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Farewell John Walsh AO

John Walsh sits next to other panels members at a past NDS event.


We were saddened to hear of the recent death, at 73, of John Walsh AO, who used his skills as an actuary to devise better ways to fund accident compensation and health and disability services. His actuarial approach became a major influence in the design of the NDIS, and his philosophy for disability services, once radical, which replaced a welfare concept with one where people with disability have agency and choice, became a crucial tenet of the Scheme.  

Many members will remember John for his powerful and engaging presentations at NDS CEO Conferences some years ago, challenging leaders in the sector to focus on delivery of quality person- centred supports and the prevention of abuse. 

NDS President Rohan Braddy said, “It’s sad to hear of the passing of one of the architects of the NDIS. The Scheme was shaped by his professional expertise and lived experience; the reforms to come will carry forth his example and his philosophy.”  

Born in 1950 in Redfern, Sydney, and educated by the Christian Brothers at Lewisham, John was a gifted student and talented sportsman in his youth. During a rugby league game when he was 20 years-old, John received a severe neck injury that left him with paraplegia.  

Nevertheless, he eventually completed his degree in mathematics at Sydney University and joined a firm of consulting actuaries. He would specialise in risk analysis in accidents, disability and health, gaining expertise in accident and workers compensation and disability policy.  

He reviewed several accident compensation schemes and insurers in Australia and New Zealand and advised the federal and NSW governments on funding services for disability, homelessness and Aboriginal disadvantage. He was named Australia’s Actuary of the Year in 2001. 

His work in compensation schemes led to his appointment in 2010 to the Productivity Commission investigation on Disability Care and Support that found support arrangements were “inequitable, underfunded, fragmented and inefficient”. His expert opinion and lived experience were crucial in the Commission’s decision to recommend setting up the NDIS. He went on to be a long-time board member of the NDIA.  

For his services to the disability services, John received an AM in 2011 and an AO in 2022. In 2014, the Rehabilitation Studies Unit at the University of Sydney was renamed the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research.  

John retired after twenty years with PwC and, at the time of his death, was a board member of NSW insurer and workers compensation corporation icare.  

The disability sector has lost a great advocate for the NDIS and a tireless campaigner for the rights of people with disability.   

All at NDS send their condolences and best wishes to John’s family.   

Contact information
Sarah Fordyce, State Manager VIC, 03 8341 4303, submit enquiry/feedback