Greater participation the big issue for PWD in the NSW election

By Fiona Bridger, Researcher and Writer, Achieve Australia

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Publishing date 22/03/2023

The NSW State election on 25 March is now not far away.  

Disability has not been a big issue on the hustings, but I was interested to see National Disability Services (NDS) identify the key issues as it sees them. Also, the Council for Intellectual Disability has called on NSW Government to take specific steps to promote greater social inclusion. I am all for that.  

So, let’s take a closer look and if you agree with any of these actions, you can check with your local candidates to see where they stand on these issues to inform you vote on election day – this Saturday.  

NDS 4-point plan 

NDS is Australia’s peak industry body for non-government service organisations. It has identified 4 key areas it wants NSW political contenders to focus on to better serve people with disability (PWD) in our state. These are:

  • ensuring a stable workforce of disability service workers 

  • creating additional suitable accommodations for people with disability 

  • providing more support for people not accessing the NDIS and employment  

  • finding ways to increase economic participation. 

Let’s take a closer look. 


Whoever wins government must take steps to ensure PWD have access to a resilient and skilled disability support sector workforce. 

The current shortage of workers is expected to increase significantly. The NDIS National Workforce Plan identifies that Australia-wide demand for workers that provide support to pwd is expected to increase by 31% by 2024. On top of this, the sector has seen a high turnover of workers – more than 17% -  placing added pressure on the capacity of the sector to deliver supports. 

Political parties need to commit to funding strategies and actions to promote careers in the NSW disability sector. It should also make an investment in retaining a skilled disability workforce. 

Housing and suitable disability accommodation 

The new NSW Government should increase suitable housing for PWD. Housing needs are not being met with the strategies currently in place. We need fit-for-purpose state-owned housing available for pwd whether they are accessing the NDIS or not. And housing should be pet friendly please! 

Now, PWD are shouldering the burden of having to be super creative in finding solutions to secure the right accommodation.  

I have been looking around for apartments to move into, however none have been suitable thus far. I completed the OT assessment last year by the NDIS (SIL). Ideally, I would like to be near to my family and friends, who are on the north shore of Sydney. Sadly, there is limited apartments that would be suitable for me in this area of Sydney, as I have high physical needs and require certain things to live safely and comfortably. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anything that meets my needs.   

To me, the perfect apartment needs: 

  • 2 bedrooms 

  • be clean without smelling like a nursing home 

  • have a small garden for my dog to run around in 

  • be located on the North Shore of Sydney so that I am close by to family and friends 

  • offer 24-hr care in case of an emergency.  

Most places I have looked at failed to meet the majority of this criteria. 

Mainstream supports  

The Federal Government is providing funding supports for 573,342 NDIS participants across the country according to current data but what about everyone else?  The new NSW Government must address the needs of pwd in this state who are not eligible for NDIS.  

According to figures from the NDIS, approximately 161,000 people in NSW were receiving NDIS funding as of June 2022 – from a total of approximately 1.37 million people with a disability! This means less than 12% of people with a disability in NSW are receiving NDIS support.  

Government must collaborate with pwd and sector experts to identify and clarify gaps in mainstream support. Then, develop and action strategies to deliver support at a state level to people who fall outside the scope of the NDIS.  

Investment in access to mainstream services for people with disability across health, housing, education and training, and employment is a critical need. 
Employment and economic participation 

The NDS call for construction action to improve rates of pwd participation in the workforce and the economy and I wholeheartedly agree! 

You can read my previous blogs, Employing people with disability benefits everyone, to learn my views about this topic. Suffice to say, the unemployment rate for people with disability is 10.3% compared to 4.6 % for the general population. Not good enough by a long, long way. 

All political parties need to commit to improving the employment and economic participation opportunities for people with disabilities. The government must also allocate proper funding to develop and implement a strategy that improves access to jobs for PWD. It is good for everyone for pwd to fulfil their potential to contribute to the economy. 

I would like to see NSW Government take more of a lead in creating state-wide awareness of the pwd employment situations. This should call out barriers to employment and offer solutions. Also, areas in the community that are beginning to change regarding disability employment need to be called out and celebrated. 

Government should do more to employ people with disability 
Achieve Australia is supporting the Everyday for Everyone campaign that calls on   NSW Government to take specific steps to remove barriers to social inclusion for PWD.  

The Chair of Achieve Australia, Kerry Stubs, is a signatory to an open letter created by the Council for Intellectual Disability detailing the steps government should take. These steps would boost employment rates of pwd, make public transport easier to use and ensure government information was more accessible. 

Both major parties and all minor parties must understand the struggle of PWD to participate in our society and be willing to act to bring about real change.  

More information please 

The NSW Government also has a key role to play under the Australian Disability Strategy and the Disability Inclusion Act NSW, but we have heard little about this from them. 

Support for people with disability voting in NSW Election 

The Electoral Commission list all the available supports for those with disability voting in the NSW election. This includes early voting, wheelchair access to voting booths, and Braille ballot papers.  

There’s no better time than right now for those wanting our vote to tell us where they stand on all these important issues.