Australia has seen unprecedented change in disability policy over the last decade with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the National Disability Strategy, and subsequently Australia's Disability Strategy 2021-2031. However, research funding and capacity strengthening for disability research has not matched the investment in policy. The Audit on Disability Research in Australia revealed significant gaps in research and concluded that the research was often small scale, fragmented, poorly integrated into policy and practice and not fit for purpose. The Audit showed there is a need to rapidly scale up research capacity.
Environmental, health and economic challenges (e.g., COVID-19, rising costs of living, natural disasters) continually impact on people with disability, their families and carers, and need urgent policy attention. Interfaces between disability services and other sectors such as health, transport, education and justice cause ongoing tension. It is important now to generate evidence to inform current policy responses and preparedness for the future health and economic shocks we will increasingly face.
This is also a time of enormous opportunity as Australia has some of the best data in the world on which to build disability policy. We have extensive data collected from participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Australia is also investing in the development of an enduring longitudinal National Disability Data Asset, incorporating NDIS data and datasets from multiple levels of government. This is an exciting collaboration which will allow governments to better understand how people with disability are supported through services, payments and programs across multiple service systems.
The Commonwealth Department of Social Services recognises the enormous opportunities presented by research funding and invested in the establishment of NDRP. Longer term investment in disability research will build knowledge, boost service innovation and solve pressing policy problems. The NDRP will be fully established in mid 2023 and will operate as an independent entity with a board of directors and opportunity for the disability community to become members.