The Federal government has announced the new chair and board for the Agency that oversees the NDIS. The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will continue to rollout across the country under a shake up that was leaked back in October. The NDIA’s first board had reached the conclusion of it’s term and was due for renewal, however the transition out of half the previous board including Chairperson Bruce Bonyhady came as a surprise to many.

The choice to not renew half the NDIA board followed months of pain and concerns over the agency’s management of the scheme. The attempted unilateral removal of goals from participant’s plans under the NDIA’s poorly thought through ‘My First Plan‘, followed by the failed implementation of the new ‘My Place‘ portal that left participants and providers in the dark and without funds, both no doubt contributed to the axing of Bonyhady.

From January 1, 2017 Bonyhady will be replaced by Dr Helen Nugent as the chairperson of the National Disability Insurance Agency. Dr Nugent is a former Partner at top tier management consultancy McKinsey & Company, a graduate of the Harvard Business School and holds a PhD from the University of Queensland. In her academic career, Dr Nugent has previously taught at the University of Queensland and the Australian Graduate School of Management at UNSW and currently serves as Chancellor of Bond University. In the professional world, Dr Nugent was a member of the executive team credited with the turnaround of Westpac and has blended director roles with leading finance and resource firms with advisory and governance roles at government organisations including Australia Post and chaired the Nugent Inquiry into the Major Performing Arts.

For the outgoing chair’s part, Bruce Bonyhady has taken not so subtle issue with the new board’s lack of lived experience with disability. In a 10 page letter leaked to the ABC the day after it was sent to Minister Porter, Bonyhady takes pains to highlight how his Board’s performance was driven by having director’s with lived experience. Bonyhady celebrates that his board “has included six directors with lived experience of disability, while the two other directors previously were involved with disability service organisations. This direct knowledge of disability has been an essential contributor to the effective governance of the NDIS”

In contrast, Minister Christian Porter has highlighted the importance of a blend of skills and experience required to deliver the NDIS. SBS  has quoted Minister Porter as noting  “The fact that the new board provides the right blend of skills and experience is evidenced by the fact that four of the board members have lived experience of disability whilst other members have long involvement in the disability sector,”

Dr Nugent will be joined on the NDIA’s board by the 7 new members; Sandra Birkensleigh, Robyn Kruk, John Langoulant, Jim Minto, Paul O’Sullivan, Estelle Pearson and Andrea Staines along with the 4 returning board members; Rhonda Galbally, Glenn Keys, Martin Laverty and John Walsh. This new line up effectively confirms the October leak. With contrasting views on the direction of the new board, the next 3 years will be critical to the success of the NDIS and full roll out. You can read more on the backgrounds and experience of the new Board members here

Read the leak and profiles on the new board members


  1. Sylvana

    Maybe the board had no choice about the new IT system! Maybe our federal governments move to sharing resources amongst government services dictated a D H S built system, maybe their hands were tied on many decisions that negatively impacted how NDIS is rolled out.

  2. Dale Reardon

    Hi and thanks for a great article.

    Unfortunately the original Board of the NDIA has greatly let down the entire disability community. They have completely mismanaged many projects and completely ruined the rollout of the new IT system.

    Perhaps their worst failings have been caused by completely ignoring the principle of co-design – there wasn’t consultation on many changes, let alone codesign – just take the proposed Uber transport for school children, the IT development and rollout, the My First Plan and the list goes on. There was absolutely no consultation with any of these changes – so much for the Board being involved in the disability community – they didn’t bother talking to them.

    Lets hope the new Board implements some needed change and most likely the remaining Board members will require replacement at the end of June.

    If there were problems caused by Government interference or funding cutbacks then the Board should have protested publicly and called on the disability community for support. Since this didn’t occur we can only conclude that the Government didn’t interfere and all the problems have been caused by Board mismanagement or the CEO.