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Death of Dame Laurie Salas

27 January 2017

For immediate release

Life member of National Council of Women of New Zealand, Dame Laurie Salas passes away

The National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) are saddened to hear of the passing of Dame Laurie Salas, a life member of NCWNZ.

Working at the highest levels of NCWNZ, Dame Laurie’s work for women and peace overlapped at every stage of her long career. Her family background – an uncle on either side of her family lost at Gallipoli – and her own natural inclination, led her to make this her life’s work.

Dame Laurie came to the attention of the 1966 NCWNZ President, Mavis Tiller, through her work in Wellington with the Mothers’ Helpers Committee and the Federation of University Women and was brought into the vital core of the organisation as the National Secretary 1976-80 and the National Vice-President 1982-86 (among many other roles within the organisation).

Working alongside Dame Laurie on various women’s organisations for almost 50 years, friend and colleague Jean Fuller says “Laurie was a gracious and generous person”.

“She gave immeasurable amounts of time to the organisations that she believed in. She was always nice, friendly and helpful – but that doesn’t mean she was a puffball! She could be steely when needed and earned great respect from the politicians”, says Jean.

“Women’s organisations are very important in the fabric of society” says Jean, noting that Laurie was a respected leader – someone who made things happen. NCWNZ Past President Miriam Bell supports this view, “If you wanted anything done you’d ask Laurie” she says, “she was utterly reliable. She was concerned for the wellbeing of people – whoever they were” says Miriam.

On a personal level – Laurie was a mother to six children, a kind person and a good friend to many. Miriam notes that she was a beautiful woman and Jean agrees that she was always dressed impeccably. “I’m still using one of her recipes” says Jean, “Laurie Salas’s biscuits were the best.”

Working throughout her life for the peace movement, Dame Laurie will be known to many New Zealanders for her long term activism for human rights. A Past President and Honorary Member of the United Nations Association of New Zealand, Dame Laurie was a leader in improving the status and safety and security of women.

By the early 1980’s it became clear to Dame Laurie that although women may have had equal pay in theory, they did not have it in practice. Organising a two-day seminar at the Centre for Continuing Education in Wellington, Dame Laurie took practical steps to make education for women a political priority.

In 1982, Dame Laurie was the only non-government representative from New Zealand at the United Nations session on disarmament, as well as at the New York conference of Women of the World Working for Peace.

These are just a few highlights of her incredible and long career – Dame Laurie was involved in countless organisations working towards social progress, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the National Society for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.

NCWNZ National President Rae Duff says “she gave many years of distinguished service to the National Council of Women, for which we are incredibly grateful. Dame Laurie quietly mentored younger women to encourage learning and enhance the lives of women. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”

Her funeral is to be held at 11am at Old St Pauls on Thursday 2 February in Wellington.


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