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RiP Anne Deveson

Journalist, author and social commentator Anne Deveson has died, aged 86.

Deveson was the author of the memoirs Resilience (A&U) and Waging Peace: Reflections on Peace and War from an Unconventional Woman (A&U). Her 1991 book, Tell Me I’m Here (Penguin), told the story of her son Jonathan who died struggling with schizophrenia. Deveson went on to become an advocate for mental health awareness, and also helped to establish the national body Schizophrenia Australia.

She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1983 for service to the media and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1993 for service to community health.

Deveson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. Her death follows the death of her daughter novelist Georgia Blain four days prior.

Allen & Unwin chairman Patrick Gallagher writes:

Resilience was the title of one of the wonderful books we published for Anne, and there could be no more appropriate word to describe the character of this remarkable woman. She had an enduring passion for life, an unbounded optimism in the face of whatever hands fate dealt her. One of the great rewards of publishing her was to meet her crowds of admiring readers and appreciate the respect in which she was held. Serious and sweeping though Anne’s subjects were, she always retained the sense of mischief and humour to be expected from a one-time panellist on Beauty and the Beast. Before her illness she insisted that her next book would be on Flirting. That I would have loved to publish.’

Deveson’s editor Jackie Yowell writes:

‘The personal and the political were always entwined for Anne Deveson—and her writing illuminated a life that was honest, wholehearted, self-reflective and always seeking to further a society as fully humane as we are able to be.

‘I worked editorially with Anne on three of her books over some 30 years, and we became good friends. I read early drafts of her first book, Tell Me I’m Here, while she was struggling with her beloved son Jonathan’s torment with schizophrenia, and the final version, which was edited after he had died. I was also privileged to read some of her daughter Georgia’s early manuscripts, which showed the wonderful promise of the talents she was to develop as a novelist.

‘Anne’s books—which were deeply personal while also probing societal norms and values—centred on her consistent preoccupations: mental illness, resilience, and peace; and they resonated with a wide, thoughtful readership. Despite the seriousness of her topics, it was her humour—often quite black—that propelled her from despair to optimism, critical to constructive—or at least to understanding. It was especially these qualities in the writer and the woman that made working together such a rewarding experience, despite Anne’s creative nonfiction being something of a “discontinuous narrative”, with manuscripts arriving in pieces. Yet always they grew organically into books that were satisfying, stimulating ‘good reads.

‘As writer and friend, Anne will be greatly missed. That her daughter Georgia has also written her final words means that Australian letters has lost two cherished voices within days of each other.’


Category: Obituaries