Independent Mental Health Advocacy

My identity and keeping myself safe

Navigating the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can be challenging. Here are some ways to keep yourself safe while you are using this toolkit and engaging with the NDIS.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is complicated and the process can be stressful. Spending some time thinking about what helps you when you're stressed can really help.

In this section you can learn about how to keep yourself safe while navigating the NDIS and using this toolkit. You can explore the concept of identity, how you see yourself and how you'd like others to see you. You can learn more about how to express yourself. You may also find this section is useful in other contexts such as engaging with other services.

Everyone will have different levels of knowledge and understanding of the NDIS. If you would like to know more about the NDIS first, please visit the What is the NDIS? section of this toolkit for more information.

  • When people think about things that have caused them distress in the past it can bring up the same emotions they felt at that time. This is called re-traumatisation. It's important to be mindful of this, so you can think about how you can stay safe in the present.

    It is important to listen to yourself and your body. How you feel in these situations can tell you whether something is safe or not. If you are feeling unsafe, it is important to take time to think about it and what that means for you. You might like to seek support from someone you trust. This could be a friend, kin, family of origin, family of choice, or carer. It could also be a professional support person such as a peer support worker or therapist.

    There is a method of providing support called 'trauma-informed care'. It recognises the impact that trauma can have on physical and emotional safety. There are some small things that might help you when dealing with trauma:

    • Give yourself permission to have an emotional or physical reaction to a stressful event.
    • Talk to someone you trust about the emotional or physical reaction you are having.
    • Look after yourself by getting sleep, or rest if you can't sleep. Eat regular meals and exercise.
    • Make time for relaxation. Listen to music, meditate, take a bath, or whatever works for you.
    • Write about your feelings if you feel unable to talk to others about them.

    The NSW health websiteExternal Link has more information about trauma-informed care.

  • The NDIS uses the term ‘disability’. People with a disability experience long-term restrictions on their physical, mental, intellectual or sensory abilities.

    These restrictions mean people with a disability might face barriers that stop them from taking part in society in the same way as people with no disability. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers people with disability more independence, choice and control.

    The social model of disability is the understanding that disability is something that is created by society. It can be helpful to think about how society and your environment could change to support you. The NDIS is designed to help you overcome the barriers you experience.

    Some people won't identify with the term 'disability', and that's okay. It can be helpful to know that you can use this term without accepting it as part of your identity.

    'This is the wording of the NDIS, but it doesn't determine who you are as a person.'

    Some of the language that the NDIS uses might make you feel like you don't have something that others have, and this might not feel good. Remember, this is the language the NDIS uses, and it does not have to be how you see yourself.

  • Each person identifies differently and will use different language and terminology to describe their experiences. Your identity is personal to you and can be made up of many different things. For example:

    • culture
    • gender identity
    • social
    • relational
    • family/kinship
    • values
    • experience
    • communication
    • linguistic
    • age
    • psychosocial attributes
    • physical attributes
    • personality
    • political affiliations
    • religious beliefs
    • profession.

    There can sometimes be a clash between how you identify and the language that a system uses. You may see yourself as having ability needs, or you may say that you have a disability. Both are acceptable. Regardless of whether you identify with the term disability, you can still engage with the NDIS.

    It is your choice what aspects of your identity you choose to share, and who you share them with.

  • The NDIS can fit within your recovery journey:

    • Recovery is a journey of new possibilities to improve your life and how you feel about yourself. It is having a sense of purpose about your personal, social and emotional wellbeing.
    • The NDIS can support you with your mental health recovery journey by providing supports and services that you want or need.
    • Having hope and exploring possibilities can provide inspiration and motivate you to begin the journey of engaging with the NDIS.
    • Each person's journey will be unique. Not better or worse, just different.
    • There will be ups and downs, and times when things go fast or slow down, and this is OK. It's all an experience to build on and celebrate.

My rights

  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesExternal Link states that 'Every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others.'

    This means it is important that you get to choose what happens to your body and mind.

  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesExternal Link states that 'Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.'

    This means you have the right to respect for your cultural and linguistic identity and the way that you communicate.

    If you are a First Nations person, or from a culturally diverse background, you should receive culturally aware services. Any person who doesn't speak English as their first language is entitled to an interpreter, and simple and inclusive language should be used.

    If you identify as part of the deaf community you should receive services that respect your identity and you have the right to an interpreter.

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsExternal Link states that 'All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.'

    This means that you have the right to make decisions about those things that affect you and your life.

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsExternal Link states that 'Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.'

    This means that you have the right to express yourself, or identify, in the way you choose.

  • The Australian Sex Discrimination Act 1984External Link protects people from discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also protects workers with family responsibilities and makes sexual harassment against the law.

Worksheet: My identity and keeping myself safe

Our worksheet provides a safe space to express your identity before engaging with the NDIS. 

Complete the worksheet

Other resources

Reviewed 23 November 2022