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Paralympian to chair disability board

Paralympian and disability advocate Kurt Fearnley has been appointed the new chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency.

He will be the first person with a disability to chair the board of the agency which oversees the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The government also named experienced bureaucrat Rebecca Falkingham as the new chief executive of the agency.

She joins the NDIS after spending several years as the secretary of the Victorian department of justice and community safety.

She will be the first permanent female chief executive of the NDIA.

Mr Fearnley said it was important the agency’s participants could see themselves in the leadership.

“Trust in the organisation itself is a visceral thing – the scheme cannot be a success without trust, and that is built over a period of time,” he said.

“The single greatest role that I’ve ever even considered is the one that is right here today.

“We need the NDIA to be a success for the country to be what we believe it is.”

Mr Fearnley said he wasn’t a member of the scheme, but had family members who were participants.

He said he wanted people with disabilities to know all the “bumps and bruises and the fights” that came from advocacy would help improve the organisation.

When asked if the NDIS excluding applicants aged 65 and over was discriminatory, minister responsible Bill Shorten said the quality of care for that cohort was a “challenge” but it was a matter for the government to talk through.

Mr Shorten said he had asked the agency for advice on whether people diagnosed with ADHD could become eligible participants.

New members to the board include Dr Graeme Innes and Maryanne Diamond, which now brings the number of people with a disability serving on the board to five.

Former Victorian Liberal premier Denis Napthine will return as a board member.

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