National Disability Insurance Scheme

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The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a healthcare program initiated by the Australian Government for Australians with a disability. The NDIS is established by the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013. The NDIS was rolled out nationally on 1 July 2016.[1]


During the 1970s, care of people with a disability in Australia shifted from institutionalisation to being cared for in the community.[1] In 1974, Gough Whitlam proposed a national disability insurance scheme like the scheme offered in New Zealand. Academic Donna McDonald suggests it was Treasurer Bill Hayden who convinced Whitlam to focus on the introduction of Medicare instead.[2]

In 2006, Bruce Bonyhady, chair of Yooralla, met with former Labor cabinet minister Brian Howe, who put him in touch with a group of people who became known as the Disability Investment Group. The Disability Investment Group made an independent submission to the Australia 2020 Summit in 2008. They then sent their recommendations to the Productivity Commission.[3] The Productivity Commission released a report on the issue in 2011.[4] Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011 found that by approximately 2025 the cost of maintaining the status quo in relation to the care of people with a disability would be greater than the cost of an NDIS.[5] In 2011, the Council of Australian Governments agreed the disability sector in Australia needed reform.[6]

A bill to establish the NDIS was introduced into Federal Parliament in November 2012 by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.[7][8] It was passed in March 2013 as the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013.[6] The 2013 Australian federal budget committed $14.3 billion to the NDIS, to be paid for by increasing the Medicare levy by 0.5%.[9] As of May 2013, the Australian Government estimated the disability sector in Australia would need to double to meet the needs of the NDIS.[10] The first part of the scheme rolled out on 1 July 2013.[11] It was initially known as "DisabilityCare Australia" and commenced only in South Australia, Tasmania, the Hunter Region in New South Wales and the Barwon area of Victoria. The NDIS then commenced in the Australian Capital Territory in July 2014. The Medicare levy increased from 1.5% to 2% on 1 July 2014, to fund the NDIS.[12]

In the first nine months of the scheme, 5,400 people with disabilities accessed a NDIS plan.[5]

The 2016 Australian federal budget attempted to make savings of $2.1 billion for the NDIS fund by re-assessing Disability Support Pension recipients' capacity to work, and cutting compensation for the carbon pricing scheme.[13] This included scrapping an ad campaign letting people know about the NDIS.[14] Peak disability group People with Disability Australia expressed concerns the NDIS would become a 'political football'.[15]

The NDIS was rolled out nationally on 1 July 2016.[1] The NDIS CEO will resign effective November 2017.[16]


The first stage of the NDIS aimed to provide reasonable and necessary[17] support for people with significant and permanent disability. In the first year of the launch this included:

  • about 3,000 people initially drawn from the NSW local government area of Newcastle
  • about 1,500 children with disability in South Australia from birth to 5 years of age
  • about 800 eligible young people aged 15 to 24 in Tasmania
  • about 4,000 people in the Barwon area of Victoria including the local government areas of the City of Greater Geelong, the Colac-Otway Shire, the Borough of Queenscliffe and the Surf Coast Shire, and
  • the ACT getting ready for launch to support 2,500 residents from July 2014.

The number of people assisted rose to 20,000 people with disability by 2015. It has been recommended to increase participation to 410,000 however this figure remains uncertain.[18]

According to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, demand for disability aid in Australia has seen significant increases in recent years.[19] Job services and community support were the services most in need.

The NDIS is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency.


The cost of the NDIS was a point of contention at a time when the Federal Government insisted upon a return to surplus in the 2013 Australian federal budget. In 2010, the Productivity Commission estimated it would cost A$15 billion a year. Two years later a Government report revised that figure to $22 billion in 2018.[20] According to the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, the program will effectively double the cost of supporting those with disabilities. A number of state disability ministers initially described the draft legislation for the NDIS as lacking flexibility and criticised it for being too prescriptive.[21]

The first state to fully commit to funding for the scheme was New South Wales on 7 December 2012, with costs roughly divided between federal and state governments.[22] The then Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, wanted the federal government to fully fund the scheme,[23] arguing the state cannot commit funds while the state's debt was high. On 8 May 2013, Campbell Newman signed the agreement in support of the program.[24]

An agreement between Tasmania and the federal government was achieved on 2 May 2013. The state committed to $134 million of initial funding.[25] The Northern Territory signed an agreement to join the scheme on 11 May 2013.[26] From 1 July 2014 the Medicare levy rose from 1.5% to 2% to help fund the NDIS.[27]

Scott Morrison announced in January 2017 that the Productivity Commission would be conducting an independent review of the NDIS.[28] A Victorian man who lives at Moriac won a court case against the NDIS for only agreeing to fund 75% of his transport costs to Geelong for his work and "NDIS-supported activities".[29]


