Our history

The Early Days

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

For the first two months, AFDO operated out of the Blind Citizens Australia office before moving to Ross House – a building 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 high level of interest from politicians, senior public servants, community sector representatives and people with disability.

A photo 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
  • Inclusion Australia (formerly National Council on Intellectual Disability)
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • National Indigenous Disability Network
  • Physical Disability Council of Australia
  • Women with Disability Australia

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

A group photo of Board members, staff, and volunteers in the AFDO office.

Lesley Hall

In September 2008, AFDO named Lesley Hall as the new Chief Executive Officer. Lesley brought a wealth of experience, skills and a long commitment to human rights for women, people with disabilities and Indigenous people.

After joining AFDO, Lesley dramatically increased the policy involvement of people with disabilities. 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 NDIS with fantastic success.

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

Lesley was also posthumously awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.

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

Looking Ahead

One of the strengths of AFDO is 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 are also very fortunate to have an incredible team of hardworking and talented staff.

We have continued to put sound policies and practices into place based on good business principles. Today, it is clear that AFDO is highly respected and recognised as an organisation working strategically with all stakeholders.

A photo of AFDO CEO, Ross Joyce, with former AFDO Project Officer, Carl Thompson and Minister Martin Foley MP at an NDIS event in 2016.