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Profile – Tom Butler

In December 2019 Tom Butler’s long journey to become his own provider of Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) ended in success, when he moved into his purpose-built unit.

In January 2000 Tom was visiting home in Tasmania after completing his first year at the Australian Defence Academy in Canberra. The day before he was due to head back he went for a swim with mates. “I very thoughtlessly took a very deep dive into what turned out to be very shallow water,” he said. “I broke my neck and was left a complete quadriplegic at the C4-5 level.” Tom was 19 at the time.

Tom lived with support in a unit next to the family house for a number of years, but over time felt he needed to move and in 2016 bought a small block of land. “I took a bit of a gamble and bought it without knowing whether I could live by myself even with the NDIS rollout on the way, and knowing that the finances would be very tight.”

Tom heard about SDA in 2017. “A couple of inquiries and a significant amount of reading later it dawned on me what a game changer SDA was,” he said. “From that point on SDA became my main focus…

Tom was able to ensure the design for his unit met all the requirements to be registered as SDA. Building started in 2018. It took most of 2019 and he moved into the unit last December.

He has a positive message to anyone thinking about building their own SDA: “If you’re like me and have always wanted to build your own home then it’s a no-brainer, do it!”

Tom’s top tips:

  • Building houses can take a long time. So can getting approved for SDA and registering as a provider.  You need to pursue both at the same time to avoid big delays. 
  • Read the SDA Price Guide, Rules, and Design Standards. And then read them again!
  • Ask lots of questions. I have a Facebook page “NDIS self providers of SDA” and there is also “NDIS SDA Needs” which have people helping each other out. 
  • Reach out to banks like Bank Australia to get an idea of your borrowing capacity. They are a community bank and know about SDA, and can potentially lend money taking into account the future SDA income.

You can read more about Tom’s SDA experiences here.

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