Sue Salthouse, the ACT's Senior Australian of the Year, whose life was tragically cut short on Monday, was a remarkable, and inspirational, human being.
The 71-year-old, who was left a paraplegic after a horse riding accident when she was 45, managed to achieve as much - if not more - in the last third of her life than she had in the years before the injury. Determined from the start not to give in to doubt or self-pity, the former Italian language teacher did everything she could to make the most of the hand fate had dealt her.
This involved an unexpected, and intensely personal, course in "living with disability 101"; an experience that was both painful and confrontational. "Arriving by surprise in the disability sector means that you're on a very steep learning curve to understand what it is that affects the lives, and mentality, of people with disabilities," she told a National Library of Australia interviewer in 2011. "The practicalities of 'having a place at the table' are difficult to confront for someone who needs up to two hours in the morning to get up."
Ms Salthouse found out very quickly that people with disabilities, particularly women, were seen - and treated - much differently to other members of society. These differences were blindingly obvious given that, as a formerly active and energetic person with a wide range of interests who had acquired a disability midway through life, she had a very clear understanding of the "before" and "after".
This insight proved to be the foundation stone for a new vocation that elevated her to national prominence and, more importantly, did much to improve outcomes for people with disabilities across the ACT and elsewhere. "Success in promoting the issues is one thing; another measure is seeing more women with disabilities in the workforce, and more women outside the ages of 40 to 60 involved in advocacy organisations," Ms Salthouse said in 2011.
In addition to running a consultancy specialising in disability rights advocacy, the long-time campaigner was a director of Women in Adult and Vocational Education, Rights and Inclusion Australia, a member of the governing council of the University of Canberra, and a member of the Independent Advisory Council of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Expert Panel in the ACT at the time of her death.
Her previous roles included serving as a former ACT representative on the COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence Against Women and Children, a past chair of the ACT Disability Reference Group, and a past chair of Advance Personnel, a disability employment service.
The ACT's Senior Woman of the Year in 2014, and Canberra's Citizen of the Year in 2015, Ms Salthouse always did the very best she could with what she had. Her many gifts included massive reserves of empathy and compassion, an unwavering belief in the causes she embraced, and an intellectual curiosity that extended far beyond what some would consider to be the purview of a disability rights campaigner.
These extended to the push for a universal basic income and "a well-being index that's not profit driven".
"We need to shift our whole focus in this society, whether it is towards issues like climate change... to creating greater respect for this country, and to how we treat each other in our daily lives."
Ms Salthouse's most lasting monuments will be the doors she helped to prise open, and the many people whose lives she helped to change for the better.
Goodbye Sue Salthouse. Canberra is a poorer place without you in it already.