John Walsh

Two industry stalwarts, John Walsh and Michael Dwyer, have been appointed as Members of the Order of Australia (AM) for their respective work in disability-health policy, superannuation and the UNHCR.



John Walsh’s own disability, quadriplegia, has been the force that has driven him to advocate in the areas of disability and health policy, while Dwyer’s refugee advocacy grew out of work with ASSET Super.

  Walsh, who is a partner, advisory practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, qualified as an actuary in 1984 after becoming quadriplegic due to a Rugby League accident in 1971 while he was studying pure maths at the University of Sydney.

Walsh said his actuarial training and mindset had helped him “think differently from the social welfare model which focuses on services”.  Instead, his emphasis had always been on “what is the unmet need”, and thus match revenue allocations with that need – similar to the way in which an actuary calculating a premium looked at the statistics of claims and costs.

Michael Dwyer, CEO of First State Super and FEAL’s founding chairman, said the award “was a big surprise … You don’t know who’s nominated you, so it’s quite humbling,” he said.



Michael Dwyer

Dwyer thought  the award was partly for his charity work with Australia for UNHCR (United Nations Commissioner for Refugees), that began with ASSET Super trustee Naomi Steer 11 years ago.


Both Walsh and Dwyer saw their awards as opportunities to further their areas of advocacy.

Walsh, who is also an associate commissioner on the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into disability care and support, said actuaries – while often working in technical areas – did “have the capacity to make a real difference to public policy issues that our community faces”.

His most recent public advocacy had been with the Productivity Commission’s draft report which was made public in February for comment. More than 1,000 submissions had been received, with public hearings in each capital city, and the final report would be handed to the Federal Government in July.

“There’s a huge lack of funding and inequity in the disability system,” Walsh said. “All the States are underfunded and underperforming.”

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