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Changemaker  |  CareersProfessional development

Thinking, advocating, and acting


16 December 2022 at 10:43 am
Danielle Kutchel
With several decades of experience in not for profits and the disability sector, Martin Laverty was well prepared to take the helm of one of Australia’s largest disability charities earlier this year. He is this week’s Changemaker.


Danielle Kutchel | 16 December 2022 at 10:43 am


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Thinking, advocating, and acting
16 December 2022 at 10:43 am

With several decades of experience in not for profits and the disability sector, Martin Laverty was well prepared to take the helm of one of Australia’s largest disability charities earlier this year. He is this week’s Changemaker.

Adjunct professor Martin Laverty has led one the nation’s largest disability service charities, Aruma for only a few months, but he comes to the role with 25 years’ experience in the not for profit sector. Aruma is his fifth not for profit CEO posting; prior to this, he told Pro Bono News, he was “privileged to serve” as CEO of the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, Catholic Health Australia and the NSW Muscular Dystrophy Association.

He’s also kept himself busy with a number of governance roles, serving on government and charity boards for more than two decades. Laverty is currently a member of the ACNC Advisory Board and international aid charity Caritas, and is an adjunct professor in not for profit governance at the University of Western Australia.

He was also an inaugural director of the NDIS and served on the NDIA board from 2013 to 2021.

“Working as a non-executive director bolsters [the] skill and insight needed for senior executive roles; I’ve encouraged members of my different management teams to also serve on the boards of other organisations,” he explained.

This extensive not for profit career began with a law degree. Laverty has a masters in Indigenous Law, which he said frames his thinking about cultural safety. He also has a doctorate in “how not for profit boards best contribute to social outcomes”.

“That said, I spend a lot of time trying to unthink being a lawyer,” he added.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Like every working parent, the needs of my family come first. It helps we live across the road from school and the kids are now old enough to get themselves up and going each day.

I long ago ditched a nine to five style work week. Being an organisational leader comes with the privilege of being able to think, advocate and act for your organisation’s purpose whenever and wherever opportunity presents.

I’m not great, however, on down time and have promised my wife to get better at doing nothing.

What do you value as a leader?

Clarity of strategic direction, with guided freedom on how to achieve success.

Who is someone you look up to or have taken as an inspiration or mentor?

Bruce Bonyhady, John Walsh and Rhonda Galbally. They were the early drivers of the NDIS concept, and I was privileged to join them on the inaugural NDIS Board in bringing the scheme to life.   

Can you tell me a bit about your experience of disability and how that has shaped your career and the work you do?

Disability is part of my normalised family experience, and enabled my first chief executive role in muscular dystrophy. That set me on a path to the NDIS board and now one of the nation’s largest disability organisations, Aruma.

Why is it so important for employers to value, hire, train and promote employees with disability, and how can we improve employment rates for people with disability?

The human rights principle of “you can’t be what you can’t see” applies. Not every employer has yet seen how easy and beneficial it is to foster a work culture embracing people of different abilities. Similarly, not every person with a physical or intellectual disability has yet seen workplaces that embrace all abilities.

For those of us who’ve seen what good looks like, we’re able to make the case for use of government sticks and carrots to lift disability employment. Yet given the current period of intense workforce shortages, I can’t understand why post Jobs Summit, new sticks and carrots haven’t emerged. I think I might need to rally some fellow travellers to lobby Canberra to place more focus on sticks and carrots.  

What are some of the challenges facing your sector at the moment and how do you think these could be addressed?

In year one of the NDIS, I argued a decline in philanthropic, charitable and community funding support for people with disabilities should be included in the Scheme’s risk framework. Ten years on, the disability sector has become solely reliant on government NDIS funding. Voluntary social capital contributions have been eroded.

Bruce Bonyhady’s NDIS review has many tasks, and one is to reset the place of voluntary and non-government support for people with disability. (Sorry Bruce).


See more: Time for NDIS to fix what isn’t working


What do you want your legacy to be?

I hope my three children might each act to better the lives of others around them. 


Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on danielle@probonoaustralia.com.au or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.


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