I am writing with a heavy heart to inform you that one of our founding members, Maria Roncan OAM, died peacefully on Thursday 7th May.
Some of you would have known Maria, if not in person, her work and leadership in the disability community.
Maria was a quiet gentle person, but all who knew her agreed that behind the façade was a determined and tenacious personality, that was absolutely driven to achieve better standards, understandings and outcomes for disability. Her life time work in the field of disability was a journey of seeking out information, finding appropriate supports and services and if they were not to be found, they had to be established.
Maria was instrumental in the establishment of Moe Life Skills Community Centre. She served on the Board of Life Skills resigning only one month before her 90th birthday. Maria was the organisation’s first Life Member. Even though she had officially resigned, she stayed connected and involved. In her 90s Maria continued to connect with new mothers across Australia. She was there to support them as they set out on the journey she had already travelled. Encouraging parents to want the best and expect the highest outcomes for their children.
Even in the last year of her life she continued to push for people with disabilities to attend University. She knew they could do this, we just had to find a way to make it happen.
Her work was officially endorsed by governments both in Australia and overseas. The Victorian State government recognised her voluntary work to the community in 2000. She was awarded an Order of Australia medal for her community work in 2003. The following year, Maria received an award from Italy, her place of birth had recognised her outstanding work within Australia.
Throughout this time and beyond, Maria remained extremely modest about her efforts and was reluctant to take credit for the impact and influence she had on others.
As she often stated “what would I know, I’m just a mother”.
So many of us were fortunate to have listened and learned from her experiences and insights.
The disability sector has lost a great leader. We all must try to do whatever we can to carry on her legacy as a tribute to the woman Maria was, a woman, so much more than just a mother.
Dr Carole Broxham
Moe Life Skills CEO
Maria’s funeral will take place today, Wednesday 13th May 2020, at 11am. Due to current restrictions, the service will be lived streamed through Latrobe Valley Funeral Services website.