Anne McDonald

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Anne McDonald (11 January 1961 – 22 October 2010) was an Australian author and an activist for the rights of people with communication disability.

McDonald was born on 11 January 1961 in Seymour, Victoria, a small Australian town. As a result of a birth injury she developed severe athetoid cerebral palsy. She was diagnosed as having severe intellectual disability and at the age of three was placed by her parents in St. Nicholas Hospital, Melbourne, a Health Commission (government) institution for people classified with severe disability, and lived there without education or therapy for eleven years. During her time in the hospital she was neglected and starved and at age 16 she weighed only 12 kilograms. Despite her ill-treatment, McDonald considered herself "a lucky one", who escaped through a stroke of good fortune. By her own reckoning, 163 of her friends died in the institution while she was there.[1]

In 1977, when McDonald was 16, Rosemary Crossley was able to establish communication with her through a method known as facilitated communication training. Once McDonald was able to make her wishes known she sought her discharge from St. Nicholas. Her parents and the hospital authorities denied her request on the grounds that the reality of her communication had not been established. In 1979, when McDonald turned eighteen, she commenced a habeas corpus action in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the Health Commission in order to win the right to leave the institution.[2][3] The court accepted that Anne McDonald’s communication was her own and allowed her to leave the hospital and live with Rosemary Crossley. More Supreme Court proceedings and further tests were required to win the right to manage her own financial affairs.[4][5]

McDonald wrote her story in Annie’s Coming Out, a book she co-authored with Rosemary Crossley in 1980 (the film Annie's Coming Out based on the book won several Australian Film Institute awards and was released in the U.S. under the title 'Test of Love'). The book has been translated into German and recorded on tape. It won the inaugural Allen Lane Award for the best book of the year dealing with disability.

After leaving the institution McDonald got her Higher School Certificate (University entrance) qualification at night school and went on to take a humanities degree at Deakin University, completed in 1993. She authored a number of articles and papers on disability, spoke at conferences, and was active in the disability rights movement, with special emphasis on the right to communicate.[6][7][8]

On the night of 3 December 2008 McDonald received the Personal Achievement Award in the Australian 2008 National Disability Awards at the Australian Federal Parliament House as part of that year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

McDonald died of a heart attack on 22 October 2010.[9]



  1. ^ Carman, Gerry "Persistence and passion speak loudest" (obituary). The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2010
  2. ^ David J. Clark, Gerard McCoy, "Habeas corpus: Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific", pp. 120, Federation Press, Sydney (2000), ISBN 1-86287-302-X
  3. ^ Susan Hayes and Robert Hayes, "Simply Criminal", pp. 51, The Law Book Company Limited, Sydney (1984), ISBN 0-455-20279-6
  4. ^ Rosemary Crossley, "Speechless: Facilitating Communication for People Without Voices", Dutton Adult (1997), ISBN 0-525-94156-8
  6. ^ Alternate home website
  7. ^ Intelligence goes beyond motor skill
  8. ^ Facebook page []
  9. ^ "annie-has-gone-but-her-legacy-and-fighting-spirit-live-on". The Age

Add to fn 3: The Queen and the Health Commission of Victoria, George Lipton and Dennis McGinn, ex parte Anne McDonald, Unreported Victoria Supreme Court [1979].

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