Women's affairs champion, 'really good Nelsonian' Dame Alison Roxburgh dies

By Cherie Sivignon, originally published on Stuff

Dame Alison Roxburgh, who became a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2003 for services to women's affairs and the community, has died, aged 85.

From her long-time Nelson home, Roxburgh was heavily involved in the community through many organisations including the National Council of Women of New Zealand, the Suter Gallery Trust, Nelson Polytechnic and the Nelson City Luncheon Club.

She also took on national and international roles with organisations such as the International Council of Women, the New Zealand Association of Polytechnics and the Otago University Graduates Association.

National Council of Women national president Lisa Lawrence said the organisation's members were "deeply saddened by the passing of Dame Alison".

"Her leadership was a mainstay of the National Council of Women locally, nationally and internationally for a number of years," Lawrence said. "She is fondly remembered as a woman of grace, quiet wit and compassion."

Working at the highest levels of the organisation, Roxburgh's work for women and gender equality overlapped at every stage of her long career.

"Her family background was one of civil service, which clearly reflected in her life's work," Lawrence said. "She was an active and respected leader who I had the good fortune to connect with and I remember her as gracious, kind-hearted and with a generous nature for people."

Mary Gavin, who has also been honoured for her services to women and the community, said she knew Roxburgh for more than 45 years.

"When I was a young woman, Alison's mentoring style was definitely astringent," Gavin said. "This was daunting but effective as there was so much to be done and I learnt so much from her. She led by example and I greatly admired her stamina and generosity in pursuing social justice goals, especially for gender equality, nationally and internationally."

Many meetings were enlivened by Roxburgh's "wry and dry wit".

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chairwoman Jenny Black said Roxburgh did a lot of work "that, today, people would expect to be paid for".

"She had the very best interest of the community at heart."

Whatever group Roxburgh was working for she "was there for the betterment of the organisation".

"There was no ego involved."

Black said Roxburgh guided her over many years and gave her "some fantastic opportunities in a national space".

"She was also a very good friend," Black said. "She was caring mentor, a really good Nelsonian who taught a lot of us."

As the then National Council of Women Nelson branch president, Pip Jamieson asked Roxburgh to become branch patron, which she did in 2017.

Jamieson said she first became aware in 1997 of the "amazing poise of Dame Alison Roxburgh – 'just Alison' as she would insist we called her – when I first started attending Nelson branch of the National Council of Women ... and thinking she was somewhat foreboding".

"But it did not take long to realise Alison had high standards of herself and others, but was very willing to help and encourage any woman who was prepared to put their hand up."

Dame Alison Roxburgh, DNZM, CBE, QSO, JP, BHSc, died on January 25. As per her wishes, a private cremation was held. A memorial gathering is being planned for a later date. Dame Alison was married to the late Jim Roxburgh and is survived by their son, Gus.

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  • National Council of Women New Zealand
    published this page in News 2020-05-15 14:22:45 +1200

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