March 21, 2023 BY Edwina Williams
Peaceful place: Anne Tudor regularly walks the Dementia Friendly Forest and Sensory Trail with her service dog,
ANNE Tudor was still a teenager when her 24-year-old brother was killed in a car accident.Life already “felt serious,” and subsequently her caring, social justice-centred attitude emerged.Moving from Gordon to Rabaul in Papua New Guinea for three years, she worked as a teacher.
“I’d had this idealistic idea, which was truly false, that people in Papua New Guinea were less advantaged than us,” Ms Tudor said.
“They have this wonderful Wantok system where communities support each other. They lived in villages, and if one person had a job, the money went to the family in the village.“I learnt a great deal from people, and it was really helpful for me to live in an environment that had a very different cultural background.
I grew up a lot.”Although offered a scholarship to study psychology, by 1973 Ms Tudor was instead working at a boys’ school in Altona.Fifty-six different nationalities made up the community, which she said enriched her life.“I really enjoyed that, but psychology never went away in my mind,” she said.
“I’d been working as a student counsellor before I became deputy principal, and that’s where my natural inclination was.
”Ms Tudor shifted her career to clinical psychology, and at that time, her mother was showing signs of dementia.Moving to Ballarat to support her “wonderful” parents, she wanted to learn as much about the disease as possible.But by 2010, Ms Tudor’s partner Edie Mayhew received her own early-onset dementia diagnosis at age 59, and showed signs by 2015.“I loved the work that I was doing, but I loved Edie more, so I retired in 2016,” Ms Tudor said.
“Dementia advocacy work was a way for us to have enjoyable experiences, meeting people and travelling, while dealing with a difficult situation.”The couple co-founded Bigger Hearts Dementia Friendly Ballarat, and its alliance; a call to arms for people to grow their hearts in support of anyone experiencing discrimination.
In 2021, Woowookarung Regional Park’s award-winning Dementia Friendly Forest and Sensory Trail opened; a project the pair sparked before Ms Mayhew died in 2020.
“I was numb for 12 months, but I was able to go on, because this has been the most satisfying and rewarding thing I’ve done, working with other likeminded people on something that has a positive effect on the general community,” Ms Tudor said.
“No matter how small an act is, if it’s done for the right reasons, genuinely and authentically for others, then you get so much satisfaction.“It’s a wonderful feeling to be involved in something that meets a need for others; people with dementia, carers, children and adults with disabilities, and the general population.
“Twenty-seven thousand people have visited the park, and it’s my joy to come here too.
”A member of the LGBTIQA+ community, Ms Tudor said she’s always been hyper-aware of discrimination of minorities and cultural groups.“My interest has always been in responding positively to adversity as a way of feeling less helpless, knowing it can make a difference,” she said.
“I’ve been able to do that both as a carer, and partner, of someone with dementia. It’s the small acts of kindness that make a real difference.”In 2021, Ms Tudor was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia and named Victorian Senior of the Year.This month, her name’s been added to the Zonta Club of Ballarat’s Great Women honour roll.