NATIONAL: National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth): DisabilityCare Australia
The National Disability Insurance Scheme Act (NDIS Act) was enacted to give effect to Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  It establishes the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which was initally named DisabilityCare Australia. An NDIS launch agency has been created and the Government has provided $1 billion for the initial launch of DisabilityCare Australia, which began on 1 July 2013. The Australian Government will be providing $19.3 billion funding over the next seven years and in 2019-20, the first year after the full national roll-out, funding of $11.7 billion will be provided to NDIS. 
NDIS is a permanent support programme that seeks to improve the quality of life and increase the social and economic participation of people with disability. This is to be achieved by providing individualised support plans and funding for all eligible Australians with significant and permanent disabilities. Participants in the scheme can choose whether to manage their support packages themselves, or with help from professionals, friends or family. 
NDIS is currently available in parts of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and will benefit approximately 26,000 people in its first stage,  with a specific children and young person focus existing in Tasmania and South Australia.  NDIS will be available to all those who are eligible in NSW by 2018 and will continue to be rolled out until the services are available country-wide,  with an estimated half a million Australians to benefit from the scheme.  The NDIS also adopts the social model approach towards disability, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), by outlining in the Objects of the Act to:
(c) support the independence and social and economic participation of people with disability;
(e) enable people with disability to exercise choice and control in the pursuit of their goals and the planning and delivery of their supports;
(g) promote the provision of high quality and innovative supports that enable people with disability to maximise independent lifestyles and full inclusion in the mainstream community;
(h) facilitate greater community inclusion of people with disability 
In adopting a social model approach, the NDIS attempts to shift the attitudinal and environmental barriers that people with disabilities have traditionally faced, and instead ensure that persons with disabilities are able to participate equally in society.  The social model approach, as preferred by the CRPD, differs from the medical model of disability, through which persons with disability are viewed as abnormal and the disability as a tragic condition. 
NATIONAL: Establishment of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme
On 2 December 2013, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme was established and allocated the task of reviewing the implementation, administration and expenditure of the NDIS.  The Standing Committee is also required to review any matter forwarded to them by a resolution of either House of Parliament, and submit an Annual Report after 30 June of each year.
NATIONAL: Review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) report on the review of Disability Standards for Education 2005  and the Australian Government’s response  were released on 1 August 2012. DEEWR’s review identified that although the Disability Standards for Education provide a good framework, improvements could be made in the application of the standards, their clarity and the interpretation of and adherence to the standards.  DEEWR made a number of recommendations concerning:
- raising the awareness of the standards amongst education users and providers;
- taking measures to clarify the standards;
- improving the access and participation of disabled students in the education process;
- improving accountability and compliance with the Standards, and strengthening complaints mechanisms;
- modifying the Standards to account for contemporary education practices; and
- ensuring that there are adequate resources available to meet the needs of disabled students.
The government’s response supports most of the recommendations made by DEEWR, identifying that many of the recommendations are being carried out under existing initiatives, such as the More support for students with disabilities initiative.
NATIONAL: More support for students with disabilities
The Australian Government is providing $300 million from 2012 to 2014 to government and non-government education authorities, enabling them to provide greater support for schools and teachers working with children with disability. This programme is being implemented through National Partnership agreements with state and territory education authorities and funding agreements with the non-government sector. The eight government and sixteen non-government education authorities have developed implementation plans outlining their outputs, strategies, timelines, performance measures and rationale for their choice of activities. The first two progress reports have also been completed by each education authority.  An evaluation of the effectiveness of the initiative is being carried out and is due to be completed in 2014. 
NATIONAL: Nationally consistent collection of data on school students with disability
On 10 May 2013, the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood endorsed the proposal for the national collection of data on school students with disability. The data collection will start in October 2013, with all schools participating by 2015. DEEWR hopes that this data will help the government to better understand the needs of students with disability and enable it to target support and resources where they are needed. 
NATIONAL: Better Start for Children with Disability initiative
The Better Start for Children with Disability initiative (Better Start initiative) was first launched in 2011 but as of 1 January 2013 the list of eligibility conditions was expanded by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs from four to thirteen. The initiative allows for eligible children who are under six or turned six on 1 January 2013 to be registered for early intervention funding of up to $12 000. The funding can be spent on purchasing resources and paying for early intervention services from professionals on the Better Start Early Intervention Service Panel. It also provides Medicare rebates for diagnosis and assessment, developing a treatment plan and for a number of treatment sessions. In addition, the Better Start programme provides additional support for children from remote areas.  As the NDIS is progressively rolled out by 2018-19, the Better Start initiative will also progressively transition to the NDIS at the launch sites. In July 2013, the Federal Government also announced $900 000 worth of funding for parents and carers of children with disability to enable greater access to information on the support available.  The funding, also provided as part of the Better Start initiative, will be directed towards providing approximately 300 workshops across the country over two years, with thirty per cent being run outside major metropolitan areas.
