Annie's Last Paper Not Coming Out
In a bizarre replay of Annie's Coming Out (1980) the Department of Human Services is preventing Anne McDonald's oldest friend, Leonie McFarlane, from delivering a presentation in her memory.
Leonie’s case is to be taken to the Supreme Court today by Ron Meldrum, QC.
Anne McDonald and Leonie McFarlane were both admitted to St Nicholas Hospital as young children because they had severe cerebral palsy and couldn't talk intelligibly. Anne left the hospital after winning a writ of Habeas Corpus in 1979, and went on to graduate from university and win a National Disability Award. Leonie remained in state care.
Early in 2010 Anne and Leonie developed a Powerpoint presentation comparing their lives in and out of state care. They planned to deliver the presentation together for the AGOSCI national conference on non-speech communication starting in Adelaide on 11 May - next Wednesday.
After Anne's sudden death last October Leonie received a FaHCSIA-funded scholarship to attend the conference and deliver the presentation with the assistance of Anne's carers - Rosemary Crossley and her partner Chris Borthwick.
All permissions were obtained and arrangements finalised with DHS on March 31. On April 21 DHS suddenly banned Leonie from attending the conference, and banned her from having any contact with Crossley and Borthwick. When questioned the Minister's office said "there is no push at all from the department to stop this happening, rather the individual's guardian has made the decision".
On May 3 DHS admitted that Leonie, who is 48, does not have a guardian. Nonetheless the department and the Minister are continuing to pass the buck, with neither prepared to withdraw the bans.
Today Rosemary Crossley said "You cannot imagine how distressing this is, both for Leonie (who saw Anne as family) and for us. Anne fought for ordinary human rights for people with disabilities. It's heartbreaking to discover that her struggle was in vain - that in 30 years the bureaucracy has learnt nothing about essential freedoms, and the right of all people to a life worth living."
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