Obituary of Senior Friend Elizabeth McDonald by Jennifer Toisuta

Jennifer Toisuta studied social work with Elizabeth McDonald at the University of Sydney.

In her social work course, Liz specialised in Groupwork and on graduation she worked first for the YWCA in some of their recreational programs. I know that after that she worked for the Benevolent Society of NSW and the Royal Women’s hospital at Paddington. I think she also worked at a Uniting Care Aged facility in Lewisham.

Even as a student Liz was rather awkward on her feet and tended to have falls. Some years after graduation she was diagnosed with a mascular degenerative disease and from her early or mid 30’s she had to use a wheel chair. I know that she continued her social work from her wheelchair.

For many years she was active in the Business and Professional Women’s Association and after she retired she also acted as a consultant to the local municipal council regarding services for the disabled. She was a ceaseless advocate for the disabled.

Liz had a small house in Croydon which was set up to meet her needs. For years she would take her wheel chair on trains to get to places – provided the station she got off had a lift. She also used her motorised wheel chair to go to Burwood shopping centre where I met her on a couple of occasions for lunch. In her later years she was unable to use the train and had to get a special taxi to take her places – one that could take her wheelchair.

Liz had a wonderful 70th birthday celebration in her home. She’d moved all the furniture back and invited many friends for an afternoon tea there.

As her health deteriorated, she needed help to get up in the morning and to bed at night. A hoist was attached to her bed to enable staff to lift her.  Her cousin, Anne (who was married to Liz’s cousin, Ted McDonald) was extremely good to her. For many years Anne worked at PLC Croydon and frequently called to see her. Anne and Ted were always there for her when she needed them.

One of her brothers, Peter I think, died some months before she did.  With her usual courage and determination, she took the train to Northern NSW to visit him in his final weeks staying overnight there. She had remained close to him and his former wife. Her other brother, Robert, his wife and children, spoke movingly at her memorial service of how much she had meant in their lives.

A couple of years ago, she told us that she had been told she would not be eligible for more home care services. So she looked around for a local aged care facility so she could continue to go out in her wheelchair to church and to the shops. She disposed of all her parents’ furniture and other memorabilia and moved to a catholic aged care facility in Croydon. Many of the patients were much less alert than Liz so she became close to many of the nurses. She set up a bible study group and attended their film screenings etc. The centre did have a nice garden area with tables and chairs and a small café where she entertained her friends.

The thanksgiving service for Liz was held at the Burwood uniting church where she had been a member for many years. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and for many years Liz attended a Presbyterian church but she became fed up with their conservatism and attitudes to women etc so moved to the Uniting Church. She occasionally attended another local Uniting Church because she had been instrumental in getting that church to put in a ramp for disabled people and felt she should support them too.

I know that both Wendy Clotz and Ruth Thomas kept in touch with Liz. Liz was godmother to one of Wendy’s twin sons.