NATIONAL: Positive evaluation of MyTime
An external review by the Department of Families, Housing, Community, Services and Indigenous Affairs, and an independent evaluation by ORIMA in 2012-13 found that the Federal Government’s MyTime initiative provides invaluable emotional and practical support to carers.  The initiative, which commenced in April 2007 and is delivered by the Parenting Research Centre, provides peer support groups for parents and carers of children up to the age of 17 with a disability or a chronic medical condition. During 2011-12, 3031 participated in a MyTime group.  The evaluation found that the MyTime program was delivering key benefits to parents and carers, including the provision of a peer support network as well as more information on how to care for their children.  MyTime has also been successfully implemented in regional areas. 
NATIONAL: Increase in disability service use
There has been an increase in the number of people accessing disability support services, with the greatest increase being seen in those under 25, according to a report by the Council of Australian Governments Reform Council released on 30 April 2013.  This indicates that more children and young people are getting the help that they need. Nevertheless, the report identifies that there has only been a marginal increase in the use of services in regional and remote areas. 
The other key findings of the report are:
- a decrease in economic participation of people with disabilities;
- working age carers are less likely to be in the labour force and are less likely to be employed; and
- that most carers experience negative effects from their caring role. 
Consequently, there are still areas that require improvement, especially in relation to the support provided for carers of those with disability .
VIC: Staff training and resources
In light of the report on the school experiences of children with disabilities released by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) in September 2012 which revealed that forty per cent of educators were unaware of the Disability Standards for Education 2005 and how they translated into school and classroom practice,  the VEOHRC has worked closely with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to develop resources targeting the elimination of discrimination by education school staff. The resources include a new online professional learning resource for all school staff in all Victorian schools on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (VIC) and the Disability Standards of Education;  leadership workshops for specialist school principals in Preventing and Responding to Extreme and Challenging Behaviour, with plans for all specialist school teachers to online professional learning modules by the end of 2014; and the sponsoring of fifty participants to complete the Professional Certificate in Education (Positive Behaviour and Learning) from Melbourne University. 
Progress requiring attention
NATIONAL: Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Legal Barriers for People with Disabilities
On 23 July 2013, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) received the Terms of Reference from the Federal Attorney-General to conduct an Inquiry into Legal Barriers for People with Disabilities (Disability Inquiry).  The Disability Inquiry will look at whether Commonwealth laws and frameworks deny or diminish the recognition and the ability of people with disability to exercise their legal capacity, as well as considering whether any changes can be made.  Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Graeme Innes AM, will also be involved with the inquiry,  which released an Issues Paper, Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws on 15 November 2013. The Issues Paper, which included forty questions on how the law might treat people with disability unfairly in various sectors such as social security, banking and employment, encouraged people across the community, including a specific focus on children, to respond.  Public submissions to the Issues Paper were due by 16 December 2013,  with the ALRC to report on its final findings in August 2014. 
Areas lacking progress
NATIONAL: Children and young people with disability in inappropriate care
There are over 7500 young people with disabilities currently living in aged care and 700,000 living at home, often without sufficient support.  Youngcare is an organisation committed to tensuring children and young people with disability are placed in appropriate care.  Youngcare has expressed concerns that even with the new DisabilityCare Australia program providing individualised plans and funding to people with a disability, there is still a lack of alternative care options available for young people who require full-time care. 
The Committee in its Concluding Observations recommended that Australia strengthen support measures for carers of children with disabilities and ensure that if a child is placed in care that full regard is given to the principle of the best interests of the child. The care needs of children and young people with disabilities, as well as their mental health and well-being, will be better supported in an age-appropriate facility as opposed to aged care homes.
NATIONAL: Sterilisation of Children
The Committee in June 2012 recommended that Australia, ‘prohibit[s] non-therapeutic sterilization of all children, regardless of disability; and ensure that when sterilisation that is strictly on therapeutic grounds does occur, that this be subject to the free and informed consent of children.’ 
Nevertheless, the Family Court of Australia has jurisdiction under section 67ZC of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to authorise the non-therapeutic sterilisation of children, provided that the court is satisfied that:
- the sterilisation is in the child’s best interests; and
- alternative, less invasive procedures have failed or it is certain that no other treatment or procedure will work. 
