Sensitivity Warning

First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


In Australia and internationally, Indigenous populations experience high levels of disability, yet have low uptake of disability services. While the reasons for this are likely to be complex and diverse, there are indications that a lack of cultural safety in disability services is a significant factor. Low rates of uptake are a product of unavailability of services in some areas, but also reflect mistrust of government agencies and experiences of discrimination. Disability is a construct that emerged through particular historic, political and economic circumstances in Western societies and is widely reported to have little resonance with many Indigenous peoples across the world.

The Australian Government Department of Social Services funded a research team from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University to undertake a project titled ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in disability support services project: a collation of systematic reviews’ (the project). The aim of the project was to undertake a series of systematic reviews which offer a whole-of-system insight and will benefit government, agencies, the disability sector, researchers and communities to understand the complex issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living with disability, their families and communities. This project was funded by the National Disability Research Special Account.

This report is a collation of the project outcomes. It synthesises the published literature on how First Nations people in Australia understand and experience disability, and on promising practice in disability support services for Indigenous people internationally, in order to inform cultural safety in Australian disability services. This report comprises one systematic review and two systematic scoping reviews. The topics of these three reviews are as follows:

  1. Experiences and conceptualisations of disability among First Nations peoples of Australia and the implications for disability services;

  2. Characteristics of international approaches which address the needs of Indigenous people with disability in the justice system;

  3. International models of social care for Indigenous peoples.

These reviews used best-practice systematic and scoping review principles and methods, and were underpinned by an Indigenous research methodology. Across the three reviews, we screened 5,008 sources. In total, 61 sources met inclusion criteria in the three reviews and were included in the analysis.

This report is funded with assistance from a funding grant offered under the National Disability Research and Development Agenda, jointly implemented by disability representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory governments.

Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
CAEPR Commissioned report