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National Disability Insurance Scheme News

Issue 6, February 2014

In this issue:

Message from the CEO, David Bowen


Welcome to the first edition of the NDIS News update for 2014.

We are now looking forward to building on the first six months’ experience in the 2013 trial sites as we continue preparations for three new sites that launch on 1 July: the Barkly area of the NT, the ACT and the Perth Hills area of Western Australia.

It is clear from the first half-year of our operations that we are beginning to make significant differences to the lives of people with disability, their families and carers. In each of our four trial sites there is strong evidence from the personal stories of Scheme participants that the individualised support arrangements we are putting in place lead to better outcomes.

The feedback we receive from participants is overwhelmingly positive.

People tell us they feel the Agency’s staff are listening and helping participants consider ways in which they can exercise more choice and have greater control over their support arrangements.

These outcomes are exactly what the Scheme was designed to deliver – they are exactly what the Agency is working to achieve.

As you may be aware, Quarterly Reports on the performance of the NDIS were released recently. These reports for each of the first two quarters of operation of the Scheme can be viewed on the NDIS website and I encourage you to read the report.

It is important to remember that any one quarter’s statistics – whether it’s our very first or second quarter – cannot be used with confidence to predict the longer term effectiveness of the Scheme or the Agency. We are engaged in a mammoth reform that will take time to implement and which we are committed to getting right.

Crucially, we must learn from what experience tells us and adapt our ways of working to improve outcomes for people with disability and their families. The NDIS was launched with the express recognition that certain elements of the scheme and how it is delivered need to be tested. The experience gained over the past six months has led to immediate process improvements as well as valuable insights that will inform the design and implementation of the full scheme.

I believe we have made a tremendously impressive start to the NDIS. But I also believe we can and must use our collective experience of the first six months to learn what we can do better and make necessary changes so that the people we were established to support may indeed live the better lives we know they have a right to expect.

Best wishes,

David Bowen

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Meet the new trial site managers

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has named the managers of the ACT and WA trial sites, which will launch on 1 July this year.

Jillian Paull takes charge of the ACT trial site, while Marita Walker will lead the NDIA team in the Perth Hills area.

Ms Paull was previously with the ACT Government’s Community Services Directorate where she was Senior Director. She reported to the Deputy Director General Maureen Sheehan, who is head of the NDIS Task Force for the ACT Government.

Ms Paull headed up Mission Australia in South Australia before arriving in Canberra about 20 months ago. She also provided business consultancy for Life Without Barriers.

She is a passionate supporter of the Boundless Canberra all-abilities playground project, volunteering on the fundraising committee.

Ms Paull said the Agency had done an “amazing” job last year.

“The work of the Agency is so incredibly important and I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a contribution.”

Ms Paull is a big cricket fan and has already fallen in love with NSW’s southern coastline.

Ms Walker comes to the NDIA from the Perth Home Care Services (PHCS) where she has been Chief Executive Officer for 15 years.

PHCS is a leading service provider in Western Australia’s disability, aged care and mental health sectors to enable people to live at home with dignity connected to their family and community.

Ms Walker has extensive experience over many years in providing disability support services in senior roles in government and non-government organisations in Western Australia. She has been a strong supporter of the NDIS since the Productivity Commission recommended the establishment of the Scheme in 2011.

“Over the past few years I have been very actively involved in lobbying for, promoting and influencing the design of the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” Ms Walker said.

“There is now an opportunity for me to do that much more directly here in WA.”

ACT Trial Site Manager Jillian Paull
ACT Trial Site Manager Jillian Paull

Perth Hills (WA) Trial Site Manager Marita Walker
Perth Hills (WA) Trial Site Manager Marita Walker

Stage set for third Webinar

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will present the third NDIS Webinar today (Thursday 27 February).

The theme for this event in the highly successful series of interactive webinars is ‘A Strong Voice: Self Advocacy’.

Beginning at noon (AEDT), the event will focus on self-advocacy, and how people with disability take control of their own lives to speak for themselves with greater confidence.

Our panel of guests will discuss ways that self-advocacy has helped them to make informed choices about their reasonable and necessary supports and achieve their personal goals as valued, contributing and included members of the community.

The guests will bring stories from their own lives and share with you their insights into self-advocacy as part of a panel discussion. Our guests will answer your questions about how to build self-advocacy into your own life.