In addition, Guardianship Tribunals or Guardianship Boards in NSW,  Queensland,  and South Australia  have jurisdiction to make a non-therapeutic sterilisation order in relation to a child.
Further, in all jurisdictions, sterilisation on therapeutic grounds does not require the free and informed consent of children. The Northern Territory provides that a child capable of giving consent may consent to therapeutic sterilisation, however if they are incapable their parents or guardians can consent on their behalf. 
On 20 September 2012, the Senate referred the issue of involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities to the Senate Community Affairs Legislative Committee (CALC) for inquiry. Prior to the report being released on 17 July 2013,  Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes called for non-therapeutic sterilisation to be criminalised and for the requirement that hospital records be more detailed.  Innes explained that currently there is no process for recording whether or not the person has a disability, and there have been circumstances where parents have taken their daughters to foreign countries following rejection by the Australia’s Guardianship Tribunal.  The Senate CALC report makes a number of recommendations on reforming the law on involuntary sterilisation to ensure greater protection for the rights and interests of people with disability. The report identifies that
an outright ban of non-therapeutic sterilisation procedures without consent potentially denies the rights of persons with disabilities to access all available medical support on an equal basis with persons without a disability. 
Nevertheless, the Senate CALC concluded that involuntary sterilisation should be banned if the person has the capacity to consent, the capacity to consent if they are provided with decision-making support or may develop future capacity to consent.  The Senate CALC also recommended that involuntary sterilisation should only occur in very limited, prescribed circumstances.  In adopting this approach, ‘the committee expects that…there will be very few Australians who altogether lack decision-making capacity.’ 
This recommendation if adopted is likely to offer some protection against the involuntary sterilisation of children with disability as it will be very difficult to conclude that a child will not develop the capacity to consent in the future if provided with decision-making support. Despite this, there would still be a possibility for non-therapeutic sterilisation of children.
NATIONAL: Disability as the basis for rejecting an immigration request
In its Concluding Observations the Committee expressed concerns over legislation that allows disability to be the basis for rejecting an immigration request and recommended that Australia ensure that its migration and asylum legislation does not discriminate against children with disability.
On 31 October 2012, the Department for Immigration announced a new approach to migration that is fairer for people with a disability.  The Government is looking into the feasibility of a ‘net benefit’ plan, which will enable a consideration of the social and economic benefits a person and their family may bring to Australia to be compared with the estimated cost of their healthcare.  While this eases the health requirements for obtaining permanent or temporary residency, the Government is still able to reject an immigration request on the basis of disability.
NATIONAL: Clear legislative definition of disability
The Committee recommended that Australia adopt, ‘a clear legislative definition of disability, with the aim of promptly and accurately identifying children with disabilities to effectively address their needs.’  The Australian Government has taken no action on this recommendation .
NATIONAL: Possible reduction in funding of NDIS
In November 2013, the Assistant Minister for Social Services, who is responsible for the scheme, told the National Press Club in November 2013, that the initial three months of the trial was already thirty-two per cent higher than the modelled cost when it was designed and that at this rate, it would cost $22.2 billion in the first year of the full rollout in 2019-20.  Following the announcement of the Mid-Year and Fiscal Outlook forecasts in mid-December 2013, comments were made by the Federal Government as to the “massive blowout”  in the NDIS’ initial costs as well as delivering it in the “most cost-effective and efficient way possible”.  The comments have incited fear that there will be funding cuts to the NDIS, although Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised that the Government “will deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme”.  Mr. Graeme Innes, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, emphasised the importance of the NDIS in changing the circumstances of the “forty-five per cent of Australians with a disability liv[ing] in poverty”.  The Disability Reform Council has agreed that “more work needs to be done to build the scheme’s service-delivery capability”  and will meet again in March 2014 to address implementation and financial issues.  The chairman of the NDIS, Mr. Bruce Bonyhady, has also warned that it is too early to judge the scheme. 
NATIONAL: Discriminatory measures within the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth)
Despite the praise the Government received for the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Government failed to address concerns raised by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights in their review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 (Cth) regarding the right to non-discrimination. The Joint Parliamentary Committee submitted two reports asking for clarification of the definition of the disability, the ineligibility of participants over the age of 65, and the ineligibility of certain New Zealand citizens.
The definition of disability utilised by the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth) (NDIS Act) is less exhaustive than that under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which provides:
Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. 
Under the NDIS Act, persons with disability also need to fulfil requirements of disability permanence and the likelihood of lifetime supports.
