Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031

Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031 (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 life of the Strategy. Its vision is an inclusive Australian society that ensures people with disability can fulfil their potential as equal members of the community. All governments – Australian, state, territory and local – are committed to delivering better outcomes.

The 7 outcome areas in the Strategy set out where governments at all levels – working with people with disability, the community and business – are focussing on delivering the needed changes. The outcome areas are those that people with disability have said need to improve to achieve the Strategy’s vision.

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

For information on the development of the Strategy, see Australia’s Disability Strategy Hub.

Outcomes Framework

The Outcomes Framework is a key initiative under the Strategy to measure, track and report on outcomes for people with disability across the life of the Strategy.

The Outcomes Framework included a list of 85 measures at the launch of the Strategy. The measures were identified in consultation with the disability community. Rather than limit reporting to information that was available in 2021, people with disability wanted the Outcomes Framework to track some things that cannot currently be reported. Over the life of the Strategy, governments will work together to create and improve data so these measures can be reported. For example, data now available for the Community attitudes outcome area allow additional insight beyond the originally identified measures. Some measures that could be reported when the Strategy started may be replaced by measures that become reportable during the Strategy. Reviews of the Outcomes Framework may also result in updates to measures or the addition of new measures.

There are 3 types of measure across the 7 outcome areas of the Strategy:

  • System measures: these track the contribution key systems such as health care, housing, education, and employment are making to achieve outcomes. Some service systems are specifically for people with disability while others are mainstream systems for all Australians.
  • Population measures: these track changes in outcomes over time for people with disability.
  • Community attitude measures: these track the change in attitudes towards people with disability, and how people with disability experience community attitudes.

Some measures focus on specific groups of people with disability, such as National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants; others relate to the broader population of people with disability.

The outcome areas are reported in separate sections, but it is important to note that they are interrelated and connected. For example, improved outcomes in education and learning can lead to better outcomes in employment and financial security (Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031). For more information, see the Outcomes Framework.

Purpose of the second annual report

This second annual report presents a summary of changes over time for measures with updated data since the first annual report. It compares the value of the latest available data with the baseline value (that is, data from the closest point in time to when the Strategy began in December 2021). The change observed between the latest data and the baseline data is used to assign one of the following categories:

  • progress
  • no change
  • regress.

Commenting on whether a measure has improved or not also considers confidence that the change is real, and that the change is important.

Where data are available, changes in the measure values in the context of the historical (i.e. pre-baseline) data forms part of this consideration. For more details of the methodological approach for measuring progress over time, see Appendix A: Methods.

Where measures are based on new data sources established since the Strategy began, the baseline is the first available data. For the 7 new community attitudes measures, data from Wave 1 of Australia’s Disability Strategy Survey – Share with us, conducted in 2022 are used as baseline. Data from future waves of the survey will be added to the Outcomes Framework, and added to the subsequent annual report, when they become available.

As data collections have different collection and reporting periods (for example, quarterly, annual or triennial), measures with different underlying data sources may have different timings for baseline and updated data (see also About the data).

The reports are intended for people with disability, government policymakers at all levels, disability advocacy groups and anyone who wishes to follow what progress is being made for people with disability, based on the Outcomes Framework measures.

Overview of results

Of the 55 measures with data in the Outcomes Framework new or revised data are available for 32 measures: 17 system measures, 8 population measures and 7 community attitude measures. This includes:

  • baseline data for 10 measures
  • baseline and updated data, and a progress status for 22 measures.

This report presents data for all 55 measures in summary tables at the start of each section. Additional focus is provided on the 32 measures with new or revised data. Further information for all measures, including additional data for the 23 measures that are not the focus of this report, is available on the Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework webpages.

Governments will continue to develop data for a further 33 future measures over the life of the Strategy. A full list of measures can be found in Appendix B: List of measures.

Intersectionality and diversity

The Strategy recognises that the diversity of people with disability needs to be understood, acknowledged and celebrated. Where data permit, the Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework webpages include data for the following groups and characteristics of people with disability (see also Data limitations):

  • age group
  • sex and gender
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and asexual (LGBTIQA+) people
  • type and severity of disability
  • state and territory
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people
  • culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people
  • remoteness.

Data for each of these groups and characteristics are not reproduced in this report. 

Box 1: Severity of disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) is the main source for data on severity of disability in this report. 

SDAC classifies disability according to the degree of limitation or impairment in core activities into profound, severe, moderate, and mild limitation. In addition, SDAC distinguishes people with disability who have no limitation in core activities but have schooling or employment restriction, and people with disability who have no specific limitation or restriction. 

Severe or profound disability includes people with severe or profound core activity limitation – always or sometimes needing assistance or supervision with self-care, mobility, and/or communication. People with other disability status are those who have disability with other than severe or profound core activity limitation.

About the data

Data sources

Data for the 55 measures noted in this report are drawn from 19 data sources. Thirty-five measures are drawn from surveys and 20 from administrative data collected as part of service delivery. Some collections are well established for reporting while others are relatively new.

Nine of the 55 measures reported here draw on NDIS participant data. The approach taken to reporting NDIS data here is different from that taken in NDIS reports. For more details as well as technical information about other data sources, see Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework | Data sources.

Data limitations

The measures in the Outcomes Framework reflect what the Strategy would ideally like to track. However, most data collections used for reporting were not set up for the specific purpose of reporting against the Strategy. In the case of administrative data collections, statistical reporting is generally a secondary purpose to the data’s primary role in relation to service delivery. Some Outcomes Framework measures have been revised slightly so that they align more closely to the available data; other measures have been revised slightly to clarify the intent of the measure. These adjustments are described in the relevant ‘measure’ section of the report or can be found in Appendix B: List of measures.

Disability is complex making it sometimes difficult to define. A significant limitation for consistent reporting on outcomes for people with disability is the variation in how ‘disability’ is defined when data are drawn from a range of sources. The most comprehensive definition of disability comes from the ABS SDAC. Other ABS surveys such as the National Health Survey (NHS) and the Personal Safety Survey (PSS) use the ABS Short Disability Module. Definitions of disability used by administrative collections often relate to the purpose of their service delivery. See Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework | Data sources for definitions of disability used in different data sources.

The Strategy recognises that gender diversity is an important aspect for reporting outcomes for people with disability. Currently, many collections include only the categories ‘male’ and ’female’. In some collections where additional categories are included, small numbers – together with requirements to maintain privacy – limit what can be reported. For more information, see Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework | Data sources.

Data development

A key initiative of the Strategy is to improve data to better measure, track, and report on outcomes for people with disability. The pathway for this is outlined in the Data Improvement Plan, endorsed by the Disability Reform Ministerial Council in December 2022. All governments continue to work together to improve the availability, quality, and usability of data to support reporting on the Outcomes Framework.

The National Disability Data Asset (the Asset) is an important piece of work that will support reporting on measures under the Outcomes Framework. The Asset is being designed as a long-term national asset containing linked, de-identified data from across Australia, state and territory government service systems. It will enable, for the first time, a person-centred view of the pathways people with disability take through government and other service systems, and provide information on inclusion and outcomes for people with disability.

Disability Royal Commission

The final report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was released on 29 September 2023. The report makes a range of recommendations relating to data, including some that are relevant to the Strategy. These recommendations will be considered by Government.

Structure of the report

The following sections report on measures in each of the 7 outcome areas.

See the following resources for additional information on the data presented in this report:

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