Anne: The Advocacy Legacy of an AAC Pioneer - Institutionalisation

Anne’s Institutionalisation

Anne McDonald was born in 1961 with severe athetoid cerebral palsy.  At the age of four she was placed in St. Nicholas Hospital, a Victorian Health Commission institution for children thought to be severely or profoundly mentally retarded.  She remained there for the next fourteen years.  She was starved and neglected, remaining the height of a four-year-old.  She received no therapy, and could not walk or talk.

Her account of what she went through was the first report ever to emerge from the garbage bins Australia reserved for the speechless.  

“Humour was discouraged because laughter was confused with epilepsy and treated by injecting Valium or paraldehyde. 

The nurses had never seen physically handicapped people and had no idea which responses we shared with normal kids and which were significant indications of distress requiring intervention.”



This is Anne at the age of sixteen, sharing a baby buggy with her best friend. 
Anne weighed 12 kilos (28 lbs) – the same as she’d weighed when she’d entered the institution at the age of four.
“In our lifetime, children were starved to death within a short walk of Parliament House. 
That should not be forgotten.”


Go to Anne's Escape

Anne McDonald Centre. 538 Dandenong Road, Caulfield 3162 Victoria, Australia Ph: 03 9509 6324, Fax: 03 9509 6321
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