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Corporate Heavyweights Replace Bonyhady in NDIS Shakeup

19 October 2016 at 11:28 am
Wendy Williams
The so-called “father” of the National Disability ­Insurance Scheme, Bruce Bonyhady, is set to be replaced in an agency clean up, according to reports.

Wendy Williams | 19 October 2016 at 11:28 am


Corporate Heavyweights Replace Bonyhady in NDIS Shakeup
19 October 2016 at 11:28 am

The so-called “father” of the National Disability ­Insurance Scheme, Bruce Bonyhady, is set to be replaced in an agency clean up, according to reports.

An article published in The Australian on Wednesday, claimed Minister for Social Services Christian Porter was finalising a list of “corporate heavyweights” to replace the current board in a purge of management.

The claims were based on leaked letters seen by the news organisation which showed a list of new appointees including Helen ­Nugent, the chairwoman of credit reference outfit Veda Group, who is tipped to replace Bonyhady as chair at the start of 2017.

Bruce Bonyhady

Bruce Bonyhady

The Australian quoted a letter from Porter to the states and territories that said: “Should we not be able to reach agreement on any of these appointments, I intend to ­exercise my powers to appoint the nominees in the above final list after 90 days from the date of this letter (September 30) to ensure there is a fully functioning, high-quality board in place from 1 January 2017.”

Porter declined to comment on the specifics of the leaked letters but told Pro Bono Australia News there had been a consultation process for board appointments.

“There has been a long and detailed process of consultation which is designed to achieve a continuity of existing corporate knowledge and strengthening of high level commercial skills that will be required to successfully manage the NDIS transition to full scheme as set down by COAG,” Porter said.

“While I have noted Victoria’s views about the consultation process for board appointments, on two separate and critical points Victoria was asked to provide nominations and positions, yet they failed to respond.”

However Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Jenny Macklin accused Porter of using Bonyhady as a scapegoat.

“Reports today reveal that the minister for social services, Christian Porter, is seeking to purge the board of the NDIS by sacking the chairman, Bruce Bonyhady,” Macklin said.

“Bruce Bonyhady is widely respected as the father of the NDIS.

“Bruce’s leadership of the NDIS over the last three years deserves praise and respect. Instead Mr Porter is pushing for the sacking of Mr Bonyhady.

“Mr Porter wants to use Bruce Bonyhady as a scapegoat for problems with the scheme that are Mr Porter’s responsibility.

“He wants to corporatise the NDIS and install a board that will do his bidding.”

It marks the latest of several attempts to shakeup the board overseeing the $20 billion scheme with heavyweights from the corporate sector.

In July 2015, the former Abbott government moved to shakeup the NDIS board by replacing board members, described as stalwarts of the Not for Profit sector, with corporate sector leaders from top public companies.

But in March this year the federal government offered a reprieve to members of the inaugural board of the NDIS.

Porter asked Bonyhady, and three members at the time, to serve a further six months after their terms expired.

“The remaining members have been invited to extend their terms for 12 months, taking them through to mid-2017,” Porter said at the time.

The president of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) and spokesperson for Disability Australia, Trevor Carroll said in response to The Australian report  that “the NDIS board recruiter must be replaced after failing to offer up a single candidate with either a disclosed disability or lived experience of disability”.

“Disability Australia members are dismayed at the fact that not one of the candidates put forward has been identified as a person with disability or having lived experience of disability.”

Carroll said AFDO first raised these concerns in September 2015 when the department of social services (DSS) advertised for board positions without including selection criteria that placed any value on a potential board member being a person with a disability.

“We acknowledge the need for a board which represents a range of different disability perspectives in the disability space, most importantly people with disability.

“The NDIS is at its heart a scheme about people with disability. It beggars belief that experience of disability is not valued when recruiting for board positions.”  

He said it was the minister’s responsibility to talk to disability organisations about suitably qualified applicants.

“If you want the NDIS to be a success a board member must understand and have first hand knowledge and experience of the constituents he/she intends to serve.”

The NDIA declined to comment.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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