Understanding the meaning of support in the Australian disability context–an analysis of the term “support” in seven key documents

Publication Name

Social Semiotics


In the past four years, Australia has undergone a major change in the way it funds supports and services for people living with disability. Part of this change has, of course, occurred in the discourse of disability, and the emergence of the term “support” rather than “care” has been a feature of this discursive shift. In this paper we used aspects of Systemic Functional Linguistic (SFL) theory to analyse how the term “support” is used in a seven key policy and program documents related to disability written over a ten-year period. We aim to understand what is meant by the term “support” and how its meaning is built up, deepened and made more complex over time through its use in Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme. The findings reveal that the meaning of support is relatively flexible, and as such develops meaning and complexity over time, reflecting a shift from a values and rights-based understanding of the concept to the operationalisation of the term in policy and practice.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access





First Page


Last Page




Link to publisher version (DOI)