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How to improve the National Disability Insurance Scheme for Aboriginal people in remote Australia

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) First Peoples health Disability Rural and remote communities Remote health Northern Territory

The-purpose of this submission is to inform policy and decision-makers of significant current issues about the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for Aboriginal people with disability living in remote areas of the Northern Territory (NT). While the MJD Foundation works specifically with Aboriginal people and their families living with Machado-Joseph Disease (MJD), the issues are pertinent to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disability in remote communities. This submission proposes some short term and longer term recommended actions to improve the delivery of disability services under the NDIS to this cohort in the NT.

Key recommendations:

  • Significant number of year 2 NDIS plans for MJD Foundation clients in very remote communities are seeing a reduction in Support Coordination and Core Support hours, with correspondence from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) communicating the plan was reduced because of ‘underutilisation’. Adopting a ‘use it or lose it’ policy will not provide any confidence to potential support providers looking to expand their remote supports, and is counter intuitive to ensuring participants get the supports they need in the longer term. Additionally, the NDIA should be open and transparent around the skill/support gaps in remote communities, which may assist to stimulate the market.
  • English is not the first language for many Aboriginal people with disability in the NT. Aboriginal participants are not able to exercise their choice, achieve their goals, nor use the funding in their plans effectively without interpreter assistance. It is reasonable and necessary that Aboriginal participants in remote Australia have interpreter funding included in their plans to enable them to formulate and implement every aspect of their plan. It discriminates against Aboriginal people in remote Australia to exclude such funding.
  • In the first years of the NDIS, the MJDF was involved in NDIA working groups which focused on developing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and a Rural and Remote Policy for the NDIA. Since those policies have been finalised and published there has been no confirmation that the policies are being implemented or incorporated into existing strategic plans. 


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