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Australian governments fund a range of disability support services under the National Disability Agreement (NDA) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These services are intended to improve the lives of people with disability, and their carers, and ensure that they have the opportunity to participate in the community.

Data on the services provided under the NDA are collected in the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set (DS NMDS) .

A snapshot of the latest statistics on disability support service users from the DS NMDS is provided below.

In 2012–13, around 312,500 people received disability support services, an increase of 12% since 2008-09.

People may use services from more than one service group. Forty-five per cent of people who used disability support services used 'Community support' services to help them live in a non-institutional setting. This and employment services (41%) were the most common service groups used. 

Stacked horizontal bar chart showing (autism, neurological, psychiatric, physical, intellectual) on the y axis; per cent (0 to 35) on the x axis.  

Age and sex of disability support service users

More than half (59%) of all service users in 2012–13 were male, and 41% were female. 

The average (mean) age of service users was 34.

The overall sex and age distribution of service users has remained relatively steady over time.

Male Female All service users
Mean age (years)
2008–09 32.1 37.8 34.4
2009–10 31.9 37.4 34.1
2010–11 31.9 37.6 34.2
2011–12 31.6 37.2 33.9
2012–13 31.3 37.0 33.6
2008–09 58.9 41.1 100.0
2009–10 59.3 40.7 100.0
2010–11 59.3 40.7 100.0
2011–12 59.1 40.9 100.0
2012–13 59.1 40.9 100.0

Disability groups

Intellectual disability is the most common disability among specialist disability service users, at around one-third (32%) of all services users in 2012–13. 

5 most common disability groups (primary or other significant disability) of disability support service users, 2012–13 (per cent)

Vertical bar chart showing per cent ( 0 to 45) on the y axis; service group (community support, employment, community access, accommodation support, respite) on the x axis.

Most service users required at least some assistance with the activities of daily living (71%), activities of independent living (84%) and activities in work, education and community living (87%).

Indigenous service users

Around 17,400 disability support service users, or 6% of all service users in 2012–13, were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. Of Indigenous service users in 2012–13:

  • most were aged under 50 (14,600 or 84% of Indigenous service users), compared with 74% of non-Indigenous service users
  • 59% were male, about the same as non-Indigenous service users (59%)
  • 33% had an intellectual disability, 31% had a physical disability and 24% had a psychiatric disability, similar to non-Indigenous service users (35%, 31% and 28%, respectively)
  • 10% were employed, compared with 16% of non-Indigenous service users
  • community support was the most commonly used service group (54%, compared with 44% of non-Indigenous service users), followed by employment services (35%, compared with 44% of non-Indigenous service users).

Culturally and linguistically diverse service users

The majority of disability support service users were born in Australia (87%), 9% were born in a predominantly non-English speaking country and 4% in a predominantly English-speaking country.


The majority of service users lived in a major city (66%). Twenty-three per cent lived in an inner regional area, 9% lived in an outer regional area, and 2% lived in a remote or very remote area.

Thirty-nine per cent of Indigenous service users lived in a major city, lower than the 68% of non-Indigenous service users. A further 26% lived in an inner regional area, 20% lived in an outer regional area, and 15% lived in a remote or very remote area, and did so in higher proportions than non-Indigenous service users (22%, 9%, and 1% respectively).

Further information