From citizen to charity case: has contracted welfare breached the sovereign's duty to her subjects?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract


My thesis considers several parallel but related processes in Australia’s legal and social history. The main one is the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which is aimed to bring certainty of service and support to all eligible people with permanent impairments. Many in the disability sector have campaigned for such a reform over many decades; but did they get what they expected?

The NDIS was introduced to solve the issue of inequitable funding and support. Its funding is based on meeting individual assessed need. This means that clients are funded directly and they can choose the services they need to access and enjoy an ordinary life, in line with in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

But what does it mean to enjoy an ordinary life? An implicit but curiously unchallenged element of the NDIS is the assumption that disability will continue to be lifelong, with services delivered by charities and funded by government. From a human rights perspective, why should people with disabilities not expect their living standards and expectations for life to rise with those of all other Australians? The scheme’s administrators have already been criticised for their interpretation of what is reasonably necessary for an ordinary life.

With the development of medical technology like stem cells, exoskeletons and brain implants, genetics and cellular technology, the public expectation of what is reasonably necessary for an ordinary life will change. However, as currently understood, the NDIS assumes disability and then assesses the need for equipment and support services based on reasonable necessity.

People with disabilities and their families may become discontent with the charitable dependence norm, as they witness the advancement of science and technology. Could an ordinary life come to have with it, as a condition precedent, the absence of permanent disability?

References:Fabig, H. (2013). “NDIS: rights-based paradigm shift or same old charity?” Ramp Up – Disability, Discussion, Debate.,, A. (2011). “Two nations: The case for a national disability insurance scheme.” The Monthly,, Miki (2017), Woman with disabilities scores landmark win over NDIS, June 18 2017, The Age, Victoria,, D. S., et al. (2016). “The National Disability Insurance Scheme: a time for real change in Australia.” Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology 58: 66-70., R. (2017). Privatising NDIS services could be a repeat of the VET-fee disaster. Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media., B. (2016), Human trials for Australian-made bionic spine to start next year, Sydney Morning Herald, February 9, 2016,, M. (2016), Hope for the paralysed: UTS to establish Centre for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, Sydney Morning Herald, September 16 2016,, E. (2017), ReWalk exoskeleton allows paraplegic Paul Jenkins to walk again, Sydney Morning Herald, February 13 2017 Memorandum, National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 (Cth), Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights: Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011,;fileType=application%2Fpdf
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroscience & Society
Subtitle of host publicationEthical, Legal & Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2017
EventNeuroscience & Society: Ethical, Legal & Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 14 Sep 201715 Sep 2017


ConferenceNeuroscience & Society


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