The Right to Work

Join the conversation about open employment in this free online event by UTS.

People with disability historically have significantly lower rates of workforce participation than people without a disability. People with an intellectual disability face greater barriers to employment than most other people with disability. This increases the chance of people working in Australian Disability Enterprises or ADEs where they can be legally paid as little as $2.67/hour.

The Disability Royal Commission has highlighted exploitation, discrimination and other injustices experienced by people with intellectual disability working in ADEs and supported employment programs. Human rights violations are also experienced in other countries. Japan, for example, also has segregated workplaces and subminimum wages for people with intellectual disability.

People with an intellectual disability have the right to work on an equal basis with others, and to workplaces that are open, inclusive and accessible. Urgent change is needed to ensure fair pay, open employment and realisation of people’s right to work.

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is hosting a free online discussion with advocates and researchers to talk about disability, employment and human rights in Australia.

The event is on Friday June 16 from 11am-12pm, AEST.

They will explore such questions as:

  • What are the experiences of people with an intellectual disability working in supported employment programs?
  • What is wrong with segregated employment and subminimum wages?
  • What advocacy are people with intellectual disability and advocates leading in this area and what changes do they want to see?
  • How are families of people with intellectual disability supporting the calls for transition away from supported employment programs?
  • What are key features of inclusive open employment?
  • What good practice is already happening?
  • What does government need to do?
  • What can employers do?
  • How can the broader community support this transition?

This event will be hosted Dr Linda Steele, Associate Professor at Faculty of Law, Law Health Justice Research Centre and Disability Research Network, and Professor Simon Darcy Faculty of Business and Disability Research Network at UTS.

Their guests will include:

  • Brooke Canham, Policy Officer, Inclusion Australia
  • Sindre Bloch, Manager, More Than Just a Job, Council for Intellectual Disability
  • Jun Takagawa, Professor, Faculty of Contemporary Law, Tokyo Keizai University

To find out more and to register, please visit: People with Intellectual Disability and the Human Right to Work

Easy Read information about this event can be found here: Disability Employment Human Rights Event Final

Making it easier to vote for people with an intellectual disability

In August 2022 the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters had an inquiry into the 2022 Federal Election.

The Committee is a group of politicians who talk about things to do with voting and elections.

One of the things they talked about was how to make it easier for people with disabilities to take part in elections.

Inclusion Australia made a submission to the Committee. We made recommendations about how Australia’s electoral process can be more inclusive and accessible to people with an intellectual disability.  You can read our submission here.

The Committee invited Inclusion Australia to take part a special panel with other advocates in April 2023 to talk more about our submission.

Brooke Canham and Maeve Kennedy from our policy team joined the panel to talk about our recommendations and answer questions.

Brooke took some time to share her thoughts on her experience with the Panel with us …

In April I spoke to a panel of people about the election, with my Manager Maeve.  I told them about how I vote. We also gave them some evidence by Inclusion Australia.

The panel included people from different disability organisations, including AFDO and Blind Citizens Australia. They talked about voting for people who are blind.

I gave an opening statement. This is a 5-minute message where you tell people what you want to say and what needs to change. You answer questions at the end, and there can be multiple questions.

In our statement we told the panel that we want to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities to vote. We said it is your basic human right and we spoke about the UN Convention that protects people with disabilities.

I told the panel that it is important for me to vote. When I vote I feel like they are hearing other people’s perspectives and hearing from people who have a disability. It shows that we know who we want to win, and we understand about the election and the voting systems.

I can vote by myself, but if I get stuck, I ask my parents for help. I ask Mum after she votes and then she gives me a hand. I do know who I want to vote for, but I sometimes muddle the numbers up.

We also said that it is not good when people put How To Vote cards in our face when they go to vote. I don’t like having those papers thrown at you. That makes me very confused and very overwhelmed. I know it is hard for me and it could be hard for someone else.

