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Sector Disappointed as NDIA Given Corporate Makeover


Friday, 6th January 2017 at 1:18 pm
Wendy Williams, Journalist
The disability sector has expressed “disappointment” after a number of “corporate heavyweights” have been appointed to lead the National Disability Insurance Scheme in place of those with lived experience.


Friday, 6th January 2017
at 1:18 pm
Wendy Williams, Journalist


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Sector Disappointed as NDIA Given Corporate Makeover
Friday, 6th January 2017 at 1:18 pm

The disability sector has expressed “disappointment” after a number of “corporate heavyweights” have been appointed to lead the National Disability Insurance Scheme in place of those with lived experience.

From 1 January the board overseeing the $22 billion scheme has been expanded with Dr Helen Nugent AO, the former chair of Veda Group, and chair of the Australian Rail Track Corporation and the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, appointed to head the National Disability Insurance Agency board.

Nugent, who replaces inaugural chair and the so-called father of the NDIS, Bruce Bonyhady, will be supported by four continuing board members along with seven new members offering combined experience in governance, finance, risk management and insurance.

Minister for Social Services Christian Porter said the new board would deliver the “right mix of skills” to oversee the transition period for the NDIS, as it moves from a 30,000 person trial to 460,000 participants at full scheme in 2019/20.

“We need to ensure that the board has the skills and expertise needed to carefully manage the significant scale, cost and potential risks in delivering the best possible scheme for participants, their families and carers,” Porter said.

“The fact that the new board provides the right blend of skills and experience is evidenced by the fact that four of the board members have lived experience of disability whilst other members have long involvement in the disability sector.

“While broadening the skills base of the board is essential to manage the $22 billion scheme, it’s also important to maintain the valuable continuity provided by the four continuing board members who have experience of the NDIS.

“I am confident that the new board will oversee the scheme with the rigor, vision and care required to deliver the best possible NDIS for people with disability, their families and carers.”

Porter also acknowledged the contribution of the four outgoing board members: Bonyhady, Geraldine Harwood, John Hill PSM and Fiona Payne, whose extended terms ended on 31 December 2016.

“I thank the outgoing board members for their dedication in helping to take the NDIS from a policy concept, through a successful trial period and into these first intense months of transition,” he said.

“I look forward to working with the new board to ensure that the NDIS successfully moves to the next phase in its implementation with full rollout in 2019/20.”

Outgoing chair Bonyhady echoed his sentiments and wished the new board success.

“I would like to thank the inaugural board for their highly effective governance of the NDIS, very significant achievements in a most challenging environment and unwavering commitment to serve people with disability, their families and carers,” Bonyhady told Pro Bono Australia News.

“I wish the new board success in continuing to deliver the NDIS on time, on budget and with very high participant satisfaction.”

However, the disability sector has expressed concern over the new appointments.

Disabled People’s Organisations Australia director Therese Sands told Pro Bono Australia News it was vital the NDIA board had strong representation from people with disability, but the new appointments did not achieve this.

“We are disappointed that the new board appointments focus on and favour corporate expertise over the critical need for disability expertise,” Sands said.  

“We are concerned that this reflects an assumption that there are no people with disability with the corporate, financial and industry expertise required for the NDIA board, and yet the appointment of experts with disability would have met one of the NDIA’s own goals of making sure the community has ownership, confidence and pride in the NDIS and the NDIA.

“Of course, we will work constructively with the new board of the NDIA, and support the NDIS, but we will remain vigilant to ensure that the views of people with disability and our expertise are integral to the implementation of the NDIS.”

It comes just weeks after a partnership of 37 representative organisations of people with disability, disability advocacy organisations and disability peak bodies issued a Civil Society NDIS Statement to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the NDIA calling for the board to ensure strong representation of people with disability.

Spokespersons for the partner organisations said the success of the NDIS required board leadership and skillsets that went beyond industry and financial management.

“The success of NDIS implementation cannot be adequately understood from simply an economic, market or financial perspective,” People with Disability Australia president Bonnie Millen said.

“We expect NDIA board members to lead and uphold the vision, objects and principles of the NDIS, which broadly aim to support our independence and social and economic participation.

“This requires specific technical and disability knowledge, skills and expertise, and strong representation of people with disability on the NDIA board is critical to achieving this.”

Advocacy for Inclusion chief executive officer Christina Ryan said high level corporate skills cannot be favoured over disability expertise.

“The long-term viability of the NDIS needs to remain steadfast in achieving core principles, including participant choice and control and genuine co-design by people with disability,” Ryan said.

“We are the experts in our own lives, and this expertise is critical to the integrity and cost effectiveness of NDIS implementation.

“The government wrongly assumes that there are no people with disability with the high level governance, financial management and industry expertise required for the NDIA board.”

The new members of the board are:

  • Sandra Birkensleigh, a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s audit committee and the Sunshine Coast Children’s Therapy Centre with extensive experience in financial services, risk management and compliance
  • Robyn Kruk AM, deputy chair of Mental Health Australia, who has held numerous senior roles in government bodies, including establishing and working as the inaugural CEO of the National Mental Health Commission
  • John Langoulant AO, former under treasurer of the West Australian Treasury with extensive experience in the private and public sectors
  • Jim Minto, a director of the Australian Finance Group and Dai-ichi Life Asia-Pacific with extensive insurance experience
  • Paul O’Sullivan, current chair of Singtel Optus and board member of Healthscope Limited and the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation
  • Estelle Pearson, award-winning actuary and director of Finity Consulting with extensive experience in the insurance industry
  • Andrea Staines, an experienced director and advisor on strategic planning and risk management and board member of Uniting Care QLD and Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.

The four continuing members of the NDIA board are: Professor Rhonda Galbally AO, Glenn Keys, Martin Laverty and John Walsh AM.


Wendy Williams |  Journalist |  @ProBonoNews

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector.

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