Michele Castagna, 1944 – 2016

p2354-michele-castagnaMichele Castagna OAM, feisty disability advocate and state finalist for Senior Australian of the Year 2015, passed away this morning.

Just seven years old when she was struck down with Poliomyelitis, Michele spent the next seven years of her life enduring institutionalised, impersonal care.
Years of isolation left their lasting imprint, fostering an inner strength that enabled her to become an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
Living with quadriplegia, Michele spent five years as a special education teaching assistant before she was appointed coordinator of disability services for the Northern Territory in 1983.
A deeply spiritual woman, Michele rejected the idea that people with disabilities are saints – instead, character traits, hard work and the desire to contribute drove her to break down barriers.
Chairperson of the Australian Catholic Disability Council since its inauguration in 2007, Michele was also the first person with a disability elected to Alice Springs Town Council.
With a razor-sharp mind, extraordinary organisational ability and the gift of the gab, Michele was a strong voice advocating on behalf of people with disabilities.

From the Australian of the Year website.



  1. Michelle will be forever with me: She helped me and my paraplegic son to his last days, including holding my hand at his funeral.
    R.I.P. Michelle.

  2. So very sad … Vale, Michele. You demonstrated what sheer veracity, tenaciousness, love and a commitment to our community was all about.
    Your legacy will linger for many decades in the hearts and minds of Centralians.

  3. Michelle was such a lovey lady and a real inspiration. It was a pleasure to know her. She will be missed by many.
    RIP Michelle.

  4. Vale Michelle, feisty, emphatetic, caring, sometimes brutal in her quest for equality, but always fair in her dealings.
    Great advocate for others, a bit of a game changer.
    RIP Michelle, and good for you for what you achieved.
    RIP, Lyn.

  5. An Alice Springs icon known far and wide. Will be remembered for her strength and tenacity.
    RIP Michelle.
    Joan and Gavin

  6. Vale Michelle, you will be truly missed, a true Alice icon always to help. A true community minded person.

  7. My favourite time with Michelle (among many others) was at one of our Alice Chorale celebrations after a performance.
    She had two celebration helpers either side of her. One held her cigarette on one side, the other a glass of red on the other.
    I know how important I was to Michelle. So did everyone else she talked to.
    If there is great, Michelle will always be a great Northern Territorian.

  8. To all of the Castagna family, my deepest sympathies and love.
    Today is a sad day, and I know many people will share in the loss of a remarkable loving friend and truly great woman now in the arms of her loving Saviour.
    Michele touched so many lives, that over time I am sure many stories will emerge about the positive force for change that was born out of her compassion and caring concern for others. Michele Castagna, a very humble person, and I suspect when we hear just how wide her influence has been over several decades we can consider ourselves blessed to have known her, and love her.
    Michele was a mentor and friend to me, and so will always be a part of me and I will miss her dearly.

  9. Michelle was an inspirational woman and role model to many. Michelle taught me to read as I was a student of the then Sunny Centre in my early days.
    As a child with learning difficulties Michelle’s beautiful persona, patience and belief in me gave me the confidence to read and pursue a teaching career.
    I will always have deep respect and hold her memory dear.
    Michelle will always have a special place in my heart.
    R.I.P. – my heart goes out to Michelle’s family.

  10. What a great life she led in spite of her disability, now finally free of her crippled body.Fly to great heights with the Angels, Michelle, you were the best. Condolences to your family. RIP.

  11. The world is poorer for the passing of this lovely feisty lady. Alice has lost one of its leading lights and a woman who led by example. My sincere condolences to her much loved family.

  12. I am so shocked to hear this sad news of an amazing woman, Centralian and friend. Michelle made a difference … Will miss you but always remember you.

  13. Rest in peace Michelle Castagna. I have known you since my early days in the Alice. We both got elected on to the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC) in 1984 and together served eight years over two elections.
    We had a giggle over how the ASTC officers positioned us next to each other in the Council chamber .. guess they hoped she was comfortable for me to assist with her papers at meetings and me comfortable to do it without issue.
    Michelle was the ultimate advocate for people with disabilities. Without a word of complaint about herself, she’d go about working out how to enable another person with disabilities.
    I recall the time when we both visited the Desert Park to make sure that the facility was fully accessible to all. That visit brought about changes to the design of doors and pathways.
    The most memorable aspect for me is the vision of Michelle zipping along in her registered road worthy electric chair along the footpaths and crossing Telegraph Terrace at the Larapinta lights in all that traffic and everyone conscientiously waiting for her to make her way to the other side.
    My condolences to the Castagna family … especially to Lyn.
    Vale Michelle Castagna. Your spirit and legacy will live on. The Alice and the Territory will be a poorer place without you.

