Lifeskills was founded in 1998 by Ros Leslie, a woman whose experience and credentials were influenced by her past involvement in the Ministry of Education as the Executive Officer – Special Education Programs and later Executive Officer of the Specialist Child and Family Services program (Victoria).
Ros held a firm belief that disability organisations were not developing the full potential of participants and a new model was required. This position was engendered by her academic achievements in the educational and business sector and resonates to this day.
Lifeskills was established on The Latrobe University Campus at Bundoora, and much later on the Bendigo Campus.
A philosophical approach was undertaken to ensure each participant was encouraged to reach their potential by gaining individual skills, then recognised qualifications, work experience and finally employment. Independence in all facets of life is fostered and encouraged, particularly travel, health and decision making.
The value of our association with La Trobe University cannot be underestimated, as it enables a unique link to academia, professional respect at the highest levels and could be used to further expand Lifeskills. This location also gives our Participants access to an age appropriate community, in a valued educational setting.
Lifeskills is entering an exciting phase in its growth as it prepares for the introduction of the NDIS and the expected positive results on all Participants.
Ros Leslie's Eulogy
ROSALYN (ROS) JOY LESLIE
13 August 1947 – 2 August 2015
I am Douglas Ball, CEO of La Trobe Lifeskills based at the Bundoora and Bendigo campuses of La Trobe University.
I have been honoured by the family of Ros to say a few words this morning in respect to Ros as a person, a Managing Director, a friend and mentor to many.
I acknowledge Keith, husband of Ros for 48 years, your sister Barbara and Doug, Ros’ sister Eleanor and Peter and your respective families as we come together in this Thanksgiving Service to celebrate the life of Ros – and celebrate we should when we reflect on her love for family and friends, her achievements in business, education and a leader in the disability sector and her sheer commitment and devotion to La Trobe Lifeskills.
As we have heard previously, Ros was determined to succeed in life, but also to enjoy life as it rolled along, seize opportunities, make friends, host magnificent dinner parties, travel, buy shoes, and radiate life.
I first remember meeting Ros some years ago at a disability conference. Amongst the 100’s in attendance, Ros stood out, not because of her height, but her dress sense, she radiated a presence, personality and later on she was fun to be with. In preparing this eulogy, and reflecting on things past, we males were probably like moths to a bright light!
Our paths continued to cross at more conferences, briefings, seminars, even meetings – the disability sector seems to have many of these and I looked forward to meeting Ros, always dressed immaculately in something different each time, that smile, a peck on the cheek, a few words, put some free biros in the bag to take back to work – we have Hilton, Sofitel, Pullman, to name a few, but only the classy ones!
Ros had an opinion on most issues and most people - once her mind was made up or a course of action decided on – that was it. You were either on board or overboard – nothing in between. Rather like the colours of the Collingwood football club. Black and white, which she tolerated my support for with thinly disguised contempt. I think if Ros had known I barracked for Collingwoood – I would not have been employed by her! Also Ros was adamant that Lifeskills ran a footy tipping competition each year – until last week she was bottom on the ladder (maybe as a result of picking Essendon each week!)
In my office are framed certificates of her academic achievements:
a Diploma in Art – Gold & Silver smithing;
a Diploma in Education;
a Graduate Diploma in Special Education;
a Master of Business Administration;
a Master of Special Education.
But I believe it was her Diploma in Art – gold & silver smithing that she was the proudest of.
Ros loved, appreciated and encouraged the artistic ability in all. The annual Art Exhibition at La Trobe University – managed by La Trobe University Museum of Art was another highlight of our year.
Opening nights were a dazzling affair with tradition dictating (by Ros) that she had first pick of the entries to purchase. We are now at the stage we either have to build a wall just to display the purchases or offer some to the National Gallery of Victoria.
Next month, on the 23rd September, the Portrait Exhibition 2015 will be held, to be opened by the Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University – Professor John Dewar – how Ros would have loved that. However, I am not so sure of the Participants modern interpretation of Ros would have been well received. Perhaps head down with a tapping of the feet in all those glorious coloured shoes Ros possessed – as many of us have experienced!
Until the last year or so when pressures of work kept her occupied from daily contact with the Participants, the parents and carers was always a priority – their progress, their achievements, the encouragement, discussing changes to the curriculum, challenging the staff and relishing in the day to day issues – not that she ever interfered!
Keith has mentioned much of Ros’ background, but there is also another aspect of Ros’ life prior to La Trobe Lifeskills. I can’t do justice to Ros’ achievements and responsibilities she has taken on over the years, but here is a snippet:
1974 – 1982Self-employed artist, designer, silversmith and manufacturer jeweller – one of her passions;
1978 – 1980Secondary School Teacher:
Hadfield High School, Glenroy,
Whitefriars College, Glenvale.
1981 – 1987Executive Officer Ministry of Education, Commonwealth Schools Commission – Special Education Programs.
1988 – 1989Executive Officer – Specialist Child & Family Service Program (Victoria). Whilst in this role Ros listed some of her personal achievements as – ability to understand a range of points of view and perspectives on many issues and being bruised by the process and learning to achieve objectives/goals in a range of different ways and methods. Ros never lost that ability!
1990 – 1998Managing Director of CAMOCO International Pty Ltd – an educational consultancy which wrote special education curriculum, ran training programs, undertook a range of other educational advice/projects for various educational entities, both across Australia, Indonesia and Singapore.
