a smiling woman sitting in a wheelchair with a pink floral top and black slacks

The Board and staff of WCHM were shocked to hear of the tragic death of Sue Salthouse after her wheelchair-accessible motorcycle was involved in a traffic accident on 20th July. While her advocacy included work at the national and international levels, we knew Sue from her local work in the ACT advocating for women with disabilities, for which she was awarded the 2020 ACT Senior Australian of the Year as well as being named 2015 Canberra Citizen of the Year in recognition of her contributions.

Sue was a member of WCHM’s Board from 2013-15 and was a regular visitor to WCHM’s offices for over 7 years, a period when WCHM supported and auspiced Women With Disabilities ACT as they moved towards becoming an Incorporated Association in their own right.  During that time we watched Sue support and mentor many younger women with disabilities, while raising awareness of the needs of women with disability in the ACT and the barriers that they faced including the NDIS; issues about access, affordability and accessibility of housing; and their vulnerability to abuse and violence.

She was passionate about collecting the evidence needed to influence advocacy, and in 2012 WCHM collaborated with Sue to conduct some research which aimed to highlight areas of need where data did not currently exist, particularly ACT specific data disaggregated by sex and disability. The report – Strong Women, Great City – gave an understanding of the day-to-day reality of ACT women with disabilities and insight into their specific experiences and concerns.

Sue challenged us about our thinking on the way we did things – including the importance of considering how difficult it was to attend early meetings ‘for someone who needs two hours in the morning to get up’.

We are proud to have known her and to have worked with her on key social justice issues, particularly domestic and family violence.  And we learnt a lot from her and benefited from her knowledge and passion.

Our thoughts are with her family and friends, and the staff and Board of Women With Disabilities ACT (WWDACT).

In Sue’s own words, the following article describes her wishes for the future which I hope we all continue to work on in her absence. She made a difference and we will miss her!

Women with disability are facing both discrimination and gender inequality