Tackling COVID’s ‘shadow pandemic’ and its impact on people with a disability 

Up to 80 per cent of people living with a disability in Indonesia have lost their income as a result of the pandemic, according to a survey of 22 provinces by the Disabled People Organisation Network.


To better understand the everyday lives of this community, the Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC) is launching a Rapid Research project that will examine the experiences of women and men living with a disability during the coronavirus. The research will focus on South Sulawesi, the province with the highest number of people affected by the virus outside of Java.

People living with a disability are at greater risk from COVID-19 than others, with the majority struggling to deal with social isolation, mobility issues, and disruption to how they access services and how they learn, especially when having to use phone apps and other online methods.

Despite challenges, the survey also showed that people with disabilities are keen to contribute.  In fact, 64 per cent of respondents indicated that they would like to contribute to the pandemic response, including through making masks, outreach projects, education, and collecting donations.

How are these people coping, and how can governments and organisations support them to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on their lives?

“Our research explores the everyday lives of people with a disability in South Sulawesi. It will focus on their lived experience in facing the pandemic and the coping strategies they use to manage the effects of this crisis,” said project co-lead Associate Professor Becky Batagol from Monash University.

“There is already evidence that the COVID-19 crisis is worsening the situation of women and girls with a disability, with life threatening consequences. There is evidence of a ‘shadow pandemic’ of increased violence against women since March 2020. Women living with disability are especially vulnerable to violence. Our research explores the different experiences of women and men living with disabilities through the pandemic in South Sulawesi,” adds Batagol.

“The study is unique,” says Dr Muhammad Junaid from Universitas Hasanuddin in South Sulawesi, also a co-lead. “It brings together Indonesian and Australian academic experts in disability, public health, and gender, including those with a lived experience of disability from non-government organisations.”

“Our goal is to help strengthen policies and programs to reduce the impacts of COVID-19 on women and men living with disability. Our South Sulawesi learnings will be valuable to inform more gendered and culturally sensitive policies and programs at various levels of government and from service providers and NGOs.”

The research team

Co-leads: A/Prof Becky Batagol (Monash University), Dr Muhammad Junaid (Universitas Hasanuddin)

Participants: Dr Sudirman Nasir (Universitas Hasanuddin), Dr Claire Spivakovsky (The University of Melbourne)


Australian Media enquiries

Marlene Millott
PAIR Program Officer
+61 427 516 851

Indonesian Media enquiries

Fadhilah Trya Wulandari
PAIR Program Officer
+62 8124 3637 755


About the Australia-Indonesia Centre

The AIC was established by the Australian and Indonesian Governments in 2013. It brings together 11 universities – seven Indonesian and four Australian – to advance people-to-people links in science, technology, education, innovation and culture. The AIC designs and facilitates bilateral research programs, taking research outcomes to policy and practice. It forms interdisciplinary teams that work collaboratively with stakeholders – policy, business and community – to find solutions to regional, national and global challenges.

Beyond research, the AIC’s outreach activities contribute to broader people-to-people links. It runs digital dialogues that seek to shed new insights. It supports the deepening of cultural exchange through a binational short film festival, explores respective national attitudes and perceptions towards each other, and brings together future leaders of both nations workshops, dialogues and other programs.

The Rapid Research program is part of the AIC’s Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research, funded by the Australian Government.  It is AIC’s front-foot response to a better understanding of COVID-19’s impact on Indonesia’s economy and society.  It brings together Sixty Australian and Indonesian researchers from the AIC’s consortium of 11 universities to explore three areas: COVID-19 People and Health; COVID-19, People and Connectivity, and COVID-19, People and Economic Recovery.


Photo by Hobi industri on Unsplash