We also said there should be more easy read information. There is some online, but it’s hard to find and it should be available in person on the day.

We also think people with an intellectual disability should be able to have more time at the voting stand. People might feel rushed. I have been told to hurry up as there are queues. It overwhelms me and it makes me scared that I’ll mess it up and my vote won’t count.

It would also be good to have someone to support you when you’re voting. We talked about Supported Decision Making with the panel and how that might help some people with voting.

It was good talking about these things with the panel. I was a bit nervous at the start because Maeve’s microphone wasn’t working but it worked in the end.  Some of the words were hard to understand. If there are meetings like this again about different things it would be good to break it down if there’s a person with an intellectual disability. That way I can understand without have to ask others.

I hope that by talking to the panel that there’s a change on how to vote out a better system format for people with disabilities.

Brooke Canham, Policy Officer – May 2023

Budget offers employment hope for people with an intellectual disability and families but concerns remain over NDIS budget targets

There was good news from the Australian Government budget this week with the announcement of funding for a range of measures on supported employment.

Supported employment for people with disability is typically provided in Australian Disability Enterprises, also known as sheltered workshops. Providers can legally pay employees as little as $2.75 per hour under the current system, with many people with an intellectual disability having no pathway to explore open employment.

The Government has now committed $54m over 4 years, which includes:

  • $35m over 3 years to establish a fund for supported employment providers to evolve business models
  • $11.7m over 4 years for a targeted disability employment advocacy service and information program for supported employees
  • $6m for evaluation of existing and new initiatives and trials, including the new Structural Adjustment grants, to build a robust evidence base to inform ongoing policy development
  • $1.1m for research to establish a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

People with an intellectual disability are clear that support to access to more employment opportunities is urgently needed. However, many are unclear about their rights and the options open to them.

Together with our state and territory members, Inclusion Australia has worked tirelessly with our community to articulate the complex barriers to employment that people face.

We also worked together to identify practical solutions, grounded in evidence. This work was shared with the Government and the Disability Royal Commission as part of broader conversations on employment.

Catherine McAlpine, CEO of Inclusion Australia said “It’s great to see signs that people with an intellectual disability are being heard by the Government. This investment is an important first step in changing the conversation about employment for people with an intellectual disability.”

“We are particularly pleased to see the $11.7 million investment in advocacy and information services. This much needed support will help people with an intellectual disability and families navigate the complex employment pathways they face. We also hope it will mean that people with an intellectual disability will have more opportunities to be part of the reform process and codesign a way forward with Government,” said Ms McAlpine.

Inclusion Australia also welcomes the announcement of plans to establish the Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

“There is plenty of evidence about what works for people with an intellectual disability when it comes to finding and keeping a job. Sadly, this evidence is not widely known or used. The Centre of Excellence will be an important first step to bring this knowledge together to help inform future approaches.”

Ms McAlpine said, “we look forward to working closely with the Department of Social Services and the National Disability Insurance Agency to continue this work and make sure people with an intellectual disability have more, properly paid, employment options.”

Concerns remain over NDIS growth targets

Elsewhere in the Budget it was good to see government commitment to the NDIS feature so prominently in the Treasurer’s speech. However, we share the community concern about the proposed limits on growth for the Scheme. The forward estimates suggest the fourth year budget for the NDIS will be tight as the growth targets hit.

Catherine McAlpine noted “The Government’s commitment to the Scheme is important. Funding for the Scheme is an investment in the future. It supports people with disabilities to build their independence and be part of the workforce and the broader community. It also supports families to continue in the workforce.

When the NDIS Review was announced last year, the Government made clear that it would work with the disability community to unpack the challenges and co-design the solutions. We urge the Government to continue on this path to build trust and meet the underlying principles of the scheme.”


Inclusion Australia welcomes release of NDIA Supported Decision Making Policy

New policy sets out framework for people with an intellectual disability to make their own decisions and get the supports they need.  

