Disability support work is about supporting people with disability to achieve their goals and live the life they want.
Each person with disability has different goals and needs that can change over time. The range of roles for a support worker is just as diverse. You might support a person with disability to get dressed and prepare their meals one day and organise a trip to the footy the next day. Or you might be an allied health professional providing therapeutic care and support.
In the disability sector there are many roles and options for employment to suit you.
It’s about matching your unique skills, capabilities and experience with the goals and needs of a person with disability.
Looking for work?
Right now, there are a range of jobs for people wanting to work with people with disability.
The Jobs Victoria online hub matches jobseekers who are ready to work, with employers who are looking for skilled and talented workers. Once you register as a jobseeker, you will receive job alerts that match your skills, experience and location.
National Disability Services (NDS) CareCareers
You can also visit the NDS CareCareers web page for more information and to view available jobs.
Common search terms include: disability jobs, disability support, disability worker, disability support worker allied health professional and NDIS.
Job opportunities are also posted by employers on their websites.
Examples of disability roles
Disability support workers support people with disability to live the life they want. Disability support worker roles are the most common roles in the sector and are very diverse.
The day-to-day tasks of the role will vary greatly depending on the individual needs and goals of the person you support. Daily tasks may include, but are not limited to:
- supporting individual participation in social and recreational activities such as going to the footy or the movies
- undertaking tasks outside the home such as shopping, visiting friends and family
- supporting participants to achieve their employment goals
- personal care
- light domestic duties such as meal preparation and cleaning
- manual handling and/or the use of equipment to support mobility (wheelchairs or hoists)
- providing companionship and emotional support
- assisting individuals to communicate.
Allied health professionals provide clinical and therapy services to support people with disability and complex needs to achieve their goals and maintain their health and wellbeing.
To work as an allied health professional, you need a relevant university-level qualification and you may need to meet additional requirements depending on your professional association. Allied health professions include:
- occupational therapy
- speech pathology
- social work
- orthotics and prosthetics
If you’re an allied health professional interested in developing your skills and knowledge to support or provide services to people with disability and complex support needs, visit for more information and resources.
Allied health assistants (AHA) support and assist the work of allied health professionals.
AHAs are trained to work within certain limits to undertake a range of less complex tasks, delegated to them by allied health professionals. Depending on qualification and skill level, tasks may include:
- collecting and preparing equipment
- documenting client progress
- implementing therapy treatments and supports in accordance with therapy and support plans.
AHAs may work with several different allied health professionals or they may work with one particular profession.
A support coordinator supports people with disability to understand and implement funded supports in their NDIS plan.
They also provide links to community, mainstream and other government services. Support coordinators focus on supporting people with disability to build their skills and direct their own lives as well as connect to appropriate service providers.
The role of a support coordinator can be varied, given the unique needs of the people they are supporting. Some skills that this role requires include:
- relationship building
- organisational skills
- crisis and issues management experience
- a thorough understanding of the NDIS
- a strength-based approach to working with people with disability.
Local Area Coordinator
The role of a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) is to assist people to navigate the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
LACs assist people with disability who are eligible for the NDIS to:
- create an NDIS plan
- put that plan in place
- review the plan as the person's needs change
LACs also support people who aren't eligible for the NDIS to link in with mainstream and community supports in their local areas.
National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) planners work with NDIS participants, their family and other relevant people. Planners help determine what supports and services will assist participants to achieve their goals and also assist in the development of NDIS plans, as well as identify funding required.
These roles generally don't work directly with people with disability, but rather provide helpful indirect support to staff.
Tasks might include managing rosters, budgets, training and guiding organisation and service improvement.
Roles might include:
- team leaders and managers
- senior leadership
- receptionist and administrative assistants
- office manager
- human resources management
- customer service support
- learning and development support
- information and communication technology support
- finance and accounting
- marketing and communications
- business analysts
Depending on the particular role you may require certain skills or extra qualifications.
- “As a team leader I enjoy empowering my staff and I treat them as equals. If there’s a challenging situation, we discuss it; I encourage them to make suggestions and then look at the best solution."
