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Disability sector to reap benefits of upskilled graduates

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The roll-out of the NDIS and its consequential jobs boom has boosted professional opportunities for workers in the sector to upskill to meet industry demand. Here, Flinders University outlines some of the options for adding to your qualifications.

The NDIS is expected to require an additional 90,000 full-time equivalent employees over the next five years, according to the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services, meaning more people are needed with specialised skills.

Studies in the disability field are relevant to many professions – including allied health, education, nursing, and community services – helping to build a supportive and inclusive society.

With the industry calling for more professionals, qualifications across all levels of the disability sector are needed from undergraduate through to postgraduate level.

This demand opens opportunities for workers to develop new skills, advance their career and contribute to developing a more inclusive society.

Flinders University’s Associate Professor in the Disability and Community Inclusion Unit, Michelle Bellon, says there are multiple higher education options that expand career pathways and allow for flexibility between courses.

“People with an interest in learning more about inclusive communities, including those with experience in the disability sector, such as support workers or volunteers, can undertake either of our two undergraduate programs (Bachelor of Disability and Community Inclusion or Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education) enabling them to progress and take the next step in their career.”

“Students can use that as a stepping stone into postgraduate options, allowing them to further develop leadership skills and apply a high level of understanding of research and policy.”

The ‘learning for life’ mindset of the Flinders Disability and Community Inclusion Unit ensures students wanting to upskill in their careers are learning about policy and leadership, particularly in the fourth year of the Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education (BDDE).

The final year of this program allows students to apply for membership with Developmental Educators Australia Inc (DEAI) to become an accredited Developmental Educator, another fast-growing profession.

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services the NDIS will create an estimated one in five new jobs in our country over the next five years.

One of the services now named and funded under the NDIS is Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). PBS practitioners provide comprehensive and person-centred support for people who display challenging behaviours.

Dr Alinka Fisher is a lecturer in Disability and Community Inclusion at Flinders University and says there is “huge interest” in PBS now that it is recommended as best practice internationally and is funded under the NDIS.

“PBS is embedded in an introductory way within the first years of our undergraduate program, which is then scaffolded to prepare graduates as PBS practitioners,” she says.

“Within requirements to work as a PBS practitioners, there is a focus on the importance of practice-based learning, and I believe we are the only university that has a practice-based component, as they are applying theory to practice within real-world settings.”

Alinka says the Graduate Certificate in PBS prepares competent practitioners to provide leadership to interdisciplinary teams, including other allied health professionals and support networks.

“It’s a team approach, other allied health professionals need to understand how they work collaboratively within this team to provide the support that’s needed,” she says.

Upskilling in the disability sector helps give professionals a competitive advantage in their skillset.

“Anyone working in human services will find themselves working with people who live with disabilities,” Alinka says.

“Further study in disability gives people in other professions an edge of understanding to support diversity within their context.”


Flinders University has a long and proud tradition of producing exceptional disability graduates, with industry partnerships with public, private, and not-for-profit organisations embedded in research and education placements. Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education graduates, as well as Bachelor of Disability and Community Inclusion students who undertake a fourth year, are eligible for the professional accreditation with Developmental Educators Australia Inc. The Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education is the only undergraduate course in Australia to offer this. Flinders disability courses are offered full-time, part-time, on campus and online, within a supportive, student-centred learning environment.

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