ACT News

Canberra's Liz Dawson remembered as a passionate advocate for change

After a long battle with bowel cancer, tenacious social advocate and feminist Liz Dawson, the driving force behind an inaugural supported housing complex for Canberra's homeless and at risk, has died.

Tenacious social advocate and feminist Liz Dawson, the driving force behind an inaugural supported housing complex for Canberra's homeless and at risk, has died.

The prominent Canberran died on Sunday, aged 78, after a long battle with bowel cancer. 

Liz Dawson: A courageous and compassionate leader.
Liz Dawson: A courageous and compassionate leader. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Husband Peter Dawson said his "wonderful companion of 51 years" pursued her interests and projects with incredible passion and energy – but not without a few surprises up her sleeve. 

Both their names were added to the ACT Honour Walk in Civic last week.

Liz's legacy will also live on through Common Ground, the supported housing project she passionately founded. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year

Peter said one of his wife's surprises was her decision to learn the drums and form a 15-strong band, The Grooves. They performed at the Canberra Blind Society's last Christmas party.

"She used to say, 'I always like to surprise you', and she did, fairly regularly," he laughed.

Daughter, Kate, helped her mother compile Where Is My Left Eyebrow: Losing my Sight Overnight, her book launched in July to raise awareness of the temporal arteritis that stole her vision and to help others with impaired sight.

She remembered her mother as "incredibly supportive" of her three daughters and eight grandchildren and the "family organiser", keeping everyone connected.

Eldest daughter, Julie, described Liz as a courageous and compassionate leader. 

"She was a real leader in terms of identifying social issues and working collaboratively to find solutions to them," she said. 

Youngest daughter, Sophie, said her mother drew strength from helping others.

"The first time I came to see her after she was first diagnosed as terminally ill, one of the clients she worked with at the Salvation Army had a stroke and she was more concerned about her than herself," she said.

"She insisted we spend most of the weekend at the hospital. She extended that warmth and care to everyone."

Member for Fraser Andrew  Leigh remembered Liz as a strong advocate for Canberra's less visible.

"She was like a firecracker for change, putting a little explosion under everyone to do more," he said. 

In a tribute on social media, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said Canberra was a better place because of her friend.

"With her fierce intellect, advocacy and good heart she bought out the best in everyone and reminded us to always care for others."