From a casual worker with no disability qualifications to a qualified team leader, Van is still excited about working in disability support after 20 years.
Van recently became team leader at the Scope Northern District Lifestyle Options day centre. After 20 years working in disability support, he’s still excited about his role.
Van started off as a casual worker supporting clients in a residential setting before moving to a day activity setting where he supports people with disability to participate in a range of programs.
“I had no background or qualifications in disability at all – and no computer skills. But after a few months I was offered a permanent position by a house coordinator who liked the way I worked.
“During that time, I was promoted to manual handling officer, which involved planning and helping staff observe correct procedures. I enjoyed helping people stay safe and develop confidence and skills to cope with different challenges,” Van says.
Now, with a Certificate IV in Disability and many years of experience, he feels ready to teach others and share his wealth of knowledge.
- “Career progression is everywhere. You could become a team leader, coordinator, manager or you might go into a different house, with new challenges. That’s why I love this space, it’s never dull.”
Rebecca (Bec) manages a residential group home for people with disability who have complex needs. She loves making a difference and supporting people to lead a more independent life.
The opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life inspired Bec’s career in the disability sector.
“I love to create change and advocate for those people who aren’t being heard. I want to make a difference and support those who need it.”
As part of Bec’s role, she manages a residential group home in Melbourne, which supports people with disability who have moved out of home to carry out daily tasks.
“Although my role involves various administrative tasks, such as rostering, finance, training, reports and mentoring staff, the most important aspect is to support and empower the residents to lead an independent and fulfilled life,” Bec says.
For those considering a career in the disability sector, Bec considers the ability to relate to and engage with other people as essential.
“People will often say you have to be a really caring, unique and a strong individual to do this work. I think it’s about having the right attitude and the right values. Disability support can be challenging work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.”
- “Someone wanting to build a long-term career in disability support has a lot of options. They could work supporting people in a residential setting, or support people to participate in centre-based activity programs, or they might prefer to work supporting people out in the community. Beyond that they could pursue a management or a health professional role."
Rachel is a doctor with a history of disability support work. Looking back, she feels that disability support work gave her skills and knowledge that remain relevant to this day.
For seven years, working in the disability sector was a big part of Rachel’s life while she studied to become a doctor, but her passion for working with people with disability started much earlier.
Rachel now works as a junior doctor in a Melbourne hospital and still enjoys occasional weekend shifts as a disability support worker.
“I had wanted to work in the disability sector from a very young age. My older brother Mark has cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and epilepsy, and we’ve always been very close.
We had support workers in our house for as long as I can remember – helping him out of bed and getting him off to school, bringing him home at the end of the day and getting him ready for bed. Seeing the positive difference they made to my brother and my family was very inspiring,” Rachel says.
When she turned 19, Rachel began doing 6-hour day shifts at weekends supporting young adults to go out into the community.
“A big part of disability support work is the social, community inclusion side and encouraging people with disability to become comfortable in busy social spaces. It can be challenging but it’s also a lot of fun.”
When Rachel started university, she wanted to support herself financially and disability support work offered her the flexibility to fit work around her study commitments.
Working in the disability sector, you may support a person with disability in a range of different settings, including:
- a participant's own private home
- out and about in the community e.g. at the shops or at the local park
- at a centre-based support program (also known as a day and lifestyle program)
- at a therapy centre
- a participant's place of employment
- shared living arrangements – permanent/ long-term housing designed for people with extreme functional impairment or very high support needs
- respite – temporary/ short-term accommodation for people with disability
- holiday destinations and camps.
A career in disability offers flexibility and options regarding employment arrangements, such as:
- Working for a disability service provider organisation.
- Employment by a person with disability.
- Under the NDIS, participants may choose to self-manage their own NDIS plan. This means participants have the flexibility and choice to decide what supports they want to buy to meet their goals. Participants may choose to employ or contract staff directly.
- Work for Labour Hire, e.g. temporary short-term contracts.
- Establish your own business and be a sole trader.
Reviewed 19 August 2021