Inclusion Australia welcomes the release today of the long-awaited NDIA Supported Decision Making policy.  This is an important policy for people with an intellectual disability and their families. It clearly sets out that people have a right to make their own decisions about the NDIS, and to get the supports they need to make decisions.

Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine said, “It is fantastic to see the NDIS policy on supported decision making released. Choice and control for people with an intellectual disability was a key goal of the original Scheme design and it’s just as important today.

2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the Scheme so it’s great to see the NDIA committing to supporting participants to make their own decisions about their lives.

Without decision-making support, many people – especially people with an intellectual or other cognitive disability – are not able to live the lives they want or are not aware of the options open to them. This situation risks increasing segregation and reducing inclusion, as NDIA Chair Kurt Fearnley expressed concern about last week.

We hope this policy will be part of changing the conversation so people can explore options with people they trust and make decisions that are right for them,” said Ms McAlpine.  “The next step is for the NDIA to roll out its implementation plan in consultation with people with disability. This will be critical to make sure NDIA staff and community partners understand supported decision making and are consistently implementing it in practice.

Including the experiences of people with intellectual disability

Inclusion Australia worked with the NDIA to make sure the voices of people with an intellectual disability were included in the development of the policy.

Luke Nelson from our Policy Team helped design and co-facilitated workshops with NDIS participants around Australia to find out what people had to say about making decisions.

This included workshops with people from different cultural backgrounds, people with complex communication support needs and First Nations people from remote communities in central Australia.

Luke’s personal experience as a NDIS participant was gave him particular insight into the feedback that was heard. “It was important to have a person with disability in the workshops. People taking part knew that I had experienced similar issues and felt more comfortable talking about their experiences.

With the new policy finally released, Luke reflected “I think this policy will give people with disability a chance to know that supported decision making is a real thing, that it can be delivered, and that the NDIA is willing to work with people with disability to make them feel included.

I hope this policy will bring freedom and choice to people who use decision-making in their lives,” said Luke.


Inclusion Australia Northern Territory opens its new office

The IANT team reflect on a big week together in Darwin.

The IANT team celebrate by cutting a cake with our new logo.

On Tuesday 18th April, we had a party to celebrate the official opening of our Inclusion Australia Northern Territory office.

It went really well and felt very welcoming.

The Welcome to Country from Jeanneen was very meaningful and personal. You could feel it when she talked.

Our CEO Catherine McAlpine talked about what we do at Inclusion Australia. The NT team talked about our work in the Northern Territory.

People enjoyed themselves and were interested in the new office. They asked a lot of questions.

The IANT team – Liz Collier, Daniel Ross, Rebecca Hell and Ben Hankin – together with our CEO Catherine McAlpine and Senior Manager, Maeve Kennedy

On Thursday we met with the Honorable Ngaree Ah Kit, the Minister for Disability in the Northern Territory.

It was nice to have her come to our office and see what we do. We are looking forward to talking with her more in the future about people with an intellectual disability in the Northern Territory.

Minister for Disability, the Honorable Ngaree Ah Kit meets the team. 

We are enjoying working in our office. It’s nice to have our own permanent space to come to and work in.

It’s a good space and a good location. It’s a comfortable and relaxed space. You can feel the relaxation and know that you’re coming to a safe environment when you’re coming to work.

Our door is finally open!

The best thing about the office is the team – we work really well together.

It’s also great to work with teams in other states and know where people are in different projects. It’s unique.

Shorten suite

What do the six priority areas for the NDIS mean for people with an intellectual disability?

This week in Canberra, Bill Shorten – Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme – gave a much-anticipated speech on the future of the NDIS.

Intense media focus on the cost of the NDIS in recent months meant there was a lot of concern about cuts and changes to eligibility going into the speech. Speaking to the National Press Club of Australia, Minister Shorten instead delivered what he called ‘a state of the union’ on the NDIS.

