The specialist field of intellectual disability nursing has been subjected to a number of changes since the move towards deinstitutionalisation from the 1970s. Government policies sought to change the nature of the disability workforce from what was labelled as a medicalised approach, towards a more socially oriented model of support. Decades on however, many nurses who specialise in the care of people with intellectual disability are still employed. In Australia, the advent of the National Disability Insurance Scheme offers an apt moment to reflect upon these decades of specialised nursing care as the context of this nursing care will continue to evolve. A review of the published literature was conducted to explore what has shaped the field in the past and how this might inform the future of this speciality area under new policy and service contexts. People with intellectual disability have specific health and support needs that require a specialised workforce. Specialist nurses continue to be needed for people with intellectual disability.