Anne finds joy in walking with others


WHILE laughing with one of the residents of HOME in Queanbeyan as they drove to an appointment at Calvary Hospital, Anne Pratt was reminded of how much she enjoys what she does.

“It’s such fun being with them,” she says of those she supports as manager of the facility which, as its name suggests, provides a home for up to 19 people with chronic mental illness.

“When you see people at their lowest and you walk with them on their journey and see them come out the other end happy and cared for, it is such a joy.”

Mrs Pratt sees the part she plays in their lives as a privilege, not a job. She has not expected to be honoured for the four years she spent helping a dedicated group of community members bring Fr Peter Day’s vision for HOME to life, or the seven years she has spent managing it since.

Nor did she expect accolades for the time she spent volunteering at and coordinating St Benedict’s Community Day Centre in the years before HOME.

But the acknowledgement has come anyway, in the form of an Order of Australia Medal in the Australia Day Honours.

The medal has given Mrs Pratt cause to reflect on the success of HOME, which receives no government funding and relies on the goodwill of the community.

“I am really proud of it. It is beyond a passion for me. I have a real love for what I do and for the people,” she said.

“These people have real gifts and we help them recognise that so they can change their lives and not be defined by mental illness, which can take away the person they are and leave them as a shell.”

The residents and staff are like family members for Mrs Pratt, who feels the loss of any of them deeply.

This is especially poignant, since it was the death of her husband Bernie, who took his own life in 2001 after years of clinical depression, that prompted her to start volunteering at the St Benedict’s centre.

She says her 23-year marriage to Bernie “gave me a great understanding of what people with mental illness go through when they are sick”.

Sixteen years later, she is more convinced than ever this was meant to be her vocation. “I am at that stage in my life where I know God has had a hand in where I need to be,” she said.

Mrs Pratt is conscious of keeping a balance, however, taking time out with her two daughters and two granddaughters, and her other family members and friends, and slipping in a spot of golf where possible.

And she feels she has quite a few years left in the tank for HOME – if it will still have her, she emphasises – and for her commitment to raising awareness of mental illness in the community.

“I feel as if I have the energy to keep going for some time yet,” she said.