By Vicki Scheeren and Robert Altamore
June Ashmore, a powerhouse to the blindness and disabled communities, passed away on 21st October 2020 at the age of 85. We say Goodbye to a wonderful friend, mentor and advocate.
June has left behind her wonderful husband and companion, David, their 4 children and their grandchildren. David accompanied June on her travels nationally and internationally. He also assisted at many of the meetings and functions. Thankyou David, we share your loss.
June was raised in Queanbeyan, qualified as a physiotherapist, and then married her soldier husband David, who was subject to the Army’s usual demands to travel wherever needed, including overseas.
June practiced paediatric physiotherapy until her field of vision became so restricted that she could no longer see a whole child. Her deteriorating eyesight was caused by Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary disorder.
June worked as a Policy Officer at the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled where she absorbed useful information about the politics of disability and writing successful proposals for government grants.
In close contact with the Society in the early 1980s June was asked to help start a Friday group for children who were blind and to assist with collating a Sensory Awareness Kit for Special Education Pre-School Teachers.
Undaunted by her own loss of vision, but with increasing awareness of the problems and feelings involved, she started a support group for people with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which became an incorporated association Retina Australia ACT in 1992. This association became a member of Retina Australia in 1993 and June was elected National Secretary. She subsequently represented Australia at the Retina International World Congress in Switzerland in 1996 and at the Congress in Washington DC in 2000.
At the same time June was elected Vice President of BCA. As part of that role, she represented Australia at meetings of the World Blind Union in Fiji, Canada and South Korea. She also spent some time in Vietnam in association with a BCA program to train women who were blind to learn braille, to experience and master daily living skills related to becoming independent in their own homes and to contemplate the possibility of earning a living.
June made numerous contributions to the advocacy work and social activity of the BCA ACT Branch. We particularly recall her contribution to a joint NSW ACT Working Group which developed a comprehensive directory of service for people who are blind or vision impaired in NSW and the ACT.
When June consented to take on the role of President of the Canberra Blind Society (CBS) in 1997, she brought new ideals and ideas to the way Canberra’s blind population was served. Her Presidency brought the CBS increased ACT Government recognition and funding and enhanced community recognition for its activities. Following a successful 10 years at the helm of CBS, June retired only to return as a Board member. One of her continuing passions after retiring from the CBS Board was to complete an official history of CBS. This she achieved on CBS’s 60th anniversary in 2018.
June’s three dog guides gave her independence and comfort over thirty years and frequently opened the door to new friendships. In fact, friendships were a speciality of June due to her warm and caring concern and fantastic memory for the vast network of her contacts. Always a volunteer, she was constantly available to give support to friends and members.
June’s achievements were many and they made an enormous difference in the lives of many Blind & Vision Impaired people in the ACT, Nationally and Internationally. Just a few of her many contributions are listed above.
In 2003 June was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (AM) at the Australia Day Honours for service to Blind and Vision Impaired people, As an Executive member of a range of Blindness and Vision Impaired Organisations, providing advocacy and support to many.
BCA ACT members sadly miss our friend June. We join with members of our National organisation to acknowledge her wonderful contribution to bettering the lives of Blind and Vision Impaired people of Canberra, Australia and the World.