Vale John Little

Wed 11 August 2021

Man (John Little) wearing a suit, smiling, with his arm resting on a bench about to write something. Quote from John on the image talking about how he will only purchase from accessible organisations.

The Board and team of the Australian Network on Disability are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our family, John Little. As a founding Board member and husband of former CEO, Suzanne Colbert, John was one of AND’s earliest champions. He was charismatic, loving, and generous. He cared about people and championed social justice, equity, and people with disability.

John was always hopeful for a better tomorrow where everyone has an opportunity to live their best life. He gave people the confidence to believe in themselves.

He experienced great business success and love in his life and wanted everyone to be able to access the same. It underpinned his work as an entrepreneur, a board member and mentor.

His commercial background in advertising and marketing was a great asset to AND. He conceptualised and designed our first logo and its essence of a place for everyone, has endured through its reiterations. John developed the Associates group – AND’s first brains trust of people with disability and was instrumental in the development of the Stepping Into internship program.

John’s vibrancy, enthusiasm and positivity brought people to the table. We honour his perspective, insights and innovative solutions that helped shaped the success of AND today.

Peter Wilson, Chair of AND, shares his fond words about John.

Peter Wilson – Chairperson

“It is often said that ‘behind every great leader, there is a great partner’. John Little was both. He possessed extraordinary wit and wisdom. He was a great foil and confidant for AND’s previous CEO, Suzanne Colbert, as her husband, closest friend and mentor.

John was also one of the early founders of AND some twenty years ago and was very well known for his up-front style to nudge major employer groups into taking more positive actions towards achieving their own disability confident workplace. John was also a loving and compassionate father for all his and Suzanne’s children and is sorely missed by them all. He will also be sadly missed by all members of the AND community, but his strong legacy as a memorable exemplar for a disability confident Australia will remain with us for a very long time.” – Peter Wilson

John touched the lives of everyone he met. John and Steven Bennett, pioneers of the AND Founding 5, share their memories of him.

John and Steven Bennett – Founding Members

“We recently heard the sad news about the death of John Little. John was one of the original founders of the Australian Network on Disability (formerly Employers Making a Difference) and partner of Suzanne Colbert, former CEO.

John was a member of the very first board of our organisation.

John was an enthusiastic and tireless member of the board, he attended every AGM every Christmas cocktail party, every annual conference, and round table events and other promotional and publicity and disability awareness sessions.

Apart from John’s insightful input into the early days as a board member, he developed the Associates who a group of business minded people with disability, who were trusted advisors to the organisation. He recruited Graeme Innes, Matt Laffan (dec),Deborah Barit and others. John was the only person with disability on our initial board and he added vital perspective. He was forthright and strong minded and believed in the right to work and be paid appropriately. He attended events for years - ensuring visibility of disability. Because he was Suzanne’s partner, he didn’t get the recognition that he really deserved.

In the words of Samantha Saw – ‘From the confines of your chair, you ruled like a sovereign king. Dignified and extraordinary. You were a special kind of human.

You advocated, you championed, you influenced and informed. You had an opinion and were not afraid to share it because you cared.

Your legacy is so incredible you had a vision and you brought it to life - across all corners of Australia and the world. In doing so you gave friends opportunities.

Through your disability, you inspired many to rise to their own ability.’

Steve and I would like to take this opportunity to thank, John, for his contribution to the Australian Network on Disability and for trusting us, supporting us, and sharing our vision.

You will be deeply missed but never forgotten.” – John and Steven Bennett

Rania Saab, AND Board Member and previous Stepping Into participate, shares her fond memories of John.

Rania Saab – AND Board Member

“I met John shortly after I participated in AND’s inaugural Stepping Into program. At that time, I was just embarking on my chosen career. John was encouraging and helpful; he revamped my resume and helped me with job applications. More importantly, he showed me that we all deserve and can live a full and happy life without limitations. Every day, he showed up and fought for a fairer, more accessible world. He worked so hard to level the playing field and made a positive difference to countless lives. 

I will always be grateful for John’s quiet mentorship of me and every other person with a lived experience of disability.  His presence will be greatly missed.” – Rania Saab

John was warm and wise and a joy to be around. The AND family have many fond memories of John joining them in the office of a Friday evening as he waited for his beloved Suzanne to finish work. It was always a pleasure and a joy to spend time with John.

AND Team Members

“I will always remember John, his infectious good humour and passion for making our world more inclusive and accessible. Every person counts, and every person can make a difference. A real trailblazer.

I was so privileged to have been able to get to know John during my time at AND, I always enjoyed my chats with John when he would visit the AND office on a Friday afternoon on his way out to dinner with Suzanne. It was a lovely way to end the week, a wrap up of what we’d achieved, what was next on our agenda for change, always delivered with a side of cheeky humour hurrying of Suzanne to finish off that last email – eager to get to dinner and a nice glass of wine.” – Emily Matthews (Nee Sparling)

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have known John, even just a little bit, through Suzanne and the support he always showed for the work we do at AND. Whether it be a comment on a social media post about internships for students with disability, or words of wisdom on his weekly visits to the office, he was our ever-present fan-club captain. How lucky we are to keep his legacy alive in continuing the important work we do at AND, and to celebrate the incredible achievements of his life.

Mostly what I will remember about John, and will carry with me as a lesson, is the obvious and ever-present love, kindness, and respect he showed others. It is something I think is rare, and remarkable, and something we need more of in this world.” – Stephanie Littlewood

“John’s support for the work we did at AND was so evident. He would share our online posts weekly without fail to his many followers. John will always be a part of the AND team. His legacy lives on through the impact he made on employers’ disability awareness and the employment outcomes of Australians with disability.” – Isabel Heiner

“An unwavering commitment to encourage others to succeed. A Tutor to many through his influencing words for change, action and progress. With his doggedness for a better world, mastery in communications and grounding to his cherished family, he was a truly incredible man. These attributes are part of the foundations of AND and we will be reminded of John’s contributions through our ongoing determination and success.” – Amy Whalley

John’s legacy will continue and he will be remembered, for his generous contribution, his unwavering commitment to inclusion of people with disability, and his encouragement of others. Vale John Little

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