Daylesford local, Anneke Deutsch, has been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the King’s Birthday honours list.

Anneke has been recognised “for service to the community through a range of roles” and the list of roles is lengthy, varied and extensive.

After an initial Batchelor’s degree in fine arts (sculpture), Anneke did a subsequent degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics and became one of the first women in Australia to work in what was a male-dominated profession. During her working life, she nurtured many women easing their pathway into the profession. After a clinical career at the Austin Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Centre in Ballarat and an academic career at La Trobe University, she volunteered for six months in Kiribati establishing a prosthetics and orthotics service and training locals to provide basic clinical services.

Locally, she was a founding member of Hepburn Wind (now Hepburn Energy) and was the Secretary of the Sustainable Hepburn Association (SHARE). As Secretary of SHARE she organised the first rooftop solar bulk buy including a free array for the Daylesford Community Child Care Centre.

She has been active in promoting the cause of gay and lesbian people. In 1997, she helped to promote the first ChillOut festival in Daylesford and in 1998, she helped to organise a very successful Les Fest in Rutherford Park attended by more than 300 lesbian women. She has coordinated or helped organise many different events to support lesbian causes, including comedy galas in the city and smaller local events.

She has been involved for many years with the Matrix Guild of Victoria which exists to raise awareness of the health, housing and care needs of older lesbians. Anneke served as Secretary and President of Matrix and as Housing Officer. In that capacity she and other Matrix members have been instrumental in facilitating secure housing for older lesbians of limited means, to date enabling seven new apartments in Melbourne through her fundraising and project management expertise.

She is a cofounder of a local not for profit group, Older Women In Cohousing (WINC), a group of older women who are creating a 32-home cohousing community for themselves in Castlemaine, based on principles of sustainability, accessibility, social interaction and inclusion.

Asked about what the award means to her Anneke replied, “ I’m most proud that my service to older lesbians is being recognised with this mainstream honour.

“Social acceptance has changed so much over my lifetime. When I first started working in the early 1980s, I was closeted because coming out would have negatively affected my career. In the early 1990s I couldn’t nominate my partner as the beneficiary of my super – only heterosexual spouses could benefit. I questioned my super fund about this injustice, but it took until 2008 for the law to change.

“My lesbian partner and I had friends who left straight marriages for a woman partner and lost custody of their kids as a result. Their ex-husbands could argue in court that their ex-wives were unsuitable custodial parents simply because they were lesbian. It’s easier now, but still there are other battles that we must fight as same-sex attracted, lesbian-identified women,” she said.

Anneke was recognised earlier this year for her services and leadership by being inducted into Hepburn Shire’s  Heather Mutimer Honour Roll as part of International Women’s Day celebrations.

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