Refugee Council of Australia
Young boy with hearing aid sitting with family

Barriers and exclusions: The support needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability

NDIA Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Strategy 2018

In May 2018, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released its 2018 Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Strategy. This strategy “focuses on ensuring that the NDIS is delivered in a manner that respects and takes into account the language and cultural needs of individuals needed to achieve full participation in the NDIS.” The long-awaited release of the CALD Strategy is welcome, as it seeks to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds have equal access to the NDIS.

Importantly, the CALD Strategy commits the NDIA to engage with communities, ensure that information is accessible in multiple languages, increase community capacity to participate in the NDIS, and improve monitoring and evaluation of the participation of people from diverse backgrounds. The strategy recognises that the NDIS needs to develop sophisticated, targeted data collection as well as skills in cultural competency, in order to engage with people from CALD backgrounds.

As this report highlights, there is significant work still needed to be done by the NDIA to ensure full participation of people from refugee backgrounds. It is, therefore, disappointing that there are no additional commitments from the NDIA on how they will engage refugee and migrant communities, and no additional funding to ensure this participation. Unfortunately, there is no effective mechanism in the strategy to measure and implement the CALD strategy nor a strategy to ensure participation from people with a disability from migrant and refugee backgrounds in the monitoring and evaluation of the NDIS.

Recommendation 7: Develop mechanisms to ensure full implementation of the NDIA CALD Strategy

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) should develop action items to ensure full implementation of the NDIA’s Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Strategy 2018 (CALD Strategy) and publish regular monitoring and evaluation reports to assess the implementation of this strategy.

Eligibility criteria

A key concern with the NDIS is the exclusion of those on temporary protection visas who are not eligible for the scheme, as they will not satisfy the residency requirements to access the NDIS. Service providers also highlighted that these refugees have very limited access to settlement services, which will hinder settlement outcomes and create prolonged health, social and financial issues.

This is especially significant as the NDIS is beginning to replace State-based disability services, meaning that refugees on temporary protection visas will be denied access to essential disability services. The number of people on such temporary visas is growing, and restricting an individual with a disability from accessing support services will lead to emotional and financial hardship for the individual and their family.

Subsequently, there are significant human rights concerns for the cohort of refugees or asylum seekers with a disability, and their families, living in Australia, who have disability related support needs yet are ineligible to access the NDIS. What support mechanisms are in place to respond to their support needs?

Recommendation 8: Provide access to NDIS for refugees and people seeking asylum on temporary visas

People seeking asylum and refugees on Temporary Protection Visas and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas should have full access to disability support systems, including the NDIS.


NDIA, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Strategy.

Refugee Council of Australia, Australia’s Response to a World in Crisis: Community Views on Planning for the 2016-17 Refugee and Humanitarian Program (March 2016), 7.

Philippa Duell-Piening, Response to a Discussion Paper of the Victorian State Disability Plan 2017-2020 (Victorian Refugee Health Network, July 2016), 21.

AMPARO, The NDIS and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities: Aiming High for Equitable Access in Queensland (AMPARO Advocacy Inc, October 2016), 31.

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