Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Arts and Science)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Catherine Thill

Second Supervisor

Dr Denise Buiten


Since initial concerns were raised by disability studies scholars and the disability movement with the Australian government’s Welfare to Work reforms there has been a dearth of scholarship on how the partial capacity to work category, created through the reforms, is governed (particularly through other policies). The 2006 Welfare to Work reforms implemented by the former Howard government (1997 – 2007) excluded those people with disability assessed as capable of working 15-29 hours per week from the disability specific income support payment, the Disability Support Pension. Instead, they were eligible for the unemployment benefit Newstart Allowance and, alongside the unemployed, had to meet certain state requirements to remain eligible for payment, such as applying for jobs and attending interviews. This research, in addressing this gap, examines how people with a partial capacity to work are governed with regard to recent changes to the income support system and the disability care and support system through the National Disability Insurance Scheme for people with disability. The research examines the possibility that people with a partial capacity to work in the Northern Territory could have their income support payments managed by the government through a policy intersection between the Welfare to Work reforms and Income Management. By applying both governmentality and critical disability studies as the methodological approach and undertaking a Foucauldian discourse analysis of key policy documents, the research found that people with a partial capacity to work are governed through sameness and difference, which negatively impacts on their equality and access. The research suggests that people with a partial capacity to work are governed in Welfare to Work and income management through an able-bodied norm. This is problematic as it ignores the social barriers that people with disability experience, such as inaccessible communities; impairment barriers, such as pain and episodic illness; and the meaning subscribed to impairment. The research also found that people with a partial capacity to work are governed by authoritarian rationalities in the income support system as opposed to participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, who are regulated by social rationalities of government. These findings suggest that there is a need to move beyond governing people with a partial capacity to work through sameness and difference and emphasises the importance of examining policy intersections in constructing and regulating subjects.