The NDIA invites people with disability, family members, carers, advocates, support providers and community members to join the discussion online and contribute to the conversation. 

Send through your questions to or tweet live using the hashtag #ndiswebinar

Visit our website for more information, and a link to the live event.

A screenshot from the immensely successful Webinar held in December. A screenshot from the immensely successful Webinar held in December.

Trial site update (NT)

The NDIS held its first public event in the NT with a forum at the Tennant Creek Civic Centre on 19 February.

About 25 people attended to hear more about the Scheme which rolls out in the Barkly region from 1 July this year.

NDIA Barkly Service Delivery Director Archie Baker and Cath Halbert, National Strategy and Transition Office General Manager, emphasised the importance of the Barkly trial to the rollout of the Scheme in other remote areas of Australia.

“There are going to be a few bumps in the road, but that’s to be expected for something as big as this,” Mr Baker said.

“For the Barkly trial to be a success, it must be delivered in a culturally sensitive way that responds to community needs,” he said.

“We want to draw on local expertise and knowledge, and the forums and newly established local reference group are part of this.

“It’s about the community working together to make the NDIS in the Barkly the best it can be.”

A second community forum, aimed at prospective Scheme participants, their families and carers, was held later the same day. 

ABC TV covered the public event, with a segment which aired on the local 7pm news bulletin and nationally on ABC 24.

NDIA CEO David Bowen and South Australia and Barkly Trial Site Manager Meryl Zweck met with senior NT Government officials in Darwin, including Minister Robyn Lambley, who has the newly created Disability Services portfolio. 

Mr Bowen, Ms Zweck and Mr Baker also met with Ombudsman Peter Shoyer, Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sally Sievers, Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner Lisa Coffey and a representative of Children’s Commissioner Dr Howard Bath.

Northern Territorians attend the first NDIS public event – a forum at the Tennant Creek Civic Hall on 19 February.
Northern Territorians attend the first NDIS public event – a forum at the Tennant Creek Civic Hall on 19 February.

Participants’ experiences

Zoe’s story

There are many participants with an NDIS plan in the Hunter (757 as the latest Quarterly Report of the Scheme shows). Here is a positive example of participant and her inclusion in mainstream community activities.

Zoe (not her real name), an 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome, was referred to a NDIA Local Area Coordinator to help Zoe access more activities in her community. Zoe had previously attended two mainstream child activities, however they proved unsuccessful and the connections ceased.

As part of Zoe’s plan, she wanted to be connected to some mainstream activities to help her increase her socialisation skills and make new friends. The Planner, Local Area Coordinator and Zoe’s mother discussed all the types of play Zoe liked, the type of activities that might interest her and any barriers to accessing an activity.

After researching suitable activities, seven activities were identified as possibilities and included sporting groups, music classes, art classes and swim lessons. These mainstream activity groups had a track record of including children with disability, staff had disability awareness (or it could be provided), and other children with disabilities were already taking part.

Zoe’s first activity was one of the sporting groups began, as the whole family could be involved. She also took up an exercise class as it would help with balance, motor skills and overall wellness. It was decided the other activities would be used as a combination of school holiday involvement and longer term activities when Zoe is a little older.

Zoe’s participation in the sporting group was a resounding success. She is fully participating and has become more confident with the activity. Zoe’s mum has become more confident as a result of these early successes, and she can make contact with the NDIA if any help is needed. She also provided the Local Area Coordinator with a contact at one of the groups who is interested in expanding mainstream activities to include people with disability.

You can read about other people’s experiences with the Scheme on the NDIS website.

Parents on the air

Parents from the Barwon region of Victoria, have told ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program of their experiences with NDIS. Their accounts were very positive, with one mother saying: “They’re [the NDIA] there to listen”. Another mother, asked if the transition of her son from one program to the NDIS had been smooth, said it had been “excellent”.

You can hear the program, aired on 24 February, at the Life Matters website.

New NDIS fact sheets and information

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has published new documents on the NDIS website, including its latest Operational Guidelines, “Connecting with the mainstream” fact sheets and the NDIA’s first and second quarter reports.

The Operational Guidelines set out the NDIA’s operational information which helps the Agency in making decisions or recommendations affecting participants.

The Operational Guidelines are based on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (NDIS Act) and relevant Rules made under the NDIS Act. They will be reviewed to ensure they are accurate, updated and complete.

