Speech by The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Access 2019 – Association of Consultants in Access Australia (ACCA) Conference



  • Good morning ladies and gentleman, it is a pleasure to be here to open Access 2019. 
  • This conference is all about bridging the ‘access to inclusion gap’ and I hope the next couple of days provide you with a fantastic opportunity to exchange ideas to truly   enable the development of inclusive communities right across Australia.  
  • Enabling inclusive communities is key for me in my role as Minister for the NDIS.
  • Since I was appointed as Minister for the NDIS in May, Prime Minister Morrison and I have been meeting with NDIS participants, their families, carers, and service providers to hear about their experience with the NDIS.
  • I see and hear the stories about how the NDIS is making a real difference to the lives of so many Australians but I know that we can do more to move the NDIS from being a good service to being a great service.  
  • Over the next five years the NDIS will grow to support almost 500,000 Australians with permanent and significant disability.
  • We will continue to improve the service experience for all NDIS participants, but we know we must also work with all levels of government and the broader Australian community to ensure our society is fully inclusive for all Australians living with disability—not just those who become NDIS participants.

The National Disability Strategy

  • That is why the National Disability Strategy is so important and why I’[m looking forward to the next iteration of it for 2020-2030.
  • The Strategy is Australia’s overarching framework for disability reform that focuses on creating a more inclusive society that enables Australians with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.
  • One of the central outcomes of the Strategy is to ensure that people with disability live in accessible and well-designed communities with opportunity for full inclusion in social, economic, sporting and cultural life.
  • The first of six main outcome areas of the current Strategy is inclusive and accessible communities.
  • To build inclusive and accessible communities we need to take into account the physical environment—buildings, housing, public transport and parks; as well as digital information and communication technologies; and civic life including social, sporting, recreational and cultural life.
  • Central to the Strategy’s vision is the idea that everyone has a role to play in changing attitudes and responses to disability. 
  • The Strategy focuses the efforts of each level of government to not only improve the performance of the disability service system but, even more importantly, to improve mainstream systems for people with disability.  
  • This is critical for improving the life outcomes of all Australians with disability, whether or not they are NDIS participants.


  • The NDIS is a very large part of implementing the National Disability Strategy. 
  • It is important to note the NDIS is a world-first, once-in-a-generation reform, the biggest since the introduction of Medicare. 
  • The NDIS is a new way of providing support for people with disability, their families and carers in Australia.
  • The size and scale of the NDIS means that it will not be without challenges, but ultimately it is a significantly better way of providing support for Australians with a disability and their community. 
  • The NDIS is a big opportunity, significantly increasing the funding available for disability services, and putting choice and control about how those services are delivered into the hands of people with disability.
  • Four years ago, the combined state and territory and Commonwealth budget spend $8.4 billion on disability. In the year ahead it will be approaching $22 billion.
  • Everyone’s needs and goals are different. 
  • That is why the NDIS provides people with individualised support and the flexibility to manage their supports to help them achieve their goals and enjoy an ordinary life.
  • It’s called an insurance scheme because it is social insurance, not welfare. 
  • The insurance approach focuses on investing early to reduce the long term impact of a person’s disability and that is why early intervention is such an important element of the NDIS.
  •  Individualised funding gives people with disability the capacity to participate in community life.

Specialist Disability Accommodation

  • A large contributor to increasing the independence of NDIS participants is the provision of Specialist Disability Accommodation – or SDA.  
  • For eligible participants, SDA is a life-changing support. SDA empowers participants through greater control, independence, privacy and opportunities to maintain and grow personal relationships.
  • Once the NDIS is at full maturity it is estimated that almost 28,000 participants will benefit from nearly $700 million in SDA funding each and every year.
  • The Morrison Government, working with our state and territory colleagues, has a strong and ongoing commitment to the long-term provision and funding of SDA through the NDIS.
  • We are determined to see this burgeoning SDA market build—with investors, developers and existing and new providers growing their confidence in SDA.
  • This is the only way we are going to achieve the best outcomes for participants who need SDA.
  • And that is why I applaud the efforts of my predecessor, Paul Fletcher, and recommit the Government to the significant reforms he announced earlier this year to further encourage investment in SDA and increase choice and control for NDIS participants. 
  • This includes a firm commitment to implement the COAG Disability Reform Council’s response to the KPMG Review of the SDA Pricing and Payments Framework, as well as the Morrison Government’s National Action Plan for Younger People in Residential Aged Care, which will reduce the number of younger people living in residential aged care by helping them to access more age appropriate accommodation.
  • We have already implemented a range of reforms to build confidence in the SDA market.
  • The SDA Pricing and Payments Framework has been updated to provide greater confidence to investors by keeping prices stable while the market is developing. 
  • The SDA legislative rules have been amended to remove the requirement for participants to exhaust all other options before accessing SDA, and allowing SDA to be included in their plan even if an SDA property is not, or will not be, available soon. 
  • These combined changes increase the ability for participants to go out into the market and use their funding to find an SDA property, or commission an SDA dwelling that meets their needs.
  • The NDIA has established a dedicated planning team to fast track SDA approvals. The new SDA Panel provides timely advice to planners and other delegates of the Chief Executive Officer in making decisions about SDA eligibility and determinations for appropriate SDA design category, building type and location for participants. 
  • NDIA delegates must make referrals to the SDA Panel where a participant may be eligible for SDA, or if a participant is expressing any goals or aspirations relating to housing that may include SDA. 
  • We have established an SDA Reference Group, made up of a wide array of representatives from SDA providers, investors, community housing providers, and those directly representing people with disability.
  • And finally we have commenced ongoing improvements to the release of SDA data in both the NDIS Quarterly Report, and through downloadable lists on the NDIS Data and Insights website.

