The Morrison government is being urged to increase disability representation on the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) board after the only person with a disability on the board stepped down.
It was announced on Thursday that John Walsh AM was resigning from the board following a seven-year stint in the role.
National Disability Insurance Scheme Minister Stuart Robert said Walsh – who was also a principal member of the NDIS Independent Advisory Council for 14 months – will be sorely missed.
“John has guided the NDIA under successive governments and ministers and I thank him for his service,” Robert said.
“It is incredibly sad to see John go, however, I look forward to seeing him continue to make an invaluable contribution to the NDIS and the lives of people with disability in his future endeavours.”
The departure of Walsh, who has lived with quadriplegia since a rugby league accident in his early twenties, means no people with disability remain on the NDIA board.
Ross Joyce, CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), told Pro Bono News it was vital for the NDIA board to include qualified and skilled people with disability.
“The NDIS was something that people with disability fought hard to obtain. It’s representative of millions of people with disability, and therefore it needs to also be informed by people with disability,” Joyce said.
“I think it has to be a policy of the NDIA board. They do have a policy on staff numbers for the organisation but I think it also needs to apply from a governance perspective.
“We would like to see a policy or a quota around the number of board positions that must be people with disability.”
Walsh was replaced as principal member of the NDIS Independent Advisory Council – which represents the participants’ voice to the board – by Robyn Kruk AO.
Joyce said this was the first time he could recall that the principal member of the council was not a person with a disability.
Appointments to the Independent Advisory Council and the NDIA board are made by the Commonwealth Minister.
Considerations for a potential successor to the NDIA board will commence shortly and Joyce called on Minister Robert to appoint a person with a disability.
“We would hope that the minister takes into account a whole range of things, but one of the criteria is that it must be a person with a disability,” he said.
“I’m not saying that one or two people are completely reflective of the disability community.
But this is good governance practice for an organisation that is focused on providing a national scheme for people with disabilities.
“It doesn’t make much sense to not have people with disability as part of that governance process.”
Pro Bono News has approached Minister Robert for comment.