Woman Crossing, Sally

Health Consumer Activist

Written by Kate Moore, Australian National University

Sally Crossing was born in Melbourne in 1946. After spending sometime in England, the family moved to Sydney when Sally was 8. She was educated in 'lots of different schools' and then studied economics at Sydney University, living at The Women's College. Her first job was with the Bank of New South Wales before moving to London where she worked for the Conservative Party's Shadow Minister for Minerals and Energy.

After returning to Australia and a job at the Reserve Bank, Sally married Peter. They moved to Griffith in New South Wales, followed by a year working in Iran and 8 years in Rome. While overseas, they had two children and the family returned to Australia in 1980. In 1984 Sally worked for New South Wales Liberal Party Shadow Ministers, and after the election of the Greiner government, joined the staff of one of the Ministers. This taught her a lot about politics and government. After 9 months she joined the New South Wales Department of Minerals and Energy where she held senior positions.

Sally was 49 when she was diagnosed with early breast cancer. After surgery and radiotherapy she continued working, but published some reflections on the cancer experience. From there her life took a different direction. She was asked, and agreed, to establish a breast cancer advocacy organisation in New South Wales - similar to the one already operating in Victoria. Sally gave up her job to do this, and the Breast Cancer Advocacy Group New South Wales was born in 1997. After consulting women who had, or were, experiencing breast cancer, the group researched and compiled a directory of specialist services which was received with enormous enthusiasm. Her experiences in breast cancer advocacy led Sally to realise that people with other cancers needed a voice, and in 2000 she was pivotal in the establishment of the Cancer Voices movement in Australia, leading Cancer Voices NSW for 8 years. She published A Decade of Success: Cancer Voices NSW 2000-2010 and has been co-author of a number of peer reviewed articles in her specific areas of interest.

In 2004 Sally's breast cancer reappeared and she also had tumours in her liver. She carefully researched her options and decided to have a mastectomy, followed 2 weeks later by major liver surgery. The broader health consumer movement has continued to benefited from Sally's leadership. She was Vice-Chair of the Consumers' Health Forum, and then was centrally involved in the 2010 establishment of a peak health consumer advocacy organisation, Health Consumers New South Wales, which she now chairs.

In 2005 Sally was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the community through health consumer advocacy. She has worked in voluntary leadership positions for 15 years. Energetic and motivated by the challenge of seeing that something could be done, and then seeing it done, she is comfortable in a leadership role. Ascribing her 'urge to lead' to 'an ability to make things happen' she describes herself as 'a bit of a driver'. (janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/24sally-crossing/) Crossing emphasises the value of working collaboratively and respecting the interests and skills of others. Learning from others, she believes, is an important facet of leadership 'Leaders should never have total confidence that they are right. Others may know a lot more than the leader'. (janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/24sally-crossing/)

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