Landmark decision for the right of people with disability to have sex

Today’s unanimous decision of the Federal Court to uphold the right of a person with disability to use their National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding to access sex work services is clear, and must be accepted.

“This courageous person with disability has fought for years to have her right to equal access to ordinary sexual expression funded through her NDIS plan,” said El Gibbs, Director, Media and Communications, People with Disability Australia.

“She won her Administrative Appeals Tribunal case, and has now emphatically won in the Federal Court of Australia. We urge the NDIS to accept this decision today, and allow people with disability to fund sexual expression through their plans.”

 “I am very pleased about this decision, but it has been a very stressful process, that has dragged out for four years. The NDIA have been difficult to deal with. I want to thank my legal team very much,” said the respondent. [The person with disability who is the respondent in this case has asked that her identity be kept confidential. We urge all involved in covering this case to respect her wishes.]

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was ratified by Australia in 2008, stating that governments have an obligation to ensure that people with disability can enjoy rich and fulfilling lives equal to others in society.

The NDIS is underpinned by the rights in the CRPD and designed to provide access to supports that are deemed ‘reasonable and necessary’ to ensure people with disability are fully supported to live ordinary lives, equal to the rest of the community.

“People with disability, just like everyone else, want to enjoy consensual intimate experiences, as part of exploring their physical, social and emotional needs for sexual intimacy and sexual expression,” said Saul Isbister, President, Touching Base.

“It is important that paid sexual services are recognised as a legitimate option for people with disability, if they so choose.” 

“We have also been asking the NDIS to develop a comprehensive policy about sexuality that includes appropriate disability-inclusive sexuality and relationships education; information and resources to support individual learning needs; support for dating and social sexual engagements; access to adaptive sex toys; access to sex therapy or utilising sexual services from sex workers,” said Ms Gibbs.

“The Position Statement, endorsed by over 50 organisations and individuals throughout Australia, clearly show growing support throughout the community for this range of sexual services to be included within the scope of NDIS funding.”

“Giving people with disability the right to exercise choice and control over the supports they need to achieve the goals they’ve identified is the primary objective the community expects the NDIS to deliver on,” said Mr Isbister.

Read the full frequently asked questions on the PWDA website.