Describing various demographic characteristics of disadvantaged students, the programs they study and their employment outcomes is a significant area of research interest in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. This article offers a preliminary exploration of how groups are problematised and the consequent influence on VET research into disadvantage in Australia. Creating categories provides the historical and political contexts that allow specific practices and descriptors to become dominant. The major methodological approach used is a post-structuralist discourse analysis of policy documents, government VET reviews and published research into equity groups. It is argued that rather than envisaging VET research into disadvantage as a repetitious recounting of these groups’ lack of access to vocational education and training, other important agendas are being served by the continued inquiries into people that experience inequity. The influence of long-standing Australian discourses that valorise, mostly male, individual responsibility to be a self-regulating citizen who maintains ongoing employment ensures that policymakers require updated productive expert research into the population to support the specialist discourses of disadvantage.