Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: National Disability Insurance Scheme

Mary Hawkins, National Disability Insurance Agency

Information provided by the NDIA in this presentation is accurate at the time of recording. You should visit for the most up to date information.

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants have a number of employment and study options or pathways and supports available to them, depending on their stage of life and their goals and aspirations. Hear from Mary Hawkins, Director of the Employment Outcomes Branch at the National Disability Insurance Agency on NDIS funding principles, NDIS funded study supports and NDIS funded employment supports. Topics covered include:

  • Context
  • NDIS funding principles
  • NDIS funded study supports
  • NDIS funded employment supports
  • NDIS planning meeting preparation and provider selection


Mary Hawkins is currently the Director Engagement, Employment Outcomes in the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Mary is a qualified Rehabilitation Counsellor who has occupied senior management positions in WorkCover NSW, the Motor Accident Authority of NSW and with CRS, a large national provider of vocational rehabilitation services.

Mary has held a number of roles with the NDIA, including setting up arrangements for providers for the commencement of the Trials of the Scheme in 2013, assisting with the roll out of the early transition of the NDIS in Nepean/Blue Mountains in NSW. With the commencement of the transition to full scheme in NSW Mary worked as Director Stakeholder Engagement for the NSW Central region. More recently as Director Strategic Initiatives, Provider & Market Engagement, Mary has assisted with transition in Western Australia and with the introduction of the Disability-related Health Supports in accordance with the decision of the Disability Reform Council in 2019.

Professionally, Mary received the inaugural Award for Outstanding Contribution to Injury Management by an Individual from the Personal Injury Education Foundation in 2008 and for many years was a significant contributor to their education and events subcommittees. Mary was made a fellow of the Australian Society of Rehabilitation Counsellors, having been one of the founding members of that Society. Her work in Rehabilitation Counselling particularly in injury and disability management was recognised by the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Health Sciences who granted her the Alumni Award for Services to Humanity.

Q and A's from the session

Q: When speaking about participants moving from school to work, you mentioned that NDIS could fund assessments. Does this include assessments (for adults) to diagnose a disability, including a specific learning disorder?

A: No the assessments I was referring to were about vocational choices and functional work assessments which can be of both the person and the workplace.

NDIS does not provide diagnostic assessments as these are generally the responsibility of the health system.

Q: What about support for significant behavioural concerns and participation which the client may have in their day to day life in the community – would that support person attend with the student in RTO training?

A: Some support could be provided in this way. But it would be for the purpose of orienting the student and assisting teachers and fellow students to understand and communicate with the participant. It would be unusual for the support person to attend all of the training.

Q: Will the NDIS ever reach a level of maturity where there is no longer a need for such intensive plans?

A: The NDIA is changing the way many plans are developed. This will streamline the planning process and allow more flexibility to the participant about which supports they purchase. As participants become more familiar with the NDIS and the Agency develops improved and more efficient systems, planning will become an easier process.

Q: What are the special projects funded at university?

A: These could be ILC projects many of which are undertaken by universities

Q: Is there anyway internet costs for studies could be covered for students studying TAFE courses?

A: No as the cost of accessing the internet is seen as an everyday living expense.

Q: If a student is doing a PHD and requires to go to a conference - could be overseas - do you fund travel and also fund a support person attending to assist with conference requirements particularly if they are presenting?

A: NDIS will not fund the travel for the person. The participant can use their daily support budget to purchase supports whilst overseas.

Q: If a reasonable adjustment or support would leave an education provider in unjustifiable hardship, would the NDIS be able to cover the support/adjustment?  

A: If provision of the support comes within what is usually considered ”reasonable adjustment”, the answer would be no. if it is something beyond “reasonable adjustment”, NDIS can consider such requests