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Queen’s Birthday honour recognises service to Parkinson’s

Jun. 07, 2020

Anne Atkin OAM is one of those special individuals who keeps giving to the community, no matter what she is going through herself.

She was single-handedly responsible for setting up Painting with Parkinson’s in Victoria and has written two books, Living and Laughing with Parkinson’s and Still Laughing.

Just last year she organised a fundraising art exhibition and picnic in the beautiful gardens of the historic Berwick Old Cheese Factory and she has plans to introduce Painting with Parkinson’s in her home town of Warragul, where she helps out at the local Parkinson’s Peer Support Group, before the end of the year.

This is all still while running her original Berwick Painting with Parkinson’s group and mentoring and sharing ideas with other group leaders through the Victorian Painting with Parkinson’s Network.

Anne’s commitment to others was formally recognised when she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List for service to people living with Parkinson's.

Anne said she could have been “knocked over by a feather” when she received the letter from the Governor-General confirming the award – after initially informing her she had been nominated in March.

“It was an unexpected honour I never anticipated receiving. I feel immensely proud and cannot wait to show it to my group,” Anne said.

She will be officially presented with the medal by the Governor of Victoria at a special ceremony at Government House in September

Anne was working as a librarian and school art teacher when diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005. She soon put her skills to use in the Parkinson’s community, as a volunteer librarian and Ambassador with Parkinson’s Victoria, speaking to community groups across Melbourne. But it was her decision to set up a therapeutic arts program, combining her passion for art with her desire to help others with Parkinson’s, that’s made the greatest impact.

Painting with Parkinson’s was created to help people with Parkinson’s to express their creativity through painting in a social setting, which in turn brings positive physical and emotional benefits for participants.

From the initial one group in Berwick that started with four attendees, some groups have come and gone, but today there are six Painting with Parkinson’s groups in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

An example of Anne’s resilience – and creativity - came to the fore in 2012 when an arson attack on the Old Cheese Factory, where the group met, destroyed much of the art work, supplies and equipment.

Anne convened a Devonshire tea breakfast and proceeded with the class, where participants used charcoal from the building to capture the blaze and burnt out remains to create a wall mural.

In the same year, Anne was nominated and named the Parkinson’s Victoria 2012 Sir Zelman Cowen Award recipient.

Anne was nominated for the award by then Berwick Painting with Parkinson’s member, Michael Dee Prose for her “expertise given with unquestionable selfless voluntary kindness by her utmost concentrated six year development of the Painting with Parkinson’s program in Victoria.”

“Anne has touched the lives of so many Parkinson’s people and their carers with her teaching and enthusiasm of her classes. She has delivered so much for so many for no reward other than knowing her fellow ‘Parkies’ now have purpose and enjoyment in their lives,” Michael wrote at the time.

Anne’s talent saw her achieve international recognition in 2010 when a painting depicting the Parkinson’s symptom of sweating through the face of a female, was displayed at the 2010 World Parkinson Congress in Scotland.

But more-so, her passion and dedication has been for the benefit of others, and she is credited with using her talent to ‘give a voice’ people with Parkinson’s.

She did this through art shows and facilitating professional development workshops across Victoria to spread the prototype of her Berwick Painting with Parkinson’s Group to a wider audience.

She also allowed for her artwork to be used on Parkinson’s Victoria merchandise sold to raise funds for the organisation, such as Christmas cards for quite a few years.

“I love doing things for people - I love making people laugh and I just find that people with Parkinson’s can go down so quickly, especially at the moment when they are stuck in a house so if I can give them some pleasure, and help them in any way, it works out well.”

Parkinson’s Victoria CEO Emma Collin said the Queen’s Birthday honour was fitting for a devoted and passionate woman who had positively changed the lives of so many people with Parkinson’s and their families.

“Anne has raised the profile of Parkinson’s in the community in various ways over many years, but it is through her building inclusion and support for people living with Parkinson’s through painting that she has made the strongest mark,” Emma said.

“I congratulate Anne on this wonderful accolade and on behalf of the Victorian Parkinson’s community, thank her for her continued dedication and compassion that means so much, to so many people.”


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