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This review was Australia's first national consultation with people with disability, their families and service providers.


For much of Australia's history there was no national program of disability service provision. This changed with the election of the Whitlam government, which passed the Handicapped Program Assistance Act 1974, funding non-government organisations to provide housing or care to disabled people.

In 1983, the Hawke Government instituted a review of programs developed under this Act. For the first time, the review involved people with disabilities, and their families, as part of an extensive consultation process.

The report resulted in the replacement of the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act 1974 (HPAA), with the Disability Services Act 1986.

The new Act covered a much broader range of services than had the HPAA, including:

  •  accommodation support
  •  respite care
  •  supported employment
  •  competitive employment, training and placement
  •  advisory and information services
  •  individual assessment and program planning
  •  the CRS (formerly administered under the Social Security Act).

The Disability Services Act 1986 also provided funding for States, recognising that they were involved involved in such service provision.

Australia did not again see a report recommending such wide-ranging changes in disability service provision until the release of the Productivity Commission’s Interim Report on Disability in August 2011, which helped spur the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Report's introduction

This report outlines the major issues and options raised during the Handicapped Programs Review (HPR) and gives an indication of the broad directions in which the Commonwealth Government will be developing its programs and services in the immediate and longer term future.

The chapters of the report have been grouped into the following broad sections:

• A new direction
• Focus on functional areas
• Focus on community
• Special considerations
• Organisation and administration for the future

The review process adopted was quite unlike most public inquiries undertaken by the Commonwealth Government and it is important to describe that process first. The major focus of the Review was to establish appropriate long term goals and develop program options based on the aspirations of consumers. This consumer outcomes approach is a most important development and will form the basis of new programs for people with disabilities to be established by the Commonwealth.

The replacement of the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act 1974 (HPAA), by the proposed Disability Services Legislation will be one of the more immediate outcomes of the Review. This legislation will be designed to be more flexible than the current Act, involve a number of funding innovations and provide for better co-ordination of services than currently exists.

The terms of reference of the Review, while focusing on Commonwealth programs of relevance to disabled people, were quite broad and consequently attracted comment on an extensive range of issues. It is not practical to attempt to list all such issues in a report of this nature and hence only the main themes are covered here. Other reports will be available later giving further details on some of the matters referred to in this report.

Throughout the report selected quotes from people participating in the consultation or who wrote to the Review have been used as illustration. The cartoons are the work of Simon Kneebone.

In Australia at the present time, the terms disability and disabled are more generally acceptable to the people involved than are the terms handicap and handicapped. Accordingly, the former are the terms used in this report.

A number of abbreviations have also been used in this report. These are listed in Attachment F.

Because of the nature of the HPR, the report concentrates on comments and opinions and the development of options for im provement in programs and services. Such a review is, of course, not a detailed scientific or statistical investigation but it does provide for a clear reflection of cu rrent community views.

The report's conclusion (Chapter 29) is followed by a summary of the recommendations (Chapter 30) designed to give effect to the new directions to be taken by the Commonwealth Government.


Part of the Policy History Collection. Digitisation of this report has been supported by the National Library of Australia.

Reproduced with permission of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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