with text next to it. Text reads people with disability are more likely to be underemployed with nearly one-third of people with disability working part-time wanting to work more hours. Information sourced from 2015 Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers. Image showing percentage of people aged 65 and over with a disability. Description: Image of a person with 65+ written in a speech bubble above its head with text next to it. Text reads 51 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over live with disability. Information sourced from 2015 Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers.

Less people with disability participate in the labour force (53.4 per cent), compared to people without disability (83.2per cent).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are nearly two times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be living with disability.

For more disability statistics visit the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers webpage.

How Governments work together to improve the lives of people with disability

Commonwealth, state and territory, and local governments are committed to working together to support people with disability to maximise their potential and participate as equal citizens in Australian society.

It is important that all people with disability have fair access to things like employment, healthcare, education, transport, housing and public facilities/buildings.

Diagram showing people with disability and their representative organisations, the Australian Government, state/territory governments and local governments working together on the National Disability Strategy

What is the National Disability Strategy?

The National Disability Strategy (the Strategy) is an agreement to guide policy across Australian, state and territory and local governments from 2010-2020.

Extensive community consultations were undertaken in 2008-09, resulting in Shut Out: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia (2009) (Shut Out). The Strategy was informed by the findings of Shut Out and developed in partnership with Commonwealth, state and territory, and local government representatives.

The Strategy also plays an important role in protecting, promoting and fulfilling the principles that underpin the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention), ratified by Australia in 2008. The Strategy ensures that the Convention’s principles are incorporated into all policies and programs affecting people with disability, their families and carers.

The Strategy is the first time in Australia’s history that all governments have committed to a unified, national approach to improving the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.

State and territory government’s implement the Strategy through their Disability Plans:

What does the National Disability Strategy aim to do?

The National Disability Strategy sets out six priority areas for action to improve the lives of people with disability, their families and carers. These are:

1. Inclusive and accessible communities

Improving access to education, health care and employment, as well as buildings, transport and social events, so that people with disability can participate in all areas of Australian life.

This includes things like:

  • improving access and increasing participation of people with disability in sporting, recreational and social activities; and
  • making sure that buildings and communication and information systems are accessible for people with disability.

2. Rights protection, justice and legislation

Ensuring that people with disability have their rights promoted, upheld and protected.

This includes things like:

  • increasing awareness of the rights of people with disability;
  • developing strategies to reduce violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability; and
  • providing greater support for people with disability in the legal system.

3. Economic security

Ensuring that people with disability, their families and carers have economic security so they can plan for the future and have choice and control over their lives.

This includes things like:

  • reducing barriers to the employment of people with disability;
  • encouraging new approaches to the employment of people with disability;
  • making sure housing is affordable; and
  • future financial planning.

4. Personal and community support

Ensuring that people with disability, their families and carers have access to a range of supports to assist them to live independently in their communities.

This includes things like:

  • making sure services give information, choice and control to people with disability;
  • developing flexible supports for people with high needs;
  • improving access for people with disability in community support services; and
  • making sure community support networks are available to provide information and support to families and carers.

5. Learning and skills

Ensuring that people with disability can participate in a high quality education system and have opportunity to continue learning throughout their lives.

This includes things like:

  • reducing barriers, and simplifying access, to the education system for people with disability;
  • ensuring the needs of students with disability are incorporated into government policies;
  • developing learning strategies and supports for students with disability to enable them to reach their full potential; and
  • making sure people with disability have support through all stages of learning from education to employment.

6. Health and wellbeing

Ensuring that people with disability have the highest possible health and wellbeing throughout their lives.

This includes things like:

  • improving the links between disability services and health services in local communities;
  • addressing issues specific to people with disability in national policies, such as dental, nutrition, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health programs; and
  • ensuring the rights of the individual are respected in informal and supported decision making.

For more information see the National Disability Strategy.

How is the National Disability Strategy different from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)?

The NDIS is a key action under the Strategy and represents a very significant change to the way people with disability are supported.

While the NDIS represents a significant step forward for many people with disability, the Strategy remains the key to achieving improvements in access to mainstream services and support for all people with disability.

Mainstream reforms are an essential element in the successful introduction of the NDIS, both for participants in the scheme and for the many people with disability who may not be participants.

How does the Australian Government recognise the human rights of people with disability?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is part of Australia’s commitment to eliminating all discrimination against people with disability. The DDA prohibits discrimination on the grounds of a person’s disability in many areas of public life including employment, education, access to premises and access to goods, services and facilities.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has the power to investigate and attempt to resolve complaints of discrimination. Complaints may be lodged by anyone who considers that they have been unlawfully discriminated against. If the resolution process is unsuccessful, they may commence legal proceedings regarding the complaint in the Federal Magistrates Court or the Federal Court.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) aims to enhance opportunities for people with disability to participate in all aspects of social and political life including access to employment, education, health care, information, justice, public transport and the built environment.

There are eight guiding principles that underline the Convention. They are:

  1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons
  2. Non-discrimination
  3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
  4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
  5. Equality of opportunity
  6. Accessibility
  7. Equality between men and women
  8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities

The full text of the Convention [PDF 448 KB] is available for download.

What is the Australian Government doing to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.8 times more likely to have a disability than other Australians.

The development of an ​Australian Government Plan to Improve Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with Disability captures current and on-going actions which can improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

The Plan highlights five key areas that stakeholders view as priorities:

  • Area 1: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have access to appropriately designed shelter and live in accessible, well-designed communities that are fully inclusive of all their residents.
  • Area 2: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have the right to:
    • be free from racism and discrimination
    • have their rights promoted
    • a disability-inclusive justice system.
  • Area 3: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability achieve their full potential through participation in an inclusive high quality education system that is responsive to their needs. People with disability have opportunities for lifelong learning.
  • Area 4: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, their families and carers have opportunities to gain economic security through employment and business ownership, enabling them to plan for the future and exercise choice and control over their lives.
  • Area 5: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability attain the highest possible health and wellbeing outcomes throughout their lives, enabled by all health and disability services having the capability to meet their needs.

The Plan can be found at: Australian Government Plan to Improve Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with Disability

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