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Moody's Message: The virtue of being a pebble in the pond

Headshot of NDS Victorian State Manager David Moody with text reading 'Moody's Message'


Speaking about the virtues of philanthropy, Apple CEO Tim Cook once said, "You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change." 

In recent months, this quote has resonated with me, as I’ve been reflecting on the journey we've taken along the NDIS road and the huge amount of work still to be done to ensure all Australians with disability are supported to have choice and control over their services, supports and, as a result, their lives.

We know that the NDIS is yet to reach its full potential. We also know that this potential - in the form of a mature social insurance scheme offering lifetime supports for (many but not all) Australians with disability - is unlikely to be realised for several years. 

We know that, even once the NDIS reaches its maturity, the majority of Australians with disability will still be unable to access funded supports under the Scheme. There are around 4.3 million Australians with disability and ‘only’ 475,000 of those will be eligible for funded NDIS supports. 

And we know that, while the National Disability Strategy sets out a 10-year national plan for improving life for Australians with disability, progress is best described as ‘slow’. It could be argued that some states have seen the Scheme as a good reason to step back on the often spurious basis that, "We can’t fund XXX anymore because this funding is part of our contribution to the NDIS," rather than seeing the roll-out as an opportunity to ‘up their game’ in supporting disability access and inclusion.

This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the NDIS funded everything all people with disability need to lead an ordinary life, but it doesn’t, and was never intended to. Based on current policy settings, the NDIS does not fund, for example:

  • Service innovation and experimentation
  • New builds of SDA and disability housing
  • Cutting edge IT, data and predictive analytics systems
  • Maintenance and upgrading of disability transport, and fleet management systems
  • Development of new workforce models which may support improved service delivery and career development and satisfaction for workers in the sector
  • Systemic and individual advocacy, including of national peak bodies

I hear you say: But isn’t this where governments should step in to pick up the slack? And I would agree, but will they? While NDIS roll-out is continuing around Australia, there’s no doubt that governments will continue to see the virtue of providing some extra funding to ensure transition is ‘seamless’ (or at least not completely disastrous). But what about after 2020?

While I’m not suggesting that it’s the only solution, there’s a strong case in my view for the sector to actively engage with the philanthropic community; to remind philanthropists that the NDIS - while it is a national disability scheme underwritten by government funding - is not for everyone or everything. Philanthropic dollars or pro bono support provided now may well change the lives of people with disability for generations to come, in ways that might become international good practice.

We know Australian philanthropists are ready to give. According to the recently-released ‘Giving Large’ report from Strive Philanthropy, in 2017, publicly available reports of 39 ASX 50 listed companies revealed that together they had made an $867M contribution to the Australian community in 2017. Some of this was directed to our sector, but at a time when we need to grow the supply of high-quality disability and community mental health services to meet demand (as well as avoid market failure and go from ‘surviving to thriving’), the opportunities to invest even more in the sector are compelling.

As a sector, we need to make sure the philanthropic community is aware that the NDIS does not mean that disability and community mental health services and their future growth are fully-funded. We also need to hold governments to account for what they’ve committed to deliver under the National Disability Strategy.

To paraphrase Tim Cook, in order to create the ripples of change, we need pebbles!

See you next month,

David Moody

Contact information
David Moody, State Manager, 03 8341 4312,