Is ADHD a disability in Australia?

Posted 1 month ago by David McManus
Does ADHD qualify would-be participants of the NDIS? [Source: Shutterstock]
Does ADHD qualify would-be participants of the NDIS? [Source: Shutterstock]

ADHD is poorly understood, as is its relationship with the NDIS.

Key points:

  • Minister Shorten had previously asked for advice from professionals in the sector to determine the future of support for those living with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Australia has experienced a surge in ADHD diagnoses, with advocacy groups and senior experts in the sector pushing for the NDIS to provide funding for those living with the learning disability


The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person, in many areas of public life, including employment, education, getting or using services, renting or buying a house or unit and accessing public places, because of their disability.

Although not directly listed on the Guide to the List of Recognised Disabilities, which is based on determinations approved in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2014 by the Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Social Services, ADHD is classified as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act.

ADHD is not covered as a primary disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, however, people may receive support through the NDIS if a participant has ADHD in addition to a primary disability that is deemed eligible.

Despite the general consensus among clinicians and diagnostic professionals in Australia surrounding the need for ADHD to be supported in certain instances, rather than holistically and universally, Bill Shorten told ABC radio audiences that he ‘[doesn’t] think ADHD should automatically give you a ticket into the NDIS,’ in 2023.

Over half a million Australians are supported by the NDIS, which was introduced in July of 2013 and is now the second most expensive social program, just below the aged pension. As costs continue to rise and providers have spurred task force investigation for price-gouging at the expense of taxpayers, the possibility of further support may seem out of reach for many with the condition.

Research has found that there is a strong hereditary component with ADHD, while it may be caused by a biochemical imbalance in some people. Other potential causes include premature birth, brain injury and oxygen deprivation at birth.

ADHD is not a disorder that can be ‘cured,’ however, with the right supports and structure, inattentive and impulsive behaviours can be focused and better regulated.

Symptoms associated with ADHD include:

  • Struggling to focus in class, during conversations or when reading
  • Procrastinating and avoiding tasks that involve continuous mental concentration
  • Not following instructions
  • Starting but not finishing tasks
  • Losing belongings
  • Not listening when being spoken to
  • Being forgetful with everyday tasks
  • Easily getting distracted
  • Poor sense of time
  • Fidgeting and squirming — constantly being in motion in some way
  • Talking frequently without pausing
  • Playing loudly or not being able to stay quiet
  • Not being able to wait patiently or interrupting others
  • Moving around frequently, including running, climbing or simply leaving their seat during class
  • Expressing their thoughts out loud without a filter

If you believe your child has ADHD, your first step will be making an appointment with your General Practitioner. They will assist with any necessary referrals to a psychologist, developmental paediatrician or psychiatrist.


Do you live with ADHD? How does it affect your day-to-day life? Let the team at Talking Disability know and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.


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