The Productivity Commission reported that some areas had less than 40% of the number of disability services employees needed to cope with demand for NDIS services.[30]

Access issues[edit]

Jan Pike, former Paralympian, has said that while having been on the NDIS, it has taken five months for a wheelchair to be delivered to her, and she cannot get contractors to come and install a shower handrail because they are worried they won't get paid due to the NDIS web portal being "broken". A Facebook page, "NDIS Grassroots" has been set up and is used by people with disability to discuss their experiences with the NDIS.[31]

Dr Kirsten Harley, who has a terminal illness, has been denied augmented communication through the NDIS because her condition will deteriorate. Neurological Alliance Australia has said NDIS plans aren't being made with the input of people who understand neurological conditions and so are inadequate.[32]

The process of writing NDIS plans has reportedly been cut down to hours rather than over some weeks. People who ask for a review are reportedly cut off from basic services.[33]


  1. ^ a b c Paul Ramcharan (2016-07-01). "Understanding the NDIS: a history of disability welfare from 'deserving poor' to consumers in control". Retrieved 2016-07-08. 
  2. ^ McDonald, Donna (20 May 2013). "DisabilityCare now a reality but how can we protect its future?". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "2011: Bruce Bonyhady, NDIS campaigner". The Australian. News Corp. 21 September 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  4. ^ Productivity Commission (10 August 2011). "Inquiry report - Disability Care and Support Productivity Commission". Australian Government. Archived from the original on 19 August 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Progress report on the implementation and administration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme - Executive Summary. 29 July 2014. Archived from the original on 15 August 2016. 
  6. ^ a b "Our history". NDIS. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  7. ^ "PM introduces NDIS bill to parliament". Herald Sun. News Corp. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012". Retrieved 2016-07-08. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ DisabilityCare Australia (PDF), Australian Government, May 2013, p. 17, archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2016 
  11. ^ Bennett, Gillian; Margetts, Jayne (28 June 2013). "DisabilityCare Australia: The national disability insurance scheme". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 1 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Medicare levy increase to fund DisabilityCare Australia". Australian Government. Retrieved 28 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Norman, Jane (3 May 2016). "Budget 2016: Disability support crackdown to help fund National Disability Insurance Scheme". ABC News. Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Browne, Rachel (11 May 2016). "NDIS: ad campaign for $22 billion disability reform scrapped ahead of launch". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. 
  15. ^ Hermant, Norman (3 May 2016). "Budget 2016: Concerns NDIS savings fund announced in budget could become 'political football'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016. 
  16. ^ "NDIS chief David Bowen announces resignation". ABC News. 15 March 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "National Disability Insurance Scheme - What are reasonable and necessary supports? | National Disability Insurance Scheme". 2014-12-03. Retrieved 2016-07-08. 
  18. ^ "Cruel Insulting Statistics: CIS Gets the NDIS Wrong" (Press release). Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "Demand for disability aid increases". The Australian. News Limited. AAP. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  20. ^ Whitehead, Lisa (16 November 2012). "Claims of blowout in disability insurance scheme". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  21. ^ Martin, Lisa (21 November 2012). "States react to federal NDIS draft bill". News Limited. Archived from the original on 21 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Cullen, Simon (7 December 2012). "Feds, NSW strike deal on disability scheme". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 31 October 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Koren Helbig (4 December 2012). "Gillard urges Queenslanders to sign up state for disability reforms". Herald Sun. News Limited. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  24. ^ Benny-Morrison, Ava (8 May 2013). "Qld joins other states in support of Gillard Govt's NDIS". Sunshine Coast Daily. APN News & Media. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  25. ^ "Tasmania signs on to disability scheme". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 May 2013. Archived from the original on 3 June 2015. 
  26. ^ "WA last holdout on NDIS as NT signs up". The Australian. News Limited. 11 May 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  27. ^ Griffiths, Emma (1 July 2014). "Federal budget feels pain as savings measures slated for July 1 delayed by Senate". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. 
  28. ^ "Government announces independent review of NDIS". ABC News. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  29. ^ "Victorian man wins court appeal over NDIS payment of transport costs". ABC News. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  30. ^ "Disability workforce won't keep up with demand, report warns". ABC News. 25 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  31. ^ "Fighting for access to disability support a 'nightmare' for some". ABC News. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 
  32. ^ "Terminally ill woman fears NDIS 'writing off' people with neurological conditions". ABC News. 15 April 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  33. ^ "NDIS service plans process 'cut down from weeks to hours'". ABC News. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017. 

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