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The path forward

First Nations communities are inclusive of people with all capabilities, supporting participation in community and cultural life for millennia. Understanding the way disability is conceptualised and experienced by First Nations peoples is critical to understanding the strengths within existing community support systems, identifying barriers to accessing resources and ultimately understanding how to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples with disability, their families and communities.

The Department of Social Services is leading the Commonwealth obligations to embed disability as a cross-cutting outcome under the National Agreement as well as the implementation of Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031, which holds all Ministers responsible for improving outcomes for all Australians with disability, ensuring no-one is left behind.

First Nations peoples with disability experience intersecting layers of individual and structural discrimination (ableism and racism) which have a compounding effect, driving further acute social, economic, wellbeing and health inequalities across all socio-economic indicators. It has been estimated that the prevalence of disability among First Nations peoples is up to twice the rate experienced by other Australians.

The identification of disability as a cross-cutting outcome recognises the need to incorporate dedicated actions and initiatives across all aspects of the National Agreement. Disability is also one of the priority areas for the Commonwealth’s gender impact assessment in the 2023–24 Budget, another cross-cutting area of the Implementation Plan, to include considerations of the needs of First Nations women. Action is required by all Commonwealth agencies to ensure that the needs, values and aspirations of First Nations peoples with disability, including culturally inclusive concepts of disability, are embedded into the design and implementation of all policies, programs and services to guarantee inclusive, accessible, and equitable outcomes.

Priority actions

Disability Sector Strengthening Plan

The Disability Sector Strengthening Plan, finalised in 2022–23, was developed in partnership with First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and all Australian governments. The Disability Sector Strengthening Plan (the Plan) will improve understanding, support for, and representation of First Nations peoples with disability across all Commonwealth policy, programs and services consistent with Priority Reforms One, Three and Four. The Plan sets an ambitious agenda to build the community-controlled sector, including:

  • Growing the First Nations disability workforce and establishing First Nations Disability Workforce Sector Principles
  • Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations to deliver disability services
  • Ensuring community-controlled organisations and buildings meet accessibility and inclusions standards
  • Ensuring information and communications systems used by the community-controlled sector are accessible
  • Supporting innovation in the community-controlled sector to increase, maximise and improve the current disability services and support capacity
  • Developing disability and First Nations engagement principles and protocols.

First Nations Strategy

The Commonwealth, through the National Disability Insurance Agency, commits to co‑designing a new First Nations Strategy with the First Nations disability community. The National Disability Insurance Agency has entered a partnership agreement with FPDN to develop the First Nations Strategy. Subject to further discussions with FPDN and selected members of the Independent Advisory Council, the National Disability Insurance Agency will establish a First Nations Advisory Council and recruit a First Nations Strategic Advisor to ensure that the Strategy will be guided by First Nations peoples and sector representatives at the highest level. In 2023, the National Disability Insurance Agency will be undertaking extensive public engagement, consultation and co-design with First Nations peoples with disability, participants, communities, representative organisations and service providers, to co-design the new First Nations Strategy.

NDIS market interventions

At the Disability Reform Ministers’ meeting (DRMM) held in October 2022, Ministers discussed the need to address barriers to National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) access and service delivery in thin markets, including for particular support types, First Nations and culturally diverse communities, and regional and remote Australia. Ministers agreed that the National Disability Insurance Agency needs to work with communities and state and territory governments to use more flexible approaches to address thin markets. This commitment will drive the National Disability Insurance Agency’s implementation of thin market intervention projects which support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NDIS participants to use the funding allocated in their plans in circumstances where poor market connection, low demand, or other barriers to service provision exist. The projects do this by working extensively with the community, providers and other intermediaries to resolve identified barriers and issues.

In 2023, locations of focus for NDIS market interventions include the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, the Kimberley, and Longreach. The National Disability Insurance Agency has been working with communities, local NDIS providers, state governments and other stakeholders in the APY Lands and the Kimberley to develop these NDIS markets since 2020. This work will continue in 2023, taking a whole-of-community approach, listening and responding to community priorities, and seeking opportunities to integrate across other service systems to build a strong and culturally-relevant NDIS.

Sport4All pilot project

The Sport4All pilot project is being expanded into a nationwide program which includes a specific focus on increasing participation of First Nations peoples with disability in sport and physical activity through local schools and sporting clubs.

The program expansion will see an additional 80 Inclusion Coaches employed in identified Local Government Areas that will engage approximately 53,000 First Nations peoples with a disability.

Over the next 12 months the Commonwealth will continue to build the capability of all Departments to reach the needs and expectations of First Nations peoples with disability exemplified through the minimum standard set forth by the Guiding Principles of Disability SSP. This includes partnering with FPDN and Worimi scholar, Dr Scott Avery at Western Sydney University, who is also profoundly deaf, to develop a Cultural Model of Inclusion Framework and Organisational Tool (Priority Reform Three), and the development of a First Nations Disability Data Scoping Study (Priority Reform Four), in collaboration with the Department of Social Services and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Summary of new actions

ActionMinister ResponsibleDelivery Timeframe
Develop and implement a national First Nations - Disability Data Strategy (National Disability Footprint)Minister for Indigenous Australians2022–2025
The Sport4All pilot projectMinister for Aged Care and Sport30 June 2026

*A full appendix of new and existing measures being undertaken by the Commonwealth to support Closing the Gap efforts is on the NIAA website, at Closing the Gap implementation measures.


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