Donate

Esme Tombleson Awards

Esme Tombleson was the co-founder of the national Multiple Sclerosis Society in 1961 and from 1975 was president for many years. She was also founder and president for many years of the Gisborne branch and on the International Federation of the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s executive. In 1987 she received the rarely awarded gold medal for distinguished services to Multiple Sclerosis.

In honour of her work, the MS Society of NZ offers the Esme Tombleson Award annually to people in New Zealand for the ‘Person with MS of the Year’ and ‘Caregiver of the Year', which are presented at the MS Society AGM.  The nominations for this award are organised through the Regional Societies and Co-ordinated through MSNZ every September.

About Esme Tombleson

Esme Tombeson was born in Australia in 1917 and grew up there. She had been a talented ballet dancer since childhood, and, while studying Economics at university, joined a Russian Company touring Australia as an emergency replacement. She qualified as a professional ballet teacher and performed with other touring European and British ballet and opera companies.

In World War II Esme was an expert signaller in Australia’s Women’s Auxiliary Signalling Corps. Another of her jobs, at sub-Ministerial level, was to keep key workers out of the Armed Forces. She was the first woman to do such a job job at this high level. After the war she helped return servicemen re-enter the workforce, wrote radio scripts and trained ballet teachers. In 1950, holidaying in New Zealand, she met Gisborne farmer Tom Tombleson. They married and farmed Burnage Station, 75kms form Gisborne.

Gisborne’s isolation and lack of services prompted Esme to pursue a political career and she became our first woman Member of Parliament, a position she held form 1960 to 1972. She was likened to a terrier dog: "if there was an issue affecting Gisborne and Wellington hadn’t heard about it or didn’t want to hear about it, she ensured they did and that something was done about it". She featured in newspaper cartoons, unusual for a rural and female politician then. While she was MP this region boomed. Major roads were reconstructed, bridges were built, major city buildings erected and air services improved. In 1965 she led the New Zealand delegation to the International Parliamentary Union Conference in Canada – the first woman to do so.

Mrs Tombleson worked tirelessly for the district’s rural and fishing industries. She was convinced Gisborne should be the tuna industry’s base (hoping to halt the increasing Japenese presence) and she wanted a tuna cannery here.

In the 1960s Gisborne became New Zealand’s second fishing port and home for New Zealand’s first tuna boat. Esme’s full tuna dream never eventuated.

In 1961 Esme was a co-founder of the national Multiple Sclerosis Society and from 1975 was president for many years. She was also founder and president for many years of the Gisborne branch and on the International Federation of the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s executive. In 1987 she received the rarely awarded gold medal for distinguished services to Multiple Sclerosis.



Home | About MS | Living with MSGet Involved | News & Research |Contact Us 
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy
2010 © Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand

Esme Tombleson Person with MS of the Year 2015

In 2006 Sarah O’Neill was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. A mother, wife and author she has dedicated her life to showing people that there is life beyond MS. The panel were extremely impressed by Sarah’s sense of community action and her strong focus on promoting a health lifestyle to the youth of today.

Since her diagnosis Sarah and her family moved from Auckland City to the country to live a happier healthier lifestyle. Due to fatigue and other problematic MS symptoms returning to the workplace did not seem like a viable option.

On a personal level the family’s move enabled Sarah to grow their own fresh food and improve her wellbeing to the point of being ‘too healthy’ for the new treatments. Stemming from this lifestyle change Sarah progressed into writing about her gardening and has now authored 2 books; one documenting the journey from city slicker to county bumpkin and the other to encourage families to get out into the garden and grow fresh food together.

Beyond her own blog Sarah also writes for the NZ Herald in their Bite and Plus supplement each season, has a column on the Go Gardening website and contributes also to their paper magazine. Sarah encourages families to grow their own food in articles in the Natural Parent magazine and on Kiwifamilies.co.nz.

Sarah doesn’t just sit behind her words however she has her own Youtube chanel, is a Yates Brand Ambassador, speaks to groups about the benefits of growing food, has been on TV and helps out at her local school garden, mentoring and teaching others who want to garden.

The mother of two growing boys may freely admits that sometimes things do get too much and her old symptoms rear their head. However due to the nature of her work she is able to continue to write and share her healthy eating message from her bed. Nothing will stop her.

Sarah does not hide the fact that she has MS but encourages others to look after their health. Supported by the Auckland MS Society and her family Sarah has been able to get through difficult times with her MS which inspires her to encourage others.

To nominate someone you know who is deserving of recognition like Sarah email info@msnz.org.nz for an application form.