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This week, a unanimous federal court ruling found that NDIS funds could be used to access specialist sex therapy and sex worker services.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the agency responsible for delivering the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), has been overruled by the federal court decision which found in favour of a 40-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis. Her four-year fight to have specialised sex services funded by her NDIS funding plan has become the focus of a major push in systemic advocacy for disability rights around sexuality. 

“I am very pleased about this decision, but it has been a very stressful process, that has dragged out for four years. The NDIA has been difficult to deal with. I want to thank my legal team very much,” she said.

This follows on from a ruling in 2019 from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) which likewise found in favour of the respondent, ruling that she should be entitled to use up to $10,000 of her NDIS funding a year on specialised sex services.

“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, who is the Director of Media and Communications for People with Disability Australia (PWDA).

Systemic advocacy for people with disability to have equal access and opportunity to ordinary sexual expression is the underpinning issue to this case.

“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.” 

Disability advocacy organisations, including PWDA and Touching Base Inc., have called on the NDIA to formulate a sexuality policy to guide the agency in assessing requests to use NDIS funds for sex toys, dating support and sex worker services.

Ensuring that the rights of people with disability enshrined in the UNCRPD and ratified by the Australian Government in 2008 are essential to building an accessible and inclusive society where people, irrespective of their abilities, are free to express themselves and to participate in society fully, equally and with dignity. 

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

Read more on the ruling from The Guardian here and ProBono Australia here.

About Touching Base

Touching Base developed out of the need to assist people with disability and sex workers to connect with each other, focusing on access, discrimination, human rights and legal issues and the attitudinal barriers that these two marginalised communities can face. It provides information and resources for people with disability, their families, carers and supporters on how to access the sex industry.

Find out more at touchingbase.org or read our full directory listing here

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