Former Paralympian Kurt Fearnley’s Now the Chair of the NDIA — Here’s Why It’s a Big Deal

In some positive as heck news, Kurt Fearnley is now the Chairman of the Board of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). If you’re a tad out of the loop, Fearnley is a former Paralympian who dominated the wheelchair racing scene. He’s also a huge disability advocate.

Bill Shorten, Minister for the NDIS, commented, “I was thrilled Mr Fearnley accepted my offer to lead the NDIA Board. He will be the first person with disability to Chair the Board, heralding a new era for the scheme.”

Shorted also explained, “He holds a deep understanding of the NDIS and a history with the scheme. He was a serving member of the NDIS’ Independent Advisory Council during the trial phase of NDIS from 2013 to 2015, and the insight he will bring is invaluable.”

Likewise, Fearnley is very pleased with this decision. He stated, “I am excited to get to know the role of the organisation and the people who work to empower people with disability to live a good life.”

“Having people with disability in key positions on the board is essential if we are to live up to the principles of the Scheme’s formation 10 years ago,” Fearnley added. 

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But how are other folks reacting to this news? Pretty darn well, to say the least. For instance, Dylan Alcott, Australian of the Year, posted the word “YES” on Twitter.

Alcott then went on to say, “Getting disability voices, especially in leadership positions back at the centre of the NDIS is essential. Couldn’t think of a better choice.”

Another person who’s pleased with the decision is Senator Jordon Steele-John, Australian Greens spokesperson for Disability Rights and Services. Steele-John is the only person with a physical disability that’s in our Australian Parliament

“Many are pleased to see Kurt Fearnley take on the Chair of the Board for the NDIA,” asserted Steele-John. “His experience as a physically disabled person will add a great perspective, and I hope that he continues to listen to people with a range of disabilities and advocate for major, transformative change in the culture and operations of the NDIA.”

However, Steele-John did make one critique of the NDIA. “It remains that two of the three leadership roles; the Minister, the CEO, and the Chair, who make decisions every day that impact the lives of disabled people do not have lived experience of being a disabled person.”

He went further, saying, “The Australian Greens continue to call on the new leadership team to make big changes to the culture of the NDIA, ensuring that the scheme is no longer one of fear for participants. Disabled people, wherever they are across the country, regardless of how old they are, must be able to get the supports they need through the NDIS.”

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