Vale Anne Deveson, author, broadcaster & trailblazer, who has died at age 86.

Vale Anne Deveson, author, broadcaster & trailblazer, who has died at age 86. Source: VMEO

Australian author, broadcaster and film-maker Anne Deveson AO has died at age 86. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2014 and her death on Monday came days after her daughter, novelist Georgia Blain, died after a long battle with brain cancer.

Her son, Joshua, told the ABC his mother will be remembered as a champion.      

"Anne, my mum, was a pioneer, a social commentator. She represented so many people in the mental health industry, the human rights, women's rights and the film and radio industry and she will be deeply loved and deeply missed," he said.

Today she is remembered by friends and colleagues for having had a brilliant career, an optimistic character and an unrelenting drive to advocate for others.

Her career included working as a radio broadcaster, chairing the South Australian Film Corporation and being director of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. 

In 1983 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the media and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1993 for her community health work, particularly for promoting awareness of schizophrenia.

It was a subject she knew intimately well; her memoir, Tell Me I'm Here, explored her experience of schizophrenia with her son Jonathon who died of a drug overdose.  The book earned Deveson the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Non - Fiction Award for the book in 1991. She later turned the book into a film, Spinning Out. 

For Deveson, work was an integral part of her identity which she discovered with some reluctance upon being let go from 2GB. 

"I was unemployed – it was an extraordinary and illuminating experience," Deveson told Robin Hughes in 2004 for the ABC. "I hadn’t realised how much of my identity was bound up in my work. I had written critically of men whose identity was totally dependent on work...And then without work I felt depleted in some way. I felt fragile and I didn’t like it all."

The only upside to losing her job was the reaction it sparked. "On my final day of broadcasting there was a big demonstration. The Women's Electoral Lobby, the trade unions, the handicap children’s association, the mental health branch – all these groups came with placards saying “Anne for Lunch”, " she told the ABC.  "They came into the building and then into the studio. Management - which was a pretty small team - exited the building and called the Commonwealth police. It meant I made the television news that night."

Deveson famously appeared in a series of commercials for Omo - a decision she regretted before later embracing.

"I was asked to do the "dreaded" Omo ads for quite a bit of money and later I regretted it. My job was to stalk the neighbourhood and ask “What washing powder do you use?”, Deveson told Robin Hughes. 

For a period she was "snobby" about it and refused to talk about it. She came around however: it freed her up to do other work and even made it into one of Barry Humphry's skits. And as she acknowledged, she was forewarned "A colleague said "Do it by all means, but it will follow you forever".   

Her legacy is far bigger.  

Vale Anne Deveson. 

Georgina Dent

Georgina Dent is a Contributing Editor at Women's Agenda. She began her working life as a lawyer before building a career in journalism as an editor, reporter and recognised advocate for women. Follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here.    

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