Back to accessibility links

About the Intellectual Disability Network

The Intellectual Disability Network is working to improve the care and health of people with intellectual disability across all ages by providing clinical leadership, research and education as essential elements to enhance the capacity of primary and secondary health services.

Our People

Les White

Vince Ponzio, Co-Chair
Director, Intellectual Disability Mental Health, Mental Health Branch,
NSW Ministry of Health

Maria Heaton

Maria Heaton, Co-Chair

Les White

Jenny Martin, Co-Chair
Director, Allied Health and Oral Health

The Intellectual Disability Network is led by an executive committee, which includes doctors, nurses, allied health staff and carers, as well as representatives from other government and non- government agencies.

The broader network has members which include clinicians, carers and consumers and representatives from local health districts and other government and non- government organisations.


  • To develop links and collaborate with relevant individuals and organisations, to provide a coordinated statewide approach in clinical leadership to improve healthcare for children, young people and adults with intellectual disability, with a particular focus on those with chronic, complex health needs and mental health co-morbidities.
  • To develop specific initiatives to implement change such as standardised treatment protocols, models of care and service benchmarks.
  • To provide a forum for clinical leadership in which clinicians, relevant government and non-government groups and consumers determine together through interagency agreements and partnerships the future directions for healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities across their life span.
  • To improve education, research and safety and quality service provision underpinned by evidence through liaison with ACI partners and other organisations.


Building capability in NSW health services for people with intellectual disability: the Essentials

The purpose of the Essentials is to help improve health services to people with intellectual disability in NSW. This resource guides health services sector staff and other service providers to better understand and meet the complex and multiple health needs of people with an intellectual disability and their carers.

Download now

The Essentials cover

Current Work

The ID Health Network’s current work for 2021

The Intellectual Disability network is currently involved in:
  1. Four funded research projects:
    • Improving palliative care services for people with an intellectual disability (UNSW; Lead: Professor Julian Trollor)
    • First 2000 Days Care Connect (FDCC) – a holistic first 2000 days model of care for migrant and refugee populations (UNSW; Lead: Associate Professor Sue Woolfenden)
    • Motivated for Change (SCHN; Lead: Dr Natalie Ong)
    • Partnership Project: Developing a model of Preventative Healthcare for People with Intellectual Disability (NHMRC Funded: UNSW; Lead: Professor Julian Trollor)
  2. Developing a version of the Essentials for use by other Australian states
  3. Working with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care standards to support health services meet the needs of people with intellectual disability
  4. Evaluating the use and effectiveness of the Essentials for health services as they deliver care for people with intellectual disability.
  5. A collaborative toolkit with NSW Ambulance to assist service providers providing care for people with intellectual disability, including a FAQs and model of care for accessing health services.

For more information please contact Tracey Szanto, Health Network Manager.


The network was set up in February 2011.

It has four working groups:

  • Research and Development
  • Workforce and Capacity
  • Access and Equity
  • Models of Care

The Network works closely with the Ministry of Health funded specialist multi-disciplinary intellectual disability clinical teams across NSW, and the mental health/ intellectual disability state-wide specialist consultancy hubs.

  • The Network conducts an annual forum to encourage networking, hear about developments in the area of intellectual disability and to progress the work of the Intellectual Disability  Health Network.
  • The Network has worked with the Australian College of Nursing to develop a two day course in Intellectual Disability Nursing.
  • Mapping of specialist health services for people with intellectual disability across NSW and data on reasonable adjustments to mainstream services.
  • The Network conducted in-depth interviews with people with intellectual disability and their carers about their experience of health services.
  • The Network has developed a catalogue and gap analysis of current research in intellectual disability in NSW with recommendations on potential areas for future research.
  • The Network has filmed consumers, carers and clinicians about their experiences in accessing health services and primary health care for use in learning and development.
  • The Network has filmed specialist clinicians speaking on hospitalisation, mental health and respiratory health to assist clinicians working with people with intellectual disability.