Minister Shorten intends to ban NDIS-funded sex work

Posted 2 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
Some NDIS participants have been able to access funding for sex work since 2020, but this may soon change. [Source: Shutterstock]
Some NDIS participants have been able to access funding for sex work since 2020, but this may soon change. [Source: Shutterstock]

How NDIS participants may be affected by possible bans for items under current NDIS funding

Key points:

  • NDIS Minister Bill Shorten commented on possible NDIS sex-work funding bans for items such as ‘toys of a sexual nature’
  • Approximately 650,000 Australians are currently registered as NDIS participants, according to information on the NDIS website
  • In 2020, the Federal Court ruled in favour of a woman living with multiple sclerosis who wanted to fund sex work services in her NDIS plan

Eligible NDIS participants have received sex work funding since 2020, however, multiple media outlets have now reported that NDIS Minister Bill Shorten is set to end NDIS funding for these services. 

Approximately 650,000 Australians are registered NDIS participants, as per the latest data from the NDIS website. 

Minister Shorten expressed concern regarding the way some participants are using NDIS funding in a national television interview as he referred to misused funds for ‘toys of a sexual nature.’

“The laws are drafted in a way which means that periodically, participants can claim things which I don’t think the parliament or people with disability ever really intended to be on the scheme,” he said. 

Approximately 4.4 million Australians are reported to be living with disability, according to the latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Mr River Night, a national disability sector advocate, highlighted the importance of allowing eligible NDIS participants to use funds to improve their health and general well-being through sexual services.

“Avoiding sexuality as part of any full-time [or] 24-hour support setting to people with complex and significant disability is plain medieval and shows a huge lack of contemporary and educated insight into human services,” he said.

“NDIS providers are required to provide ‘holistic’ approaches to service delivery. That includes not just medical support but support for identity, community, relationships and all those things that every human being has a right to,” said Mr Night. 

“The real story each time we hear people say NDIS funding is being used for sex and drugs is that our politicians want to set up blanket ‘yes’ and ‘no’ rules for a scheme that is designed completely at its core as an individualised funding program [and] that requires professional judgement and flexibility.”

Sex can help someone feel affection, develop relationships with others and improve their well-being. Some people with disability may find it difficult to have sexual relationships with others for multiple reasons such as being house-bound. 

However, this physical restriction, for example, does not reduce a person’s need to understand and experience sexual relationships. 

Previously, the Federal Court ruled in favour of a woman living with multiple sclerosis who wanted to fund sex work services in her NDIS plan. This ruling enabled other NDIS participants to access similar services.

The NDIS had initially refused the funding before the woman won an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which reversed the refusal of funding made by the NDIS.

To read more about this case, head to this article: Federal Court decision allows NDIS funding of sex workers

One organisation, Family Planning Australia is a ‘leading provider of reproductive and sexual health services’ and engages in related research and advocacy. 

Family Planning Australia acknowledged and recognised the importance of ‘people with disability have the right to realise the full extent of their capacities for physical, social, emotional, sexual and intellectual development’.

‘People with disability have the right to choose whether they are sexual or not, whether they have sexual relationships with people of the same or different sex and whether they will have children,’ according to information available on the Family Planning Australia website. 

For NDIS participants accessing sex services, this also may include sex therapists who can develop their clients’ understanding of sex and consent. 

However, as with any NDIS funding, the service must be deemed ‘reasonable and necessary’ and related to the participant’s disability. 


Are you a person with disability? What are your thoughts on sex work funding being banned for NDIS participants?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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