They are published under a range of headings on the NDIS website, including the “Operational Guideline on Registered Providers of Supports”. The Registered Providers of Supports guidelines contain operational information about the registration and revocation process for registered providers of supports.

The “Connecting with mainstream” fact sheets provide an overview of how people with disability should be assisted to access supports from mainstream systems; and how to determine whether a support is funded by the NDIS or another system. Wherever possible, the NDIA will assist participants to access mainstream systems.

Each quarter the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) prepares a report on its operations for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Disability Reform Council in accordance with section 174 of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013. These reports are known as quarterly reports.

The quarterly reports provide the COAG Disability Reform Council with information (including statistics) about participants in each jurisdiction and the funding or provision of supports by the NDIA in each jurisdiction.

Giving feedback, lodging complaints

With four trial sites up and running and three more to launch on 1 July, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is constantly learning about what works in the Scheme, and what we need to do better.

Feedback from participants, providers, community organisations, peak bodies and the general public, including complaints, also helps us in our continuous learning journey.

You can:

  • give feedback or lodge a complaint in person at a NDIS office, by telephone, by email or in writing
  • use our website
  • download a form and email or post it to us.

Alternatively we can send you a form to fill out and send back.

You can also go to our website, send an email to or call us for more information on 1800 800 110.

For more information on feedback, complaints and reviews, please visit our website.

Feedback, complaints and reviews brochure cover
Feedback, complaints and reviews brochure cover

Trial sites round-up


The NDIA’s national headquarters in Geelong has the potential to be part of a world-leading hub in innovation and service provision, Barwon Trial Site Manager Stephanie Gunn said in a report in the Geelong Advertiser.

“The newly appointed manager said combining learning and skills from agencies including the Transport Accident Commission and WorkCover with intelligence from Deakin University would provide exciting prospects in offering support to people and making positive impacts on people’s lives,” the report said.

“Having a Say”

Almost 1,000 people attended the 15th Annual “Having a Say” conference in Geelong during the first week of February.

The conference is a celebration of diversity and achievement and includes presentations, workshops, performances, recreational activities and a lot of fun.

The Having a Say conference aims to empower people with a disability through:

  • the opportunity to “have a say” about issues that affect their lives
  • opportunities to celebrate ability and achievement through being part of the planning and running of the conference 
  • opportunities to be heard by politicians, government and service providers.

The conference organisers are people with disability who volunteer to coordinate the event, now run in Geelong every year. The Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALID) conducts the annual Having a Say conference, bringing together self-advocates and adults with disabilities from all corners of the state – and from around Australia.

The week was launched with a dinner on the Tuesday evening hosted by members from the Conference organising Committee and graduates from the Committee for Geelong ‘Leaders’ Program. Guest speakers for the evening included Sarah Henderson MP (Member for Corangamite), NDIA CEO David Bowen and participants who spoke of their personal experiences in transitioning to the NDIS.

The event continued with the launch of the Victorian State Disability Plan 2013-16 by the Office for Disability (Department of Human Services, Victoria) on the Thursday. The plan articulates the Victorian government’s view for the future and sets a clear direction for the next four years. 

Dinner with the Victorian Disability Commissioner, Laurie Harkin AM, titled “An interactive discussion about complaints & safeguards in the light of the NDIS”, provided insightful comment and conversation.  

The week culminated with the inaugural Services Expo on the Friday – an opportunity for the NDIS and registered providers to showcase their products, services and supports available to people with disability, their families and supporters. More than 500 people attended the expo.

NDIA Barwon Trial Site Staff prepare for the Expo.
NDIA Barwon Trial Site Staff prepare for the Expo.

Take part in disability and employment research

A new research project is set to focus on disability discrimination in employment.

The project is entitled: “Can Australian disability anti-discrimination laws in the area of employment be made more effective through the creation of an enforcement body and more effective remedies?” is being conducted by PhD student Dale Reardon from the College of Law at the Australian National University.

It will look at the experiences of Australians with disability in their use of the Australian anti-discrimination law (ADL) system in the field of employment.

People with disability are invited to take part in the research survey, which will seek to identify why some people with disability fail to use ADL, the experiences of those who access the system and exactly what people want from ADL.

More information on the project is available on the Mr Reardon’s Discrimination, Higher Education and Disability website.

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