Dr Di Winkler is an occupational therapist who has worked with people with severe brain injury for more than 20 years. Prior to developing a private practice working with community members with brain injuries, she was the Chief Occupational Therapist at Ivanhoe Manor Private Rehabilitation Hospital.
In 2006, Dr Winkler founded the Summer Foundation, a systems entrepreneur organisation that uses research, stories and prototypes to change health, disability, housing and aged care policy and practice.
The Summer Foundation has published more than 30 research articles in peer-reviewed journals. More than 100 young people in nursing homes have been supported by the foundation, encouraged to write their stories and illustrate them with photos. More than 60 young people in nursing homes have produced 3-4 minute videos to share their stories. The foundation has supported people with high levels of cognitive, communication and physical disability to participate in nearly 150 media opportunities and more than 90 public speaking engagements.
Dr Winkler completed a PhD at Monash in 2012, focusing her work on young people in nursing homes. In late 2013, she was awarded the Stanford Australia Foundation Dyson Bequest Scholarship and completed the six-week Stanford Executive Program in 2014.
In 2013, the Summer Foundation, in partnership with the Transport Accident Commission and Common Equity Housing Limited, completed a housing demonstration project. Six apartments for people with disability were peppered throughout a 59-unit development in inner-Melbourne. In January 2016, a second housing demonstration project was completed with 10 apartments for people with disability in a 110-unit private development in New South Wales. An additional unit provides a base for workers to provide 24-hour, on call support.
These housing projects aim to demonstrate that investment in good quality housing that is well-located and -designed, and incorporates smart home technology and support that fosters independence, will reduce the long term liability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
In 2017, Dr Winkler founded a sister entity – Summer Housing – to replicate and scale these apartment projects. Summer Housing partners with residential developers to build apartments for people with severe disability in mainstream developments across Australia. Summer Housing has 150 apartments in the pipeline and aims to commission 300 apartments for people with disability by 2022.