Income support payments
Disability Support Pension (DSP) is the primary income support payment for working age people aged 16 and over with a disability who have a reduced capacity to work because of their impairment. At March 2021, 53,200 Indigenous Australians were receiving DSP, making up 7.1% of total recipients (DSS 2021a).
Carer Payment provides income support for carers who are unable to support themselves through substantial paid employment because of the demands of providing constant care to a person with severe disability, illness, or who is frail aged. At March 2021, 18,100 Indigenous Australians were receiving Carer Payment, making up 6.0% of total recipients (DSS 2021a).
Carer Allowance is a supplementary payment for carers who provide additional daily care and attention to someone with disability, severe illness or who is frail aged. At March 2021, 26,100 Indigenous Australians were receiving Carer Allowance, making up 4.2% of total recipients (DSS 2021a).
For more information, see Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment.
In 2019–20, 24% or around 1,560 of the clients in Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) with severe or profound disability who provided information about their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status were Indigenous. Indigenous SHS clients with severe or profound disability had a younger age profile than non-Indigenous SHS clients with severe or profound disability—37% were aged under 18 compared with 28% (AIHW 2020b).
A person’s interaction with both formal and informal welfare support and services can help support their wellbeing. Informal (unpaid) care provided by family, friends or neighbours within the context of an existing relationship often complements formal (paid) services from government and other organisations. The demands of the role, however, often go beyond what would normally be expected of the relationship.
The 2016 Census included a question about whether people had provided unpaid assistance to someone with disability, a long-term health condition or a problem related to old age in the 2 weeks before Census night. In 2016, of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over for whom responses to this question were provided:
- 15% (58,500 Indigenous Australians) had provided unpaid assistance to someone with disability, a long-term health condition or a problem related to old age in the 2 weeks before Census night
- 18% (36,500) of females had provided unpaid assistance, compared with 12% (22,000) of males
- the proportion who had provided unpaid assistance was similar among Indigenous Australians living in remote and non-remote areas (16% or 11,600, and 15% or 46,700, respectively) (ABS 2019b).
For more information, see Informal carers.
The impact of COVID-19
Indigenous Australians face increased risk of contracting and developing serious illness from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic compared to non-Indigenous Australians (Disability RC, 2020) (for more information, see Profile of Indigenous Australians).
Looking at the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Australians with disability specifically, however, is challenging as data on this population are either not collected at all, not publicly available, or not regularly published. In particular, while some data are available by either disability status or by Indigenous status, data are rarely available by both. For example:
- While the Department of Health collects and reports data about COVID-19 infections among Indigenous Australians, data are not available by disability status. The Department of Health is working with other Commonwealth agencies and state and territory governments to identify people with a disability in the COVID-19 statistics, as well as to identify those in residential disability care facilities (DSS 2021b).
- The primary disability support services data sources (that is, those collected as part of the NDIS and under the NDA) either do not specifically collect data on COVID-19 (NDA) or collect the data but do not regularly report these (NDIS). Researchers, academics and government agencies/departments can submit a data request to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) for a tailored NDIS data release on Indigenous NDIS participants affected by COVID-19.
- While the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission’s activity reports include data on complaints and compliance activities related to COVID-19, and on COVID-19 infections among NDIS participants, these are not available by Indigenous status.
- The main Indigenous-specific primary health care data collections, the national Key Performance Indicators and the Online Services Report, do not collect data by disability status or on COVID-19 infections.
Some indirect inferences about the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Australians with disability could potentially be made by looking at changes in the Indigenous disability population or at changes in the use of disability support services by Indigenous Australians. These data, however, would be difficult to interpret; it is not always possible to separate the data into time periods that would allow clear comparison of before or during the pandemic; and some data, such as SDAC, are not regularly available.
For more information on sources of COVID-19 data about, and related data gaps for, people with disability, including Indigenous people with disability, see Specialised supports for people with disability and 'Chapter 7, Australia’s changing disability data landscape' in Australia's welfare 2021: data insights.
Where do I go for more information?
For more information on the prevalence of disability for Indigenous Australians, see:
For more information on Indigenous participants of the NDIS, see the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)’s:
For more information on Indigenous participants of the NDA, see the AIHW’s:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. ABS Cat. No. 4430.0 Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2019a. Microdata: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2018–19. Findings based on the use of TableBuilder data. ABS Cat. No. 4715.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2019b. Sources of data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with disability, 2012–2016. ABS cat. No. 4431.0.55.004. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 27 February 2021.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020a. Disability services data cubes. Cat. no. WEB 143. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 16 March 2021.
AIHW 2020b. Specialist homelessness services annual report. Cat. no. HOU 322. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 10 January 2021.
Disability RC (Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability) 2020. Statement of concern: The response to the COVID-19 pandemic for people with disability. Viewed 25 June 2021.
DSS (Department of Social Services) 2021a. DSS Payment Demographic Data. Canberra: DSS. Viewed 23 June 2021.
DSS 2021b. Australian Government response to the Disability Royal Commission report on public hearing 5: Experiences of people with disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Canberra: DSS. Viewed 6 June 2021.
NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) 2016. Rural and Remote Strategy 2016–2019. Canberra: NDIA. Viewed 29 March 2021.
NDIA 2020. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander report. Canberra: NDIA. Viewed 16 April 2021.
NDIA 2021a. Data downloads. Canberra: NDIA. Viewed 3 June 2021.
NDIA 2021b. Quarterly Reports. Canberra: NDIA. Viewed 3 June 2021.
NTMHC (Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition) 2017. The provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities related to a mental health condition. Viewed 29 March 2021.
PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) 2018. Engaging Aboriginal community controlled organisations in disability service provision in the NT. Darwin: Northern Territory Department of Health. Viewed 29 March 2021.