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 next 10 years. 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 on its principles.

The Strategy builds on its predecessor, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which saw a range of reforms introduced to better support and include people with disability. The consultation process for the 2021–2031 Strategy found that improvements were recognised across the 6 outcomes areas of the 2010–2020 Strategy. However, for the 1 in 6 Australians with disability, significant barriers remain to their being able to live independently, to be employed and financially secure, to have access to services they need and to opportunities they have the right to in order to fully participate in community life (The Social Deck 2019).

The 7 outcome areas in the Strategy set out where governments at all levels – working with people with disability, the community and business – will focus 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

By delivering against the policy priorities under each of the 7 outcome areas in the Strategy, governments envisage all aspects of Australian life becoming more inclusive of people with disability.

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. Annual reporting against the measures in the Outcomes Framework will show what progress is being made for people with disability.

There are 85 measures across the 7 outcome areas of the Strategy, and 3 types of measure:

  • 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.

As future measures will replace launch measures in some cases, the number of measures being reported against will change as new data become available.

The Strategy was developed by Australian, state, territory and local governments, through more than 2 years of engagement with people with disability, their families and carers. People with disability were clear they did not want the Strategy reporting to be limited to data that were available at launch. For this reason, there are:

  • 48 launch measures chosen as data should be available from the start of the Strategy
  • 37 future measures for which data are being developed. For more details on the government approach to developing future measures, see the Strategy’s Data Improvement Plan on Australia’s Disability Strategy Hub.

There will be opportunities to revisit the measures at the review points of the Strategy, the first of which will follow the release of the final report of the Disability Royal Commission at the end of 2023. Further reviews will occur in 2025 and 2029.

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.

This report includes data on 47 of the 48 launch measures: 21 system measures and 26 population measures.

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 initial and future annual reports

The annual reports complement the Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework webpages by providing more context around the progress of measures. 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.

This initial report provides an overview of the status of the Outcomes Framework measures at ‘baseline’; that is, when the Strategy began in December 2021. Moving forward, baseline data are the data against which updated annual and (where available) quarterly data for each of the measures will be compared over the life of the Strategy.

The baseline data point is generally the closest collection time point before December 2021. As data collections have different collection and reporting periods (for example, quarterly, annual or triennial), the baseline reference point differs across measures depending on the underlying data source (see also About the data below).

For some measures, the expected baseline data (that is, from the closest collection time point before December 2021) were not yet available when this report was prepared as the relevant collections had not yet been finalised. The baseline data for these measures will be included in future reports when they become available. For this report, ‘pre‑baseline’ data are reported for these measures – that is, data from the collection preceding the expected baseline data.

Latest results (that is, data for the first time point post-baseline) are also included in this initial report for 11 measures in the relevant sections. The focus of the ‘Latest results’ section throughout this report and future annual reports is on presenting changes over time for each measure. Future annual reports are expected to be released at the end of each calendar year. The Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework webpages includes available updated data on a quarterly basis.

Intersectionality and diversity

The Strategy recognises that the diversity of people with disability needs to be understood, acknowledged and celebrated. Intersectionality acknowledges that a person or group of people can be affected by multiple forms of disadvantage due to their race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, impairment, class, religion, age, social origin and other identity markers (Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031).

The Outcomes Framework reporting includes data disaggregated for the following groups of people with disability where relevant data are available (see also Data limitations):

  • age group
  • sex and gender
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) status
  • type of disability
  • state and territory
  • Indigenous status
  • culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) status
  • remoteness.

In this initial report, data are presented disaggregated by age group, by gender, and by severity of disability where data are available (see also Box 1: Severity of disability).

Disaggregated data for the remaining areas of diversity are available on the Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework webpages where data permit. Detailed data are also provided as Excel tables in Australia’s Disability Strategy Outcomes Framework 2021–2031: First annual report | Data downloads.

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 47 available launch measures presented in this report are drawn from 17 data sources. Twenty-eight measures are drawn from surveys and 19 from administrative data collected as part of service delivery. Some collections are well established for reporting while others are relatively new.

The Outcomes Framework draws on NDIS participant data for 9 of the 47 launch measures and 1 of the future measures. The approach taken to reporting NDIS data here is different from that taken in NDIS reports.

