1950s – In the 1950s, the first BuyAbility Social Enterprises were established and referred to as Sheltered Workshops. Sheltered Workshops were primarily formed by people with disability, along with their parents and carers, who recognised the benefits of employment but faced barriers in participating in non-supported employment.
1967 – In 1967, the Commonwealth Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act was established to help fund the work of nonprofit organisations establishing and equipping Sheltered Workshops and supported accommodation.
1974 – The 1970s saw an increase in Commonwealth funding to organisations providing training, therapy and rehabilitation. The benefits of supported employment, including independence, self-sufficiency and personal development, became more widely recognised. Sheltered Workshops became known as Business Services or Activity Therapy Centres.
1986 – Employment became a priority for the federal government. The implementation of the Disability Services Act (DSA) 1986 reviewed funded programs and encouraged open employment pathways for people with disabilities.
Mid 1990s – The federal government implemented further reforms to improve the quality assurance, which lifted quality standards. This enabled many organisations to become commercial and to introduce activities to enhance their profit and financial sustainability.
2009 – Business Services became known as Australian Disability Enterprises and emphasised the professional training and employment development of supported employment. Many organisations emerged as commercial operations with most staff identifying as having a disability. These enterprises offered a variety of work experience and training avenues, including nationally accredited courses and traineeships surrounding safety awareness, work preparation, management, workplace behaviours and vocational skills development.
2011 – National Disability Services (NDS) launches the Social Enterprise Procurement Program (DEPP) with the support of the NSW Government aimed at addressing the high rates of unemployment and under-employment of people with disability. The DEPP established a brokerage and contract management model.
2016 – The BuyAbility network was launched by NDS to highlight the social and economic benefits of supported employment. DEPP became known as BuyAbility Procurement.
2021 – Disability Enterprises complete their transition to the NDIS and the new Supports in Employment pricing. The term Disability Enterprise is superseded by the term Social Enterprise.