Settlement Guide

Understanding the NDIS

Source: Getty images/Daniel Tardif

The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides support to Australians who have a permanent and significant disability. Despite having helped almost 150 000 people, Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse background are left behind.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a major change in how support is provided by the Australian government to people with a disability.

“The aim of the scheme is for people with a disability to live an ordinary life like any other citizen and a life where they’re part of the community,” says Matt Wright, NDIS Branch Manager of Engagement and Inclusion.

How does it work?

To be eligible, you must be under 65, you need to be an Australian citizen or permanent visa holder and you need to have a permanent and significant disability.

If you think you might be eligible, the first thing to do is to get in touch with the NDIS through their website or give them a phone call at 1800 800 110. If you prefer to chat in a language other than English, you can get an interpreter for free by calling the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) first at 13 14 50.

You’ll be assessed and if you meet the requirements, you will be contacted to discuss your funded support and an individual plan. You’ll have your say in what equipment you need and what service providers you prefer.


CALD communities and the NDIS

Despite the fact that around 20% of the people eligible to the NDIS are from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, data from the Council of Australia Governments shows that they account for only 7.2% of NDIS participants.

“There would be a whole group of people who would be eligible to the NDIS, but who are getting nothing at the moment because they don't know about it or they're suspicious of it or they don't have the support to get into it,"  says Dwayne Cranfield, the CEO of the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) an organisation advocating for the rights of people with disability from CALD backgrounds.

"Some of these processes are really quite difficult and if English is your second language and you're not proficient in it and you don't have the advocacy support that can help you through that process, these things are really difficult to get into.” 

A man with a disability jogs
Getty Images (GCShutter)
Getty Images/GCShutter

Georgia Zogalis is the program manager for FutureAbility, which assists multicultural organisations and community groups working with the NDIS.

She says many people who receive a disability pension think they will lose it if they get on the NDIS, but it's not true: “It's important for CALD communities to know that the package that gets approved for their disability needs, the money that comes with the package, is in addition to the disability pension so if they're already receiving a disability pension, the NDIS will not stop that, they will get both. The pension is for day to day living and the NDIS package is to help them for their area of needs that relate to their disability. ”

Getting help understanding the NDIS

The NDIS can be complex to navigate, especially if your first language is not English. The NDIS has resources translated in several languages.

You can also access a phone interpreter for free, by calling TIS at 13 14 50, asking for your language, then asking to be connected to the NDIS.

Cathy Naing is a carer for her 20 year-old-daughter Laura, who has an intellectual disability as well as Prader-Will Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. While they're happy with Laura's NDIS plan now, she says it was not easy at the beginning because she struggled with English.

When it’s time to create a plan with the NDIS, Naing says it's important to keep asking questions until everything makes sense to you.

“People need to realise and be patient about the rollout of the NDIS and not to be scared to take that risk and doing self-management, plan management. And ask questions and make it simpler in your own language. Feel comfortable with the person who is interviewing you. Making sure, am I asking what I'm supposed to be asking? You know, you have the right to ask the right questions."

Living with a disability
(Getty Images/Maskot)
Getty Images/Maskot

Since the beginning of the rollout of the NDIS, a lot of improvements have been made to make to reach more people with CALD communities.

“We're working very hard with organisations representing CALD communities to ensure that our services are culturally sensitive and understand the needs of people from a CALD background. And to provide our information in as many languages and formats to make the scheme as easy as possible to access for people from a CALD background, ” says NDIS’ Matt Wright.

To find out more about the NDIS, visit its website,