Leisure Networks new CEO excited by NDIS Review Recommendations

Just three days into the role of CEO at Leisure Networks, one of Geelong’s leading NDIS providers, David Meade found himself up to his eyes in the Independent NDIS Review, released by National Cabinet on December 7, 2023. 

The 338 page document, that includes 26 recommendations and 139 supporting actions, is the culmination of an historic review that took more than a year to complete and included direct testimony from over 10,000 Australians from every state and territory in Australia (including regional and remote communities).   

“While I only recently joined the organisation, I am proud that Leisure Networks have played our part in informing the review’s recommendations,” stated David Meade, who started the role of CEO at Leisure Networks in December 2023. 

“It was quite something to have the review land on my desk week one of a new job,” Mr Meade continued, “but I’ve got a great team around me and we have spent considerable time together going through the review and the recommendations it puts forth. 

“Overall, we’re excited by what we have read and heard through briefings and conversations with the Agency.  There is no doubt we will need to pivot and adapt, to some extent, and we’re looking forward to it!”  

After thorough scrutiny, the Review panel, led by co-chairs Prof. Bruce Bonyhady AM and Ms Lisa Paul AO PSM, recommended a range of legislative changes to the NDIS. These recommendations are designed to restore the original intent of the Scheme to support people with permanent and significant disability, within a broader ecosystem of supports for all people with disability. While the full Government response to the Review will be released later this year, following further discussions with the disability community, the Australian Government and states and territories have committed to key aspects of the report and to reforming the NDIS to make disability supports fairer for all Australians. 

“We are especially delighted by the recommendations around Independent Living,” said Mr Meade. “These recommendations propose to fund housing and living supports in ways that give participants genuine choice and control over their living arrangements. We already support this model of Independent Living where each supported home is uniquely codesigned with each participant and their support network. 

“The review also calls for opportunities for participants to try new living arrangements at key life stages,” Mr Meade continued. “This was great to hear, because this is exactly the purpose of our Empower, Inspire, Thrive programs where participants learn and then get to practice their Independent Living skills in a safe supported space. It starts with the basics of being safe at home, things like getting home from programs or school on your own, letting yourself in and making something to eat. Then participants build up to short stays away where they get a real taste of living on their own. 

“The reason our current programs fit so well with the new recommendations,” said Mr Meade, “is because we codesigned the programs with the people we support. We’ve been on this path for many years and it’s great to see the sector is now heading in the same direction, following feedback from participants. That we were already ahead of this curve is testament to the incredible work of the team at Leisure Networks over the past 30 years, who have stayed true to their roots in community supports, giving people with disability a voice and a space to live their best lives.” 

Another key theme from the review is the need to improve quality and safeguarding within the disability sector. 

“Again, this is great for us,” Mr Meade explains. “Leisure Networks has always delivered with integrity and within the defined frameworks. We have been early adopters of impact measuring, through annual surveys with customers and employees. Tools that contribute to our continuous improvement and continuous adaption. 

“It’s through listening to our customers, and their support networks, that we learn how to make our services better. That’s where we’ve been able to innovate in areas like Independent Living as well as the more visible work we do in All Abilities Sport, things like the AFL Barwon Inclusion Legue and All Abilities Basketball in Gelong.” 

Mr Meade went on to say: “We welcome any reform that has the needs of our customers front and centre. It’s important to remember that the recommendations will be rolled out over many years, but this is such an important milestone in the disability sector, and I am proud to be here at Leisure Networks at this point in the sector’s history. It’s very exciting times to work in disability.” 

Leisure Networks respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of Australia. We are committed to inclusive communities.