  14. Michele was a passionate supporter of Central Craft who always had the best interests of Central Craft at heart.
    She was a fabulous board member who made significant contributions to our strategic plan and who helped develop our mission – Where Creativity Begins.
    At the recent exhibition this year of four craft sellers, of which Michele was one, I will never forget the look on her face when I told her that seven of her pieces had sold on opening night – more than any of the other exhibiting artists.
    What made this so remarkable was that every painting sold was painted by Michele holding the brush in her mouth.
    Michele was a victim of polio at a very young age but she never let her disability get in her way.
    In the photo announcing her passing in the Alice Springs News – there is a beautiful photo of Michele with a poster in the background. What that poster says is: “Don’t Judge What I Can Do By What You Think I Can’t”.
    That poster is who Michele was – never letting her disability stopping her enthusiasm or her passion for her craft.
    We will deeply miss her enthusiasm, her passion for art and her passion for Central Craft.
    May you fly with the Angels Michele (and may your creativity be endless).
    Bill Palmer
    Chair, Central Craft

  15. Michele never wasted time in this world. She has left a giant footprint in the community and in peoples’ hearts.
    We are all privileged to have know her.
    Rest in comfort and peace.

  16. Shocked and saddened. Michelle saw disability for what it is. The luck of Life’s draw.
    For some, the short straw, the glass half empty.
    For others, a test of character, the glass half full. Michelle filled the glass to overflowing with love and good works.
    Rest in peace, you beautiful lady. A treasured Alician who will be sorely missed.

  17. Michele was one out of the box.
    In spite of her personal impediment that would have flattened most people, her tenancity and courage meant she built a productive life, of major importance to the Alice Springs community.
    She made real impact, and will be remembered for all she achieved in so many endeavours.
    Edith and I will miss her.
    She demonstrated perfectly that society benefits immeasurably where an individual’s persistance in adversity is combined with thinking of others rather than oneself and good community works.
    And what is more, she learnt to paint holding a brush in her mouth! And good landscapes they were too.
    Thank you Michele. We may not see your kind again.

  18. Michele Castagna was inspiring and it was my privilege to know her as a strong advocate for others as well as to look after her as one of her doctors.
    She was wonderful and amazing. To me she embodied ability not disability.
    Michele will be missed by all who knew her and Central Australia and people with all sorts of disabilities everywhere will miss her activism, knowledge and advice.
    RIP Michele – I will miss our chats and laughs.

  19. A strong minded woman who in all the conversations I have had with her over the years she never once complained for herself.
    She is an example for any generation.

  20. Michelle will be sadly missed, but she will always live in our memory as a dedicated Choral Society member, both as a singer and committee member. Vale, dear Michelle.

  21. What a woman. She made an enormous difference. Our streets will miss this Amazon and her chariot. Vale, vale Michele. xx Nerys Evans and Ted Egan.

  22. What a privilege it has been for Alice Springs to have had such superhuman disabilities advocate and community member.
    She has truly left an imprint in the heart of the town. Rest In Peace, Michelle.

  23. Sadly Alice has lost its strongest disability advocate who helped make a difference for so many in the NT. Fond memories that will linger.

  24. Michelle was an awsome person and friend to all. She will be sadly missed. God has called Her home, leaving us all with a great feeling of loss.
    An amazing lady loved by all she touched. RIP Michelle.

  25. Your sunny disposition and wicked sense of humour will be sorely missed.
    What an inspirational lady you were.
    An Alice Springs legend.

  26. I am so shocked to hear about the passing of such an amazing lady.
    No matter what was happening Michelle always had a smile for you.
    My condolences to the Castagna family.

  27. It’s a long time since we shared a classroom, Michelle.
    What great things you have done with your life!
    Special condolences to Lynette.

  28. What sad news. Michelle has made such a contribution to this town in so many ways, and her presence will be greatly missed.

  29. So very sad to hear of Michelle passing, an amazing lady with great inspiration
    I had the honour working with Michelle for many years at the Alice Springs Town Council sharing many stories and jokes, a lady with a tremendous big heart.
    Michelle will be missed – RIP Michelle.

  30. What a lady!
    Always a joy, never a dull moment.
    It was a pleasure to know her. Always a joke when assisting her on or off a flight.
    Rest in peace, Michelle.

  31. RIP, Michelle Castagna.
    The life of Michele Castagna is a life to be remembered. She provides yet another example of how effort and struggle can defeat adversity.

  32. To Lyn Watson and family, our deepest sympathies. Michelle was a true example of our human spirit and will be missed, but remembered by all with whom she came in contact.

  33. My sincere condolences to Lyn Watson and friends and family of Michele.
    Working closely with Michele was never dull. I recall her passionate spirit and sense of righteousness. A true lady in the right place at the right time bringing positive changes to the Territory. Blessed be.

  34. Deepest condolences to Castagna and Watson families, my thoughts are with you from my family in Perth.
    Kylie, Tahlia and Jack Warner


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