Healthcare Opinion

Disability doesn’t discriminate – the Government shouldn’t either


As we continue to advocate for disability support, it’s disheartening to see that many older Australians are still being left behind.

Despite the well-intentioned framework of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a significant portion of our population—those diagnosed with a disability after the age of 65—find themselves excluded. This exclusion is not just a policy oversight; it’s a profound injustice that fails to recognise the indiscriminate nature of disability.

To set the scene, if you acquire a disability after the age of 65, the NDIS will not fund you. If you were 65 and living with a disability when the NDIS was implemented, you are ineligible for funding. This is age discrimination, and it needs to end.

The stark reality is that disability can impact anyone, at any stage of life. It doesn’t wait for a convenient age, nor does it respect the boundaries we’ve set in our bureaucratic systems. With one in five Australians living with a disability, and almost half (45%) of this demographic being over the age of 651, the urgency for inclusive Government-funded support has never been more pressing.

Consider this: a person over 65 who suffers a spinal cord injury receives a mere $52,000 annually through the Home Care Package. Compare this to the $165,000 a younger individual would receive under the NDIS. This discrepancy isn’t just a number, it represents a profound disparity in the quality of care and support accessible to older Australians.

It underscores a systemic failure to acknowledge that the needs of individuals with disabilities do not diminish with age – they evolve, and often become more complex.

At Spinal Life Australia, we see the impact of this exclusion every day. Our members, many of whom are older Australians, navigate a convoluted and inadequate support system that often leaves them without the necessary resources to live dignified, independent lives.

Home Care Packages (part of the My Aged Care system of supports), while beneficial in a multitude of ways, was never designed to meet the comprehensive needs of those with significant disabilities. It’s a stopgap, not a solution.

The ‘Disability Doesn’t Discriminate’ campaign aims to address this glaring gap. We are calling for a more inclusive approach that ensures all Australians, regardless of when they acquire their disability, have access to the funded support they need.

In my role as CEO of Spinal Life Australia, I’ve had the privilege of working with Government bodies and committees to advocate for these necessary changes. We are pushing for a system that reflects the true spirit of equity and inclusion, a system where support is based on need, not age. Our efforts are bolstered by stories from our community – stories of resilience, of individuals overcoming immense challenges despite the odds stacked against them.

We cannot afford to ignore this issue any longer. As a society, we must demand that our support systems evolve to meet the needs of all Australians living with a disability. The NDIS was a groundbreaking initiative, but it’s time to build on its foundation and extend its benefits to every individual living with a disability, regardless of age.

The current NDIS review and the resultant NDIS legislation (soon to be considered by parliament) provides the perfect opportunity for the Government to address this blatant discrimination, through either increasing the financial support for Home Care Package holders who live with significant disability, or to enable all people with significant disability to access the NDIS regardless of their age.

Disability doesn’t discriminate, and neither should our Government. It’s time to close the gap and ensure that all Australians have the resources and funding they need to live full, independent lives. It’s time to reform the NDIS to cover all Australians with disabilities and ensure that everyone can access the support they deserve. For more information, please visit

Related: Jonathan Salgo of T-shirt Ventures on making NDIS accessible through tech solutions


Mark has decades of experience working in local government, commercial and not-for-profit industries, including 19 years as Chief Executive Officer of RSPCA Queensland before joining Spinal Life Australia in October 2019.

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