It is with great sadness that the Australian Government mourns the passing earlier this week of Anne Deveson – acclaimed Australian journalist, broadcaster, filmmaker, social commentator, activist, author and leading mental health advocate.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley paid tribute to Anne Deveson’s enormous contribution to Australian community life over many years, and her wonderful energy, fierce intellect and passion for justice that she brought to many aspects of her life.
“Anne Deveson was an activist through her journalism, giving voice to the concerns of ordinary women in the early part of her career in radio,” Minister Ley said.
“She shared her life and her talents most generously to make things better for others, and her unflinching courage in the face of challenges that life threw at her has enabled great change in how our society views some crucial issues, especially mental health issues.”
Anne lost her son Jonathan to suicide after his battle with serious mental illness, and in 1986 co-founded the Schizophrenia Australia Foundation, now SANE Australia. Fearless in her advocacy, those in the field attest to how she fundamentally changed the conversation about mental illness in Australia.
“This is perhaps her greatest legacy, that she turned the family tragedy of her elder son’s schizophrenia into a movement that has really transformed attitudes, treatment and support in the field of mental health in this country,” Minister Ley said.
“There is not one community, nor perhaps one Australian, who has not been touched by the impact of mental ill health and suicide, and Anne Deveson gave us all the gift of allowing us to talk openly about these issues, bringing fundamental compassion and inclusiveness to the way we approach people with mental health issues, and their families.
“Without her selflessness on this matter, we would all be poorer for it.”
In recent years, she faced her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s with her characteristic warmth and fortitude, and spoke frankly and eloquently about her own decline from the disease which also claimed her mother, her grandmother and a great aunt.
“The prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia in our community is one of the challenges of our modern age, and again Anne’s generosity in openly sharing her own experience of this has contributed to our understanding of the condition and its course, increased awareness and enabled different and better approaches to care to progress,” said Minister Ley.