NDIA gets a new CEO and chair, Napthine returned to board

Brandon How

The agency tasked with overseeing the $30 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has a new chief executive and chair after going several months without its two most senior executives.

NDIS minister Bill Shorten on Monday announced Rebecca Falkingham as the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) new chief executive, while Kurt Fearnley will become the new chair of the board.

Mr Fearnley is a three-time Paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair racing and 2022 Australian of the Year, while Ms Falkingham was most recently secretary to the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety and was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2019. Ms Falkingham will be the NDIA’s first female chief executive.

Mr Shorten also re-appointed former chair Denis Napthine to the board of directors. Napthine stepped away from the chief executive role in July after just three months at the request of Mr Shorten.

Along with new appointees Dr Graeme Innes and Maryanne Diamond, the board’s total membership now sits at five.

NDIS minister Bill Shorten and Kurt Fearnley, with Maryanne Diamond, Rebecca Falkingham, and Dr Graeme Innes.

Mr Fearnley previously sat on the NDIS’s Independent Advisory Council between 2013 and 2015, when the scheme was being trialled. He also currently sits on the board of care services organisation Life Without Barriers alongside Dr Innes.

Mr Napthine returns to the board despite Minister Shorten describing his appointment in February it as a “disgrace”. Clarifying his comments today, Mr Shorten said this was based on his belief the Coalition rushed his appointment.

“He came on four days before the writs were issued. It would have been far more prudential of the previous government not to have put him in that invidious position,” he said.

“Having said that, I also believe the Scheme requires bipartisan support. The way I want to see the NDIS run is to be a broad church where people feel included, not excluded. So I’m grateful that he accepted my invitation to be a director.”

Mr Napthine was the former Liberal Premier of Victoria between 2013-14 and “helped negotiate the transfer of the NDIS agreement”, according to Minister Shorten.

New board director Dr Innes previously served as Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner from December 2005 to July 2014. Ms Diamond was a general manager for stakeholder engagement for the NDIA between 2017-21 and served as the president of the World Blind Union between 2008 and 2012.

The Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme launched an inquiry into the Capability and Culture of the NDIA earlier this month. Minister Shorten described the inquiry as an “asset to the agency” and that it was important for any organisation to have “moments to self-reflect on what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong”.

The Prime Minister launched a Royal Commission into the robodebt scandal in August, with the first inquiry to be held in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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