History of AFDO


The Early Days

AFDO was registered as a company in late 2003 and in August 2004 the inaugural Board of AFDO employed Maryanne Diamond as Chief Executive Officer.

At this time AFDO had a Board, part-time secretarial support provided remotely and a CEO based in Melbourne. For the first two months, AFDO operated out of the offices of Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) before moving to premises in Ross House, a building located in Melbourne’s CBD that has been left in trust for small self-help organisations.

The first Annual General Meeting of AFDO and the launch of the organisation were held on 18 November 2004 at Parliament House in Canberra.  Both were great successes with a great deal of interest from politicians, senior public servants, community sector representatives and people with disability.


Picture of guests at AFDO AGM/Launch in 2004 

 A picture of Maryanne Diamond and colleagues at the launch of AFDO. 


Founding Members

The nine founding members of AFDO were:
• Australian Association of the Deaf
• Blind Citizens Australia
• Brain Injury Australia (formerly Head Injury Council of Australia)
• Deafness Forum of Australia
• National Council on Intellectual Disability
• National Ethnic Disability Alliance
• National Indigenous Disability Network
• Physical Disability Council of Australia and
• Women with Disability Australia.

The same year AFDO’s Constitution was amended to allow state-based, cross-disability organisations to join AFDO and to give them representation on the Board.


Picture of AFDO staff and volunteers 

 A group picture of Board, staff, and volunteers in the AFDO office


Lesley Hall

In September 2008 AFDO employed Lesley Hall as Chief Executive Officer.  Lesley brought her experience, skills and long commitment to human rights for women, people with disabilities and Indigenous people to the national and international work of AFDO.

After joining AFDO Lesley dramatically increased the policy involvement of people with disabilities in Australian and International Disability issues. Her high level of policy development, organisational skills, and ability to empower her team of staff, volunteers and Board members lifted AFDO’s profile to its highest level ever as the peak organisation of people with disabilities. On behalf of AFDO Lesley represented and involved people with disabilities in the consultation, lobbying and campaign to achieve the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) with fantastic success.

Lesley passed away suddenly on 19th October 2013 to the shock of the Australian and international disability community and her government and political colleagues.

At the National Disability Awards at Parliament House in Canberra on 26th November 2013, Minister Mitch Fifield renamed his Ministerial Award to the Lesley Hall Lifelong Achievement in Disability Award. Lesley also received the Prime Ministers’ Award for Outstanding Achievement.


 Picture of past AFDO CEO, Lesley Hall at Miss Australia protest

 A picture of Lesley Hall protesting against a beauty competition for the Spastic Society.


Looking Ahead

One of the strengths of AFDO has been that we have always been proactive about working with organisations outside our membership, both within the disability sector and in the community sector more broadly.

We have also been particularly fortunate that we have employed hard working and talented staff.

We have put into place sound policies and practices which are based on good business principles. It is clear that AFDO is highly respected and recognised as an organisation working strategically with all stakeholders.

Photo of AFDO CEO, Ross Joyce with Minister Foley


A picture of AFDO CEO, Ross Joyce with AFDO Disability Loop Project Manager, Carl Thompson and Minister Martin Foley MP at NDIS event 2016.