First Nations mother of three children with disabilities honoured with Charles Sturt award

17 JANUARY 2023

First Nations mother of three children with disabilities honoured with Charles Sturt award

Ms Elizabeth Wall was awarded a Charles Sturt Alumni of the Year – Indigenous Alumni Award 2022 for her passion for community outreach and support, which has driven her extensive contribution to disability and Indigenous advocacy in regional NSW.

Ms Elizabeth Wall is a Gomeroi and Anaiwan woman from Tamworth. Now based in Melbourne, she is a proud mother of three adult sons, who all live with disabilities.

It was her deep love and advocacy for her sons to live their best lives that led her to pursue a career in social work, where she could maximise these skills for the greater good.

After a complicated pregnancy with her youngest son Lachlan, ‘Lachie’ was born prematurely at 35 weeks and needed care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for almost two months. Both Elizabeth and her partner John remained ‘in the dark’ as to Lachlan’s official diagnosis, while Lachlan continued to require tube feeding and 24-hour care.

After 13 months of intensive nursing, Lachlan’s health condition had improved markedly. However, it was then that Elizabeth started to notice some oddities about her middle-child Joseph’s behaviour.

“Joseph would socially isolate himself at playgroup, rock and moan to the dishwasher and other electrical appliances, he also had disturbed sleeping patterns and limited speech,” Elizabeth said.

At 2 years and 7 months old, Joseph was diagnosed with severe autism.

Not long after, Elizabeth’s eldest son Sam was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, or high-functioning autism, after his kindergarten teacher noticed unusual behaviours.

A little while later, Lachlan was diagnosed with non-inherited Noonan syndrome.

The couple began learning as much as they could about each child’s medical conditions to help their sons.

“John and I were putting together three programs and absorbing as much as we could about each of our children’s conditions, as quickly as possible, to encourage them to develop to their maximum potential. This remains our focus today,” Elizabeth said.

After the dedication shown towards caring for her children, each with high needs, Elizabeth was honoured publicly by being awarded Mother of the Year in 1998 at the commencement of her pathway into a career in disability care.

“I received the Mother of the Year Award from the NSW Children’s Association,” Elizabeth said.

“Receiving that award provided formal recognition of the efforts of carers everywhere.”

In 1999 the couple took a redundancy package to care for their sons.

In 2002, Elizabeth completed a Diploma in Community Services at TAFE NSW as a pathway into university.

She then completed a Bachelor of Social Science (Social Welfare) and a Bachelor of Social Work at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.

Elizabeth wanted to channel the skills she acquired during her studies into improving outcomes for people living with disability and their carers. 

“My degree has offered some great opportunities to help others in need,” Elizabeth said.

“The skills and knowledge I gained helped with being selected to the Living Life My Way Ambassador and Champions program and with board appointments to the NSW Carers Advisory Council and the National Disability Carer Advisory Council.”

In 2010 Elizabeth was a recipient of the Charles Sturt Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Work Scholarship.

“The scholarship enabled me to travel to India to gain first-hand experience of disability support services in an emerging economy,” she said.

Elizabeth’s love and commitment to her children was again acknowledged publicly when she was invited to deliver the Occasional Address at the Charles Sturt graduation ceremony in Albury-Wodonga on Tuesday 13 December 2022.

She is immensely proud of each of her sons and their achievements.

“Lachlan has defied all medical opinion and despite the odds has completed his HSC, two TAFE courses, and obtained his driver’s licence,” she said.

“As Joseph requires very substantial support, having bipolar, depression, epilepsy, and being non-verbal he lives at home with us, and I am currently employed as his carer.

“Sam has completed a double degree at another university and works for the Department of Justice and Community Safety in Melbourne. He recently had his first child, Grace.”

Elizabeth believes that being focussed, calm and determined is the best approach to advocacy.

“Focus on what you can influence, invest in things that give you meaning and purpose, stay socially connected and find ways to enrich your life and your community,” she said.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Ms Elizabeth Wall contact Trease Clarke at Charles Sturt Media on 0409 741 789 or

Photo caption: Ms Elizabeth Wall with son Joseph.

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Albury-Wodonga Charles Sturt University Indigenous Society and Community