The Minister was clear that “the National Disability Insurance Scheme is here to stay. It is not going away,” adding “but … we need to get it back on track. For the NDIS to reach its potential, it needs a reboot.”

“For the NDIS to reach its potential, it needs a reboot.”

Bill Shorten, Minister for the NDIS, 18 April 2022

Minister Shorten committed to making sure that “every dollar of NDIS funding must go to people with disability,” and outlined six priorities for “correcting course” on the NDIS.

  1. Expanding the NDIA workforce
  2. Increasing use of long-term planning
  3. Addressing spiraling expenses
  4. Better outcomes from Supported Independent Living
  5. Eliminating unethical practices
  6. Increasing community and mainstream supports

In Darwin to open the new Inclusion Australia Northern Territory Office, our CEO Catherine McAlpine spoke with ABC News about the speech and the issues faced by people with an intellectual disability.

The NDIS was founded on the idea of doing things differently” she said. “We do see that, but we still see too many of the old ways of doing things – there are still too many people going into Australian Disability Enterprises (the old ‘sheltered workshops’) and group homes.”

On the proposal to review Supported Independent Living, Ms McAlpine said “People with intellectual disability by far the biggest users of SIL. We agree with the Minister that there is not enough choice for people with disability about their homes. The system delivers poor outcomes for too many people and drives people into institutional settings.”

Asked about the Minister’s commitment to eliminate unethical practice, Ms McAlpine spoke about ‘sharp practices’ used by some service providers who have control over many aspects of people’s lives including “where they live, and who they live with and what they do during the day. That is profit maximisation and inclusion minimisation.

Also watching Minister Shorten’s speech were Brooke Canham and Luke Nelson from our Inclusion Australia Policy Team. Both are NDIS Participants, so watched with interest to hear about the changes.

Talking after the speech, Luke said that Making sure that providers don’t overcharge, and that the participant comes first” was most important to him. Brooke was most interested in the review of Supported Independent Living and “making people in the community get the right support to independent living and letting people choose if they want to be there.”  Read more about what they had to say in this interview. 

As the national representative organisation for people with an intellectual disability and families, Inclusion Australia believes that the more than 100,000 people with an intellectual disability who are part of the scheme must be part of the conversation about the future of the NDIS. To help this we have developed an Easy Read version of the of the Minister’s speech.

We encourage you to share this with people in your networks and share any feedback to the government via the NDIS Review: Have your say | NDIS Review

To watch the Minister’s speech in full, visit:

You can also read the full speech as text here:

“There is creativity in all of us, but it can be buried beneath our everyday concerns.”

Your Service, Your Rights workshops are being delivered across Australia by a team of almost 30 facilitators from Inclusion Australia’s member organisations.

The workshops are running to talk with people with an intellectual about rights when getting NDIS services.

We recently got an update from Matt and Callum from Parent 2 Parent in Queensland about how they used art in their workshops.

Art from the Margins Workshops by Callum and Matt

Your Service, Your Rights is a project that we have been working on.  At the workshops in February and March 2023 we asked people to explain using different ways of drawing.

We had a large piece of paper on the table. We asked people to draw pictures about the things that we were talking to them about.

They used different colours, they sketched, scribbled, doodled and wrote notes using different markers, pencils, crayons and pens. Some people had help from their Support Workers.

We did this because some writers think that drawing helps people to listen and learn.  It also helps some people to relax when they are in big groups.

When people draw, they often get more ideas.

It can also help people to feel good about their drawings when we share them. This happened during these workshops.

Below are some examples of the pictures, with words written:

What’s important to me? … to live and thrive in the life I choose…


What would stop me making a complaint list. I can use my hand of trust to identify the people I can ask for help to make a complaint…


How do you make a complaint? What does an audit mean? Is it about money?

