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  • Writer's pictureAaron Norrish

What is the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme)?

What is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides support to people with a permanent and significant disability, their families, and carers. It is jointly governed and funded by the Australian Government and participating state and territory governments. The NDIS was introduced across Australia from July 2016, except in Western Australia where it started in July 2017.

What is the NDIS

Key Takeaway Points

  • The NDIS provides individualized support to people with disabilities, their families, and carers.

  • It is jointly funded by the Australian Government and state/territory governments.

  • The scheme is not means-tested and is demand-driven.

  • The NDIS aims to support independence, social and economic participation, and provide reasonable and necessary supports.

  • The insurance-based approach plans for long-term sustainability and cost-efficiency.

  • Eligibility requires living in an NDIS area, meeting residency and disability criteria, and being under 65.

  • Supports include daily personal activities, transport, workplace assistance, therapeutic supports, household tasks, and more.

  • Participants can manage their funds or use registered providers in a competitive market.

  • The financial commitment of the NDIS is compared to the current annual cost of the Disability Support Pension (DSP) and other government programs, highlighting the significant investment in supporting individuals with disabilities.

NDIS Individualized Support Packages

The NDIS offers individualized packages of support to eligible people with a significant disability, a permanent condition that substantially impacts their ability to participate in daily activities. When fully implemented, around 460,000 Australians are expected to receive these supports. The NDIS also helps people with disabilities access mainstream services (such as health, housing, and education), community services (such as sports clubs and libraries), and maintain informal supports (such as family and friends). The NDIS is not means-tested and is an uncapped, demand-driven scheme.

Objectives and Principles of the NDIS

The NDIS was established under the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (NDIS Act). The NDIS Rules, made under the NDIS Act, detail the scheme's operations. The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) administers the NDIS. Key objectives include:

  • Supporting the independence and social and economic participation of people with disabilities

  • Providing reasonable and necessary supports, including early intervention

  • Enabling people with disabilities to exercise choice and control in their support

  • Developing a nationally consistent approach to access, planning, and funding of supports

  • Promoting high-quality and innovative supports for people with disabilities

The NDIS uses an insurance-based approach, considering the long-term costs and benefits of supporting individuals.

Transition from the National Disability Agreement (NDA)

The NDIS largely replaces the previous system under the National Disability Agreement (NDA). Previously, the Australian Government provided employment services and funding for states and territories, while state and territory governments managed specialist disability services. The Productivity Commission recommended replacing this fragmented system with the NDIS to provide unified, long-term, high-quality care and support.

Cartoon of different participants

Insurance-Based Approach

The insurance-based approach contrasts with the previous welfare approach, where funding was planned annually or for short periods. The NDIS plans expenditure over an individual's lifetime, aiming to increase independence and community participation to reduce long-term costs. This approach incentivizes short-term investments that improve long-term outcomes.

Eligibility for Individualized Support Packages

To receive individualized supports under the NDIS, a person must:

  • Live in an area where the NDIS is available

  • Meet residency requirements (be an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or Protected Special Category Visa holder)

  • Meet disability or early intervention requirements

  • Be under 65 years of age when the access request is made

Available Supports

NDIS supports may include:

  • Daily personal activities

  • Transport for community, social, economic, and daily life activities

  • Workplace assistance for employment

  • Therapeutic supports including behavior support

  • Household tasks to maintain home environment

  • Aids or equipment assessment, setup, and training

  • Home modification design and construction

  • Mobility equipment

  • Vehicle modifications

NDIS participants meet with the NDIA to identify reasonable and necessary supports to meet their goals, which are included in their NDIS plan. Participants can manage their funds themselves, through the NDIA, a registered plan management provider, or a nominee. Supports are provided by registered providers in a competitive, self-sustaining market.

Cartoon computer with NDIS logo


The NDIS represents a significant shift in disability support in Australia, aiming to provide long-term, high-quality, individualized care. By understanding its objectives, eligibility criteria, and the supports available, participants can make informed decisions and fully utilize the scheme. The NDIS's insurance-based approach ensures sustainability and focuses on improving independence and participation for people with disabilities.


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