Under section 22 of the NDIS Act, the eligibility of participants is limited to persons under the age of 65. The rationale for the age requirement is that once a person turns 65, they will be able to access the age cared system,  however National Seniors Australia has described it as “blatant age discrimination”  and have voiced their “grave doubts that the current aged-care system has the capacity to provide disability support of equitable quality to that which will be provided through the NDIS to people aged 64 and under”. 
The NDIS Act also limits the eligibility of certain New Zealand citizens. Only New Zealand citizens who are protected special category visa (SCV) holders are eligible to be participants under the scheme,  meaning New Zealand citizens who have been long-term residents in Australia but do not hold a protected SCV, are not permanent Australian residents, or Australian citizens, will not be able to access the scheme. The Joint Parliamentary Committee has highlighted the issues of compatibility with the right to non-discrimination and the right to social security that this measure presents,  particularly as the New Zealand citizens who are ineligible are still required to pay the Medicare levy including the increase to the levy that funds the scheme. 
VIC: Release of the ‘Held Back – The experiences of students with disabilities in Victorian schools’
In September 2013, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission released their report, ‘Held Back – The experiences of students with disabilities in Victorian schools’. Overall, it found that “there were systemic barriers to students with disability accessing education on the same terms as other students”,  with inconsistencies across Victoria of inclusive school communities  and Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) implementation and eligibility.  The study also found that some students were only attending school on a part-time basis as some schools are unable to provide the necessary specialist support and teachers do not have the time or capacity to devise classroom programs for the students.  Students living in rural and regional Victoria, and those of Indigenous or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were also the most vulnerable to bullying, acting as an additional barrier to their participation on an equal basis.  Victoria’s Office of the Public Advocate has also called for closer regulations of the use of restraints and seclusion as there currently is no legal requirement to report their use,  resulting in no data being collected on the frequency, reason and impact of the use of these restrictive interventions  which include physical restraint by use of force, mechanical restraint by straps and the use of drugs and seclusion. 
VIC: Juvenile offenders placed in the same state care facilities as disabled children
A former Victorian child protection worker has revealed that juvenile offenders are being placed in the same state care residential facilities as disabled children.  It has resulted in the sexual assault and rape of an eight year old boy with autism and Down syndrome by a repeat sexual assault offender. The whistleblower also highlighted the cyclical nature of the situation, in which the juvenile offenders can “re-offend, re-offend, re-offend”,  with the victims being “scarred as a result of this and start offending themselves”.  The Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People has also described the “poorly resourced system”  as “a situation where the more vulnerable kids there are being treated badly”.  It certainly fails to address any barriers that hinder the full and effective participation of children with disabilities in society.
NSW: Privatisation of disability services
On 27 November 2013, the NSW Government assented to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Bill 2013, enabling the state government to privatise disability services.  The NSW Public Service Association (PSA) has described the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Act 2013 (NSW) (NSW Enabling Act) as a “Trojan horse for a cut to the choice and quality of services available to support people with a disability and their families in NSW”.  Although NSW was the first state to sign the NDIS, PSA Assistant Secretary Steve Turner has warned that “the wholesale outsourcing of disability services will not deliver better services nor choice for people with a disability, their families and carers”  and that these changes “will decrease accountability, cost more money in the long run and deliver no guarantee of matching the high level support offered by ADHC’s professional staff.”  With the removal of the public service option, the move to non-government services also fails to take into account one of the key general principles of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth), in enabling disabled people to exercise choice in the delivery of their supports. 
The enactment of the NSW Enabling legislation was pursuant to a clause in the NDIS agreement between the Commonwealth and NSW, which specifically prohibits NSW from offering any supplementary disability services once NDIS is fully rolled out in 2018, a clause that does not exist in any of the other Federal-State agreements.  The state government has also been criticised for failing to consult with unions before passing the legislation.  Of particular concern is that the private sector will not be able to cope with the demand, with the proposed closure of residential centres in Stockton, Morisset and Tomaree already causing anxiety amongst current residents who have already had to fight multiple threats of closure on previous occasions  and will be moved into the community. 
SA: Lack of NDIS take-ups in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands
Despite the NDIS being available to young children since July 2013, there are yet to be any participants within the 0-5 years frame.  Ms. Kelly Vincent, Dignity for Disabilities MLC, has expressed concern that more needs to be done to ensure access to the services and that the lack of participants show that “there’s been no consideration given to the cultural nuances in the APY Lands, such as the fact that people might not even know their exact birth date”.