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.
Vale Anne Deveson, you gave us so much over a long productive life so your friends honour your contributions to making society more civil!
— eva cox (@evacox) December 12, 2016
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.
Too much sadness. Georgia Blain and her loved mother anne Deveson die within 4 days of each other a terrible loss for all of us
— Wendy McCarthy AO (@takingalongview) December 12, 2016
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.”
— Caroline Jones (@Caroline_J) December 13, 2016