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  • Dougie

Nothing About Us Without Us -- How to re-build the NDIS

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

It was fabby (and a great privilege) to be asked to speak at Thursday's webinar about the NDIS Review announced by Federal Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten. Over 800 people from all across Australia turned up at less than two days notice.

I hope the people who joined the webinar are as enthusiastic as I am -- and the other members of the NDIS review panel (lead by Co-Chairs Bruce Bonyhady and Lisa Paul). I hope and believe we can do some good which -- old-fashioned idea ALERT -- is what my mother and father told me (when I was a freckly wee Scottish boy) I am meant to do.

After the event, me and Jean Cotchin (who chaired the webinar) posed together for a photo. That was weird but lovely.

By weird I mean this.

Jean and I have have been active campaigners together -- for years -- to defend the NDIS against the attacks perpetrated by Ministers of the previous government and (bizarrely) two now-former CEOs of the National Disability Insurance Agency. But -- because of COVID restrictions for over two years -- Jean and I had never been in the same physical space until yesterday.

So here is me with Jean. In person. Happy campers.

And ... by the way ... fuck you COVID.

Here -- in a tidied up version -- is what I said at the webinar. NDIS -- Make It Work!

Thank you Jean.

Good afternoon everyone.

I am super happy to be with you all on this webinar. Super happy.

I’m speaking from Canberra so I want to pay my respects to the Ngunnawal and Nambri peoples on whose land I sit.

I want to thank Minister Shorten for asking me to contribute to the NDIS review panel and say how much I’m looking forward to working with Bruce, Lisa and my fellow panel members. As well as working with all of you too.

Our challenge is exactly what the Every Australian Counts Campaign says it is.

It's our NDIS. All of Australia's NDIS. Let’s make it work.

But this, also, is true.

"Making it work," is a scary thought. A big responsibility. And all I can think of is this:

Don’t screw it up Douglas. Do NOT screw it up.

Except the 'screw' word I really thought of starts with an "F" ... For goodness sake Dougie, do not screw this up.

The simple fact is this. I know of only one way to not make a mess of this task.

We must review the mega-billion-dollar, 500,000 person National Disability Insurance Scheme -- together.

Honestly, frankly, respectfully.

We must all contribute. We must say what we believe needs to be done to get the NDIS back on track or – in some areas – to put the NDIS on track for the very first time.

Getting the review right will be hard – and a year isn’t long. But we will get it right.

By "right" I mean the NDIS truly must put people with disability at the centre of decision-making. We must have real choice and greater control over our reasonable and necessary supports, funded in a sustainable way by the whole Australian community; investing in everyone’s future.

If we get all that right, this review – our challenge -- will be hugely rewarding.

Every voice needs to be heard.

  • All the communities of Australia in all their diversity.

  • All points of view need to be part of the mix.

  • Whoever you are – NDIS participant, 'carer', family member, provider, employee working for a provider like the one of which I am the CEO, advocate.


We all know why we're doing this work.

The NDIS is a good idea. It supports over half a million people. My guess is that if you are in this webinar you strongly support the idea of the NDIS already.

You may have your own NDIS plan. You may be a family member of a participant. You may provide services to participants.

You support the NDIS. But you also believe there is room for improvement.

And I believe we can make the NDIS better. Together

So why do I care?

I suppose -- in a sense -- it's because I have a vested interest. But it's not the vested interest of being CEO of a NDIS registered provider supporting 300 participants in Canberra and parts of New South Wales. It's not because 10 years ago I worked for the National Disability Insurance Agency and was privileged to help launch the NDIS from the Newcastle office of one of the four trial sites.

It's much simpler than that. The NDIS matters to me personally.

Almost forty years ago I went swimming with my mates at a beach in Scotland. I broke my neck in 3 places. As a result I've used a wheelchair ever since. The one I'm sitting in today was funded by the NDIS.

Every single day of those nearly 40 years someone has helped me shower, get dressed, get into my wheelchair. Get on with my life. Helped me get ready to live with purpose.

I am an NDIS participant.

The quality of my life depends of the quality of the NDIS -- on it being being the best it can be. And we all know that you can replace my version of the NDIS story in 500,000 completely different ways.

So, I believe -- if we cooperate, work together, share ideas, agree furiously, disagree respectfully, look for solutions and (most importantly) implement those solutions -- I believe we will succeed.

That’s what this review is about. Better lives. Yours and mine. And half a million other folk.

That’s the only reason I’m here. To be part of building a better future.

So thank you Jean. Thank you Minister.

Thank you Every Australian Counts. Let's get busy.

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