The clue to Anne Walsh's approach to life could well reside in her chosen sport.
Endurance and punching through tough patches are hallmarks of middle distance running. Just as on the track, former Paralympian Ms Walsh has taken on life's challenges and been rewarded for her effort.
The 56-year-old former Goulburn woman was earlier this month awarded in the Queens' Birthday Honours List with an Order of Australia for service to people with an intellectual disabilty.
"I'm pretty proud of myself," Ms Walsh told The Post.
"When I found out (in April) I just thought 'wow,' but I had to keep it quiet until the Queen's Birthday announcement."
The now Chifley resident has Tuberous Sclerosis, a genetic condition that can affect the kidneys, lungs and eyesight, and cause epilepsy.
But she hasn't let it get in her way, despite periods of hospitalisation.
Born to Mary and Barry Walsh of Gurrundah, near Goulburn, Anne attended The Crescent School, Goulburn Public School and the local High School's special education classes.
At age 18 she left the family property to live at L'Arche Genesaret in Chifley, an intentional, residential community of people with and without an intellectual disability.
Canberra L'Arche leader Brendan Price said Ms Walsh was an outstanding ambassador who exemplified the L'Arche mission in "making known the gifts of people with an intellectual disability."
"Anne is recognised within L'Arche, here in Canberra and around Australia, as one of our founding leaders and has been a quiet but confident advocate for others living with the experience of intellectual disability," he said.
"Anne has helped educate countless assistants who have worked with L'Arche over the years and has mentored younger residents with a disability.
"She is very open and courageous about her own disability and how she has continually overcome anxiety throughout her life, and encourages others to do the same."
Ms Walsh said mentorship was very important to her and she regularly gave talks to schools about L'Arche and its role in growing people.
The organisation supports 23 residents in seven homes across the ACT.
Anne has been a quiet but confident advocate for others living with the experience of intellectual disability.Brendan Price, L'Arche
In 2011, Ms Walsh represented Canberra on the National Listening and Speaking Group, a sub-committee of the National Board of L'Arche, to advocate for members with an intellectual disability. Mr Price said she flowered in this leadership role and served as a founding member until 2017 when her term was fulfilled. She continues to mentor the current Group representatives, providing encouragement and moral support.
Athletics, which runs through the Walsh family, has always been a part of her life. Ms Walsh fondly recalled Goulburn's Lilac City Festival fun run at which she was the first female home in 1989.
In the same year, as part of the Australian team for the first World Championships for the Intellectually Disabled in Sweden, she won a silver medal for the 1500 metres event. More success followed with a fourth place in the 1992 Madrid Paralympics, also in the 1