“There is creativity in all of us, but it can be buried beneath our everyday concerns.” – Phillipa Stanton

We think it is great to see the creative ways that people asked questions and talked about their rights in Queensland. To hear more stories from the team at Parent 2 Parent, please visit

If you are interested in having workshops in your service, you can contact the Inclusion Australia member in your state or territory here:

To find out more about Your Service, Your Rights visit our project page on the Inclusion Australia website: 

Have your say about the NDIS

Complete our new Easy Read survey

We want to hear from people with an intellectual disability about your experiences with the NDIS.

We have made an Easy Read survey with People with Disability Australia.

Your answers will help us tell the government how the NDIS is going and how they can make it better.

We want you to tell us:
• What you think is working well in the NDIS
• What is not working well
• Any problems you have had trying to access the NDIS
• What you think could be done better.

It will take you about 15 minutes to complete.

To start the survey, please visit:

The survey is open until the end of April 2023.

Please contact Jamie Bannister, Manager Communications and Engagement if you have any problems or questions: [email protected]

Have your say in research projects

Our new Easy Read newsletter will help you find out about opportunities to be involved in research and consultation

The disability community has been very clear for many years, “nothing about us without us.”

This means that more organisations want to work with people with disabilities when they do projects or research.

Many people who do research want to talk to people with an intellectual disability to find out what they think.

However, it can be hard to find out about these opportunities until it is too late.

Inclusion Australia has a new Easy Read monthly bulletin to help people with an intellectual disability to find out about new projects.

This might include doing interviews, surveys, or workshops.

We have made this information so you can find out about chances to have your say. In some cases, you may also be paid for sharing your ideas and your lived experience.

Our latest bulletin is below. Please share this with others who may be interested.

Information for organisations, researchers and consultants

Making sure you have accessible information about your project is an important first step to engaging with people with an intellectual disability.

We have developed guidance to help you think about your project in an accessible way and prepare the information we need to be able to share it with others.

We have also developed a form to help you describe your project in an accessible way. PDF and Word versions are available.

If you would like to contact us about working together, or to feature your work in future bulletins, please contact [email protected]. Fees apply.

Disability advocates call for deeper examination of issues as Disability Royal Commission submissions come to an end

As we approach the end of 2022, the public engagement phase of the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) is drawing to a close, with the final date for all submissions set for 31 December 2022.

People with disability, families, advocates and representative organisations worked for many years to advocate for a Royal Commission to address violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability in Australia.

Since the DRC was set up in April 2019, a considerable amount of work has been done both within the DRC and across the disability community – despite significant disruption caused by COVID-19.

The DRC has cast its lens across an extensive domain to shine a light on the widespread issues of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation about which people with disability, advocates and organisations have spent many years calling for justice.

At the same time Disability Representative Organisations (DROs) have worked tirelessly to represent the experiences of people with disability, respond to submission requests, provide expert advice and to support others to share their stories with the Commissioners and their team.

While we acknowledge their significant progress so far, we believe several areas remain unexamined in the Royal Commission’s public work or require further inquiry to make specific recommendations.

In response, national DROs have worked together to provide a joint submission to the DRC outlining gaps in the scope of work undertaken to date and issues that require further examination. It includes suggestions for a deeper look into critical areas such as:

  • Employment and financial security
  • Inclusive homes and communities
  • Safety rights and justice
  • Personal and community support
  • Education and learning
  • Health and well being
  • Community attitudes

Our joint submission supports the vital work to date of the Royal Commission and offers further advice and input to inform the recommendations that will follow in 2023.

In the years to come, these recommendations will be a vital tool in our advocacy for Australian society to fully uphold the human rights of all people with disability in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We ask for the Royal Commission to ensure that the settings, structures, and contexts we identified are adequately interrogated.

It is only with the continued collaboration, co-design and cooperation between government, disability service providers, DROs and people with disability that this critical opportunity to enhance the human rights of all people with disability in Australia will achieve its full impact.

Download our joint submission here: DRO Joint Submission to DRC on identified gaps – November 2022