The Disability Trust marked a significant milestone at its Annual General Meeting on Thursday night with Margaret Bowen celebrating 30 years as chief executive officer.
Ms Bowen spoke about her time in the job saying The Trust had grown from four employees to a workforce of 1400 during the last three decades and she has been privileged to witness some dramatic and positive changes for people with disabilities and their families.
She is proud of the role The Disability Trust has played in creating social change. It has successfully transitioned 1300 participants and new service users to the NDIS and is recognised as a leading disability organisation in NSW and the ACT that supports 4500 users of its services.
Ms Bowen said there had been many changes and challenges during her 30 years at the helm. She said there have been some pressures associated with the arrival of the NDIS but she is optimistic about a brighter future being delivered through increased choice and control for people with disabilities.
She said things had come a long way from the institutional care of the 1980s. And when that began being broken down it was the first welcome step in a long road towards a more inclusive society.
There were some resource constraints at that time which meant many people missed out on getting what they needed but The Trust was determined in its advocacy for funding for services.
“Over many years I have had the good fortune to work with some stellar advocates among people with disabilities and their families and also share that journey with colleagues at The Trust and in the wider community sector,” she said.
“I learned that the only way to achieve social change is to work in partnership with those who share your vision of a fairer and more equitable world.”
Ms Bowen said the arrival of the NDIS and its focus on choice and control over services meant there is big change happening again right now.
She said it brings with it the promise that the support to live a good life can be assured and not dependent on whether there was funding available to meet needs.
“There are challenges at the moment for people with disabilities and families due to the speed of transition to the NDIS and I remain concerned about some people continuing to fall through the cracks with inadequate supports,” she said.
“Nevertheless I think that once we get through this period of turmoil and change and build the confidence of people with disabilities and families to navigate the new system we will have a very good outcome indeed. The NDIS brings great opportunity for people with disabilities and their families. The Disability Trust is working with people to try to ease their transition to the NDIS and aims to be a valuable partner to them into the future.”
Ms Bowen said it was exciting to see many new participants choose The Disability Trust as well as existing service users receiving an increase in support through the NDIS.
“Our goal is as always to be a valued part of people’s lives and make the transition to the NDIS as smooth and seamless as possible”.
Ms Bowen is confident that The Disability Trust has the will and the experience of a dedicated and skilled workforce to do that well.
Joanne Babb was on the panel that interviewed her for the CEO’s position at The Disability Trust in 1987.
“She was a stand-out applicant,” she said.
“She was really right for the job but she was a bit of a reluctant interviewee in some ways. She was a modest and humble candidate”.
Ms Bowen now looks back and realises it was her dream job.
“I have loved it completely,” she said.
“I thought I was just having a little segue out of a different career entirely. And here I am. I haven’t ever actually looked for another job in 30 years. I love it. I am passionate about it.”