  • NDIS reports provide longitudinal analysis; that is, they track the same group of participants over time, from when they enter the NDIS through to their latest plan review (or reassessment). Generally, data are reported by cohort, based on how long participants have been in the NDIS. In NDIS reporting, ‘baseline’ refers to when the participant enters the NDIS.
  • In the Outcomes Framework, analysis of changes over time are based on a series of data points, each representing a snapshot of NDIS participants at a given point in time. This means that some of the participants will be the same across time points, some may have exited the NDIS, and some will be new entrants. In the Outcomes Framework, the baseline is the closest time point to when the Strategy began (December 2021). See also Measuring changes over time and differences between groups.

For more detailed technical information about NDIS data and other data sources, including frequency of reporting, 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.

Disability is a complex concept making it sometimes difficult to measure. A significant limitation for consistent reporting on outcomes for people with disability when drawing from a range of data sources is the variation in how ‘disability’ is defined. 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 undertake data development to overcome some of the limitations of existing data. Work is being undertaken to refine the Outcomes Framework measures and develop new data sources to inform the evidence base as part of the Data Improvement Plan.

The Outcomes Framework will include data from Australia’s Disability Strategy Survey – to be conducted in 2022, with findings reported in the 2023 annual report.

As part of the Data Improvement Plan governments will work together to link de‑identified data between systems (Outcomes Framework). The National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) is a potential rich source for reporting on measures for which there are currently no sources, as well as for improving data for some existing measures.

Measuring changes over time and differences between groups

This report includes sections relating to ‘Results at baseline’ and ‘Latest results’. The ‘Results at baseline’ sections include time series analysis (where data permit) for the period up to and including the baseline data point. This provides context for the reporting of the baseline and latest results. The ‘Results at baseline’ sections also include baseline results for disaggregated data for gender or sex, and age where available.

The ‘Latest results’ sections in this initial report include a progress status for the measure; that is, a comparison of the first data point after baseline with the baseline value. Future reports will compare the latest updated data with the baseline. These comparisons will support the Outcome Framework’s aim to measure progress over the life of the Strategy.

Results at baseline

For the baseline data presented in this report, the following approach was taken to determine whether changes are real:

  • For changes over time, where there were sufficient data points (generally 10 time periods), percentage changes in rates over time were analysed using linear regression, with the confidence level set at 95%.
  • For survey data where there were fewer than 10 time periods, or comparisons made between 2 groups, confidence intervals were used to provide an approximation of the true differences between rates. If the confidence intervals do not overlap, the difference is considered to be statistically significant. However, in some instances where confidence intervals overlap slightly, a further significance test (the z-test) can indicate a statistically significant difference.

Differences found to be statistically significant in this report are noted as ‘real’ differences.

Latest results

To report on the progress status for a measure, the latest data point will be compared with the baseline (that is, the closest time point, generally, before December 2021).

The change observed between the latest data and the baseline data is used to assign one of the following 4 categories:

  • progress
  • no change
  • regress
  • not enough data (that is, there is only one point of data).

Commenting on whether a measure has improved or not, considers the following:

  • Confidence – is there confidence that the change is real and not a product of chance or some underlying uncertainty in the data?
  • Importance – is the change important (that is, the size of the change)?

Determining confidence in the change is based on a technical evaluation of the data. Where there is some underlying uncertainty in the data, the confidence status indicates that care should be taken when looking at the reported progress status for the measure.

Information is provided on the size of the change so that the reader can determine whether the change is an important one. For example, a change may be ‘real’ in statistical terms, but not important if the change is small. To avoid the misinterpretation of very small changes, those that are <0.5 of a percentage point in either direction have been classified as ‘no change’.

For more details of the methodological approach for measuring progress over time, see Appendix A: Methods.

Overview of results

For this initial annual report, historical data were available for 45 of the 47 launch measures with available baseline data. The number of data points available for the historical data varied from 2 to 10 points in time.

Results for the 11 measures with updated data are preliminary as they cover only the first 6 months of the Strategy rather than a full year. Many of the changes are small, which should be taken into account when considering the results. The updated measures are predominantly from the NDIS data collections, as these have the most recent data updates.

Impact of COVID-19 on baseline results

The Strategy’s start date, and the baseline data point for many indicators, fall within the period that restrictions were still in place in Australia to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. This should be taken into account when reviewing changes over time against the baseline, particularly in relation to measures in the Employment and financial security outcome area.

Note on rounding

Percentages in the report are generally rounded to whole numbers except for those under 10% which are rounded to 1 decimal place. Exceptions include the reporting on latest results, where rounding to whole numbers would obscure differences between the baseline and the latest results.

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:


Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031 (2021), Department of Social Services, Australian Government, accessed 16 June 2022.

The Social Deck (2019) Right to opportunity: consultation report to help shape the next national disability strategy, DSS website, accessed 22 November 2022.

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