1990 – 2001Managing Director, Aacess Professional Services Pty Ltd. In essence, this involved establishing a niche organisation to provide appropriately qualified experts to those involved in litigation, or seeking advice. This also included the management of a variety of ‘experts’ who undertook assessments and prepare reports and costings for medico-legal and intellectual property litigation.
And one you probably didn’t know was in
2014Became a Licensee of the AgriBio Café at La Trobe University.
I now come to Ros’ crowning glory, her legacy, her ability of turning a vision into reality, a profile of a determined lady, a leader, a founder and Managing Director of La Trobe Lifeskills Pty Ltd since 1998.
Whilst Lifeskills formally began in 1998, it was the medical centre in partnership with the University, having a number of clients with ABI that needed activities during the day that provoked Ros’ thinking, and using her extensive contacts, knowledge and experience, was invited to submit a business case to the University. The University was very supportive of the concept and a partnership was formed, eventually they withdrew because of their confidence in Ros to continue the vision.
So Ros was the driving force of the inception, vision and growth of a unique disability service provider – including future growth and development, and continue even on Monday when we appointed a new RTO Coordinator, Martin, (what a day to start!). However, that event signified that it was business as usual, just as Ros would have wished.
As you can imagine it was never easy, balancing the range of competing perspectives, operational matters, family issues and dynamics, Participant perspectives and behaviours, academic and university requirements including the political agendas and environment, and other stakeholder interests.
Financial imperatives with low profit margins, government departments, were other challenges which Ros either overcome or wore them down. A Registered Training Organisation was the next achievement to ensure the provision of accredited training for the Participants, the leasing of the Vegetarian Café and the AgriBio Café to provide employment and training opportunities for the Participants was the last link.
Three months ago Ros moved our accounting system to a new package – challenging us all – probably one of the first in the disability sector again! – but on a personal note – I would have been happy to be the 100th – that is another illustration of Ros’ vision, passion and determination to ensure Lifeskills was at the cutting edge of new technology.
Over the past few days Lifeskills has received numerous messages in response to Ros’ death. The overwhelming theme from so many colleagues was of shock. Keeping on without burdening too many others with her illness was Ros’ wish and we respected that, though it was hard at times.
I would like to read some extracts:
I am terribly saddened by this tragic news. My thoughts are with Keith and the family, with you and your staff.
I don’t know what to say. I am so shocked. I didn’t even know she was sick.
I am very sorry to hear of Ros’ sudden and unexpected passing. I have some very fond memories of her and my time at Lifeskills. Please pass on my sincere condolences to Keith.
So sorry to hear of Ros’ passing. She was a lovely lady and will be sadly missed. Thinking of you all.
Ros was an amazingly strong, caring and dynamic leader. She will be missed by all her friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Please pass on our condolences to those at Lifeskills and beyond.
I am so upset to hear this. I had no idea that Ros was not well. She has been a lovely person to work with over the years, and has so generously contributed to NDS activities.
My personal experience of Ros over the past 5 years has been of an incredibly beautiful person with strength of character, a heart of gold and a passion for inclusion and equality.
I am sitting at my desk stunned. I had no idea that Ros was unwell. Thinking of you all at Lifeskills.
It is with great sadness that I read your letter. My memories of Ros are fond and filled with appreciation for giving me the opportunity to work in a field I have great interest and passion in since July 2014.
In memory of Ros – an inspirational woman who dreamt of a better way for young people with a disability to reach their potential. Ros never took no for an answer. Her legacy is La Trobe Lifeskills, where those often overlooked by society and forgotten by governments become happy, engaged and independent young men and women. Ros will be greatly missed by parents, Participants and staff – our thought are with you at this sad time. We extend our sympathy to staff at both campuses, Ros’ husband Keith, her family and friends.
Lifeskills Participants thoughts on Ros:
A great lady and wonderful person. She knows about the teachers. Happy person, beautiful and caring, she always said lovely words. Cared about Lifeskills. We all care about her. In Art we did drawings of Ros which I enjoyed doing.
Ros always spoke at the formal. My favourite person at Lifeskills. She always helped us as well as teachers and parents. Known her for 5 years. Very kind, caring, always wore dresses and makeup, Ros liked me as well. Ros got me to do jobs in the office. I remember Ros from the Art Show.
Ros was a good speaker at graduation and always came to visit at the Lifeskills Office. Very funny person and kind.
Good looking person. She came to the formal to read the names for best dressed and dancer. She gave out prizes and enjoyed herself. Always seemed happy.
And finally from Ralf Gallagher in the Kimberleys:
‘A strong and caring person, her efforts to establish a viable program at La Trobe now notable for its success and robustness. So many will have benefitted from these efforts and together with us spectators, will acclaim her loudly and sincerely.’
Ralf continued, but concluded with one of the Kimberley’s favoured songs, “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”. This may well be an epitaph for a damn fine, splendid person – Ros Leslie.
Those words are far more eloquent than I can muster to sum up her achievements and friendships. Ros would have been quite chuffed that few knew of her final illness. That’s the way she wanted it – totally in control.
In the past few weeks Ros issued many directives, but her one wish was that Lifeskills would continue as a lasting legacy to her and her dreams.
Ros, how could we say ‘no’ to you!?
Yes, we will ensure the legacy of Lifeskills continues.