So where are we now?

  • The NDIS is now a truly national scheme, covering every state and territory. 
  • It is available to all Australians, except for Christmas and Cocos Islands where it becomes available from 1 July 2020. 
  • Today, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) released the latest NDIS Quarterly Report for 1 April 2019 to 30 June 2019.
  • It shows the growing impact of the NDIS. There are now around 300,000 participants supported by the NDIS to reach their goals, with around 100,000 of these participants receiving specialist disability supports for the very first time. 
  • These are people who had not previously received disability services from either the states, territories or the Commonwealth.
  • I am particularly encouraged by more SDA providers entering the market. This number has grown to 977, an increase of 12 per cent, while the number of enrolled dwellings also grew by 9.5 per cent in the quarter.
  • With around 13,300 NDIS participants now with SDA in their plans we are seeing more accommodation options for more people – and that’s really great progress towards open and inclusive communities.
  • With our access and planning prioritisation for younger people in residential aged care, we’ve seen the number of younger people in residential aged care receiving NDIS supports grow by 1,600 in the last year.
  • This number includes 600 participants entering the NDIS in the June quarter, who now have the individual funding they need to source alternative accommodation, if this is their choice.
  • We are working hard to deliver on the promise of the NDIS that every Australian with a significant and permanent disability and their families can choose the support they need to participate fully in their communities.
  • We do this by collaborating across the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to deliver an NDIS that gets it right for participants today, while ensuring the NDIS will be there to meet the needs of all Australians into the future.
  • But getting it right takes time. 

Where to from here?

  • We remain committed to implementing the remaining commitments of the COAG Disability Reform Council to improve the SDA market. This is designed to give policy continuity to the sector. 
  • The SDA Limited Cost Assumption Review is currently in its final stages, noting that SDA pricing can only be increased as a result of this review. Again designed to give policy certainty. 
  • A set of information materials is currently being produced explaining cost assumptions and other pricing information and will be delivered alongside the outcomes of the Limited Cost Assumption Review shortly.
  • Updates to the SDA Operational Guidelines are being progressed and further guidance material for participants and their families including how eligibility for SDA is determined will be delivered later this year.
  • Work is also ongoing to increase flexibility in the SDA legislative rules that would allow couples and families to live together in SDA, or for participants with SDA to live with non-SDA residents.

SDA Design Standards

  • And finally, I know you are all eagerly awaiting the release of the SDA Design Standards that will allow for streamlined approvals for SDA construction, making it easier for eligible participants to access high quality housing.
  • The industry has advocated strongly for the NDIS to facilitate the establishment of SDA Design Standards to provide greater clarity to the growing market. 
  • The SDA Design Standards will give greater certainty to participants and providers alike.
  • They will provide clarity on SDA housing design requirements, as well as the opportunity to seek pre-certification at the planning stage of an SDA build.
  • The standards will influence the way that architects, builders and the community consider housing for people with a disability should be built.
  • Importantly, they will ensure participants continue to have access to high-quality housing models, and give providers the flexibility to respond to participant needs and preferences.
  • The SDA Design Standards have been developed by Living Housing Australia in close consultation with people with disability and industry, including many people attending this conference today. I thank you all for your efforts thus far.
  • It is important that we get the SDA Design Standards and timeframes for implementation absolutely right in order to build on the confidence and growth we have seen in the SDA market this year.
  • As such, we are in the very final stages of consultation through the SDA Reference Group and will be looking to release them in September.

Encouraging best practice and protecting the market 

  • The Government is committed to encouraging innovation and promoting best practice within the SDA market. 
  • That is why an SDA Innovation Plan will also be released, with ongoing engagement with the sector to facilitate research and sharing of best practices in the design of SDA. 
  • In providing greater market confidence and encouraging the entry of new investors and providers, the Government is acutely aware of the risks to participants and the wider SDA market from dodgy operators who may attempt to unscrupulously take advantage or scam well intentioned Australians.
  • The SDA market needs a diverse range of investors to achieve great outcomes for participants but I give you my firm commitment that we will be tough on any sharp practice from financial institutions or the like who make claims overstating the returns that can be achieved particularly to everyday Australian investors.
  • The Government reserves the right to use the full gambit of its powers including our Fraud Taskforce, ASIC’s product intervention powers, design and distribution obligations requirement and further registration and audit powers if needed, including using of statement of tax records. 
  • The NDIA and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will be working together, alongside other regulatory agencies such as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), to stamp out bad behaviour that may bring the SDA market into disrepute.
  • Should participants, providers or investors see or hear of promises that appear to be too good to be true, the fact is they probably are and I encourage you to contact the NDIA and I assure you we will take swift action in co-operation with other regulatory bodies. 


  • I know you share my commitment to continuously improving the NDIS especially the outcomes that can be achieved through high quality, accessible housing. 
  • The Australian public, particularly people with disability, their families and carers have high expectations of the NDIS. It is a world first and must lead the way globally. 
  • The Prime Minister and I are committed to better understanding how the NDIS is working—or not working—for participants, families, carers and providers.
  • We have come a long way but there is still a lot to do.
  • As I have outlined today there are significant and practical reforms underway to ensure continuous improvement to the NDIA’s approach to improving consistency in decision-making for Specialist Disability Accommodation and to growing the SDA market.
  • I am committed to working with you to better understand how the NDIS is changing the lives of Australians and can further assist in building inclusive communities right across Australia.  
  • And I know that commitment is shared by the team at the NDIA, some of whom will be speaking with you in coming days. 
  • Today is the next step in the conversation between Government and the sector and I wish you all well for the entirety of the conference.