How new Federal Budget allocations could help almost a quarter of Australians with disability

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
Attending university can be an exciting time, but it’s important that you get the right support to be successful. [Source: Shutterstock]
Attending university can be an exciting time, but it’s important that you get the right support to be successful. [Source: Shutterstock]

How could the new Federal Budget affect you as a student with disability?

Key points:

  • Over six percent of people studying in higher education reported having a disability, according to recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  • An expert, Linda Williams, from ReachOut highlighted the importance of looking after one’s mental health during times of stress such as preparing for exams
  • In the new Federal Budget, the Australian Government has pledged over $888  million dollars in the mental health care package over eight years

Over six percent of domestic higher education students in Australia had a disability or long-term health condition that may impact their capacity to engage in their studies, according to recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

People with disability are more likely to gain a Certificate III but are less likely to receive a bachelor’s degree compared to peers without disability, according to the latest data release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

A Certificate III is a level of ‘accredited training that addresses skill requirements to meet industry, enterprise, educational or community needs’ in a number of different fields, according to the Victorian Skills Gateway.

With exams and university assessments approaching quickly, understanding how to look after yourself during this stressful time will help you make the most of your study opportunities as a person with disability. 

Almost a quarter of Australians living with disability reported their main concern being mental or behavioural disorders, as per data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2019.

Seventy percent of university students experienced ‘study stress [that] had a moderate to major impact on their emotional or mental wellbeing in the last 12 months,’ according to a survey conducted by youth mental health service, ReachOut.

Linda Williams, the clinical lead at ReachOut, conveyed an understanding of the pressures on young people and their mental health while studying for upcoming exams.

“At this time of year, we know that many uni students will be experiencing stress about study and exams,” she said.

“Data from ReachOut shows that, for some young people, stress is contributing to poor sleep and feelings of loneliness, both of which can impact mental health and academic performance. 

“It is also clear that, for some young people, the cost of living is contributing to their exam stress at this time. ReachOut’s data shows that 80 percent of uni students are concerned about their finances or the cost of living,” said Williams.

Ms Williams wanted young people to understand that looking after themselves and finding support for any concerns is a good way to set up a foundation for optimal study time.

“We want to remind young people to take a proactive approach to their mental health right now. For example, thinking about sleep hygiene and keeping in touch with support networks can help manage feelings of stress. Seeking support is also really important from places like ReachOut, making an appointment with your GP or looking at what support is available via your uni,” she said.

Getting extra support can be a great way to study courses you are interested in and can often be found through your institution’s health and counselling services. Universities often offer access plans to help educators understand their students’ needs and disability. 

Different study adjustments may include:

  • extensions for assignments;
  • alternative exam formats;
  • a reduced course load, e.g. completing a course part-time;
  • attendance flexibility.

In one literature review, it was suggested that ‘not every disabled student needs every accommodation available to them,’ which highlights the importance of knowing yourself and what can best help you to achieve academically. 

However, it’s important to establish access plans well in advance as they can take time to process through the university or other higher education institution. 

In addition to getting support through your university and by talking with friends, getting the right nutrition can make studying seem more manageable.

Australians are eating fewer fruits and vegetables with a decrease of 14 and 12 grams per person daily, respectively, compared to previous years. Australians are consuming 16 percent more potato crisps and 10 percent more chocolate than five years ago, according to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In one study, 58 percent of women living with disability were single, compared to 45 percent of women who did not have disability. 

Some of the challenges of living alone or not being in a relationship can include having trouble accessing healthy foods because of mobility issues, reduced appetite because of depression or dietary restrictions related to a chronic illness. 

Creating a meal for just one person can be overwhelming, making convenience foods more appealing. However, according to researchers, eating ultra-processed foods can increase the likelihood of developing depression.

To learn more about healthy eating and managing mealtimes when you live with disability, head to this article on Talking Disability.

However, it’s not just healthier eating that may help students with disability manage university-related stress. Getting financial help can ease the pressures that may be distracting you from studying. 

HECS debt support for millions of Australians has been announced in the new 2024 – 2025 Federal Budget. 

According to the Treasurer, three million Australians are expected to benefit from the three million dollar cut in student debt. While this will not erase the HECS debt in its entirety, it may help reduce some stress associated with HECS debt repayments. 

However, if you have disability and are looking for work, the Australian Government also announced ‘$227.6 million for a new specialised disability employment program to support approximately 270,000 Australians with disability to prepare for and find work.’

Additionally, further mental health support was announced in this Federal Budget with an improvement to ‘access to free mental health services through a network of walk‑in Medicare Mental Health Centres, built on the established Head to Health network. The upgraded national network of 61 Medicare Mental Health Centres will open by June 30, 2026.’  

The Australian Government has also pledged $888.1 million dollars to support the mental health package in Australia over eight years.


What are your top tips for studying when you live with disability?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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