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Australia’s Disability Strategy

Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–31 (the Strategy) is Australia’s national disability policy framework. It sets out a plan for continuing to improve the lives of people with disability in Australia over the 10 years to 2031. The Strategy was launched on 3 December 2021 and builds on its predecessor, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020.

The Strategy covers all people with disability, irrespective of whether they need or use specialist disability services. It helps to protect, promote and realise the human rights of people with disability in line with Australia’s commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Strategy’s Outcomes Framework tracks, reports and measures the outcomes for people with disability across seven outcome areas. The AIHW regularly reports on the Outcomes Framework and the progress of the Strategy via a dedicated site Reporting on Australia's Disability Strategy and a series of annual reports. The AIHW is also working in line with the Strategy’s Data Improvement Plan to ensure the on-going improvement in data quality and consistency, and to identify and address gaps in disability data.

National Disability Data Asset

An important future source of information about services used by people with disability is the National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) which was pilot tested during 2020 and 2021. The NDDA is expected to bring together data across a broad range of domains including health, education, and employment. The AIHW is working with the NDDA partners on the next stage of the NDDA development.

Standardised disability flag

The AIHW has developed a disability 'flag' to identify records of people with disability within a data collection. The flag derives from a standard set of questions that assesses a person's level of functioning and need for support in everyday activities.

The flag is based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) and is broadly consistent with the ABS Short Disability Module. The flag is intended for use in collections covering a wide range of sectors, enabling nationally consistent collection of information about the disability status of people encountering mainstream services.


A major theme running through the disability policy of all Australian governments is ensuring mainstream services and programs address the needs of people with disability. (Mainstream services are services that people encounter in everyday life – such as healthcare, education, housing, transport, community services.)

A critical first step to improve the capability of mainstream services to support people with disability is to be able to meaningfully identify people with disability. This is important for monitoring the gap in health and social outcomes between people with disability and other Australians. This information also provides a broader sense of the balance of service needs and service provision to people with disability.

Development principles

The flag is based on the following principles:

  • data should be readily collectable by all mainstream services
  • the flag should be consistent with the ICF
  • data should be comparable – similar experiences should be coded similarly across a service sector and between sectors
  • data should be meaningful – sufficiently sensitive, sufficiently broad, and sufficiently specific
  • the flag should be aligned with disability data items in population surveys and censuses
  • the flag should use existing national data standards, wherever possible.

Development process

The AIHW developed the flag with reference to:

  • the concepts underpinning the ICF
  • the range of ABS instruments used to measure disability (including survey and census-based instruments)
  • international developments in disability measurement, such as the WHODAS 2.0 and the 'Washington Group' set of questions for population assessment of activity limitations.

During the development, the AIHW consulted with experts in disability concepts and measurement.

Draft versions of the flag were then tested and refined through a series of focus groups, cognitive interviews and pilot testing. Each of these development components included input from people with lived experience of disability.


The flag enables the following outputs at an individual level (which can also be aggregated to report at a collection level, or for client sub-groups):

  • extent of activity limitation
  • activity limitation flag (a summary of extent of activity limitation)
  • extent of core activity limitation
  • education participation restriction flag
  • employment participation restriction flag.

Relevant metadata have been produced in ISO/IEC 11179 format on METEOR.

Current use

Versions of the flag have been implemented in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC), the National Social Housing Survey, and the National Prisoner Health Data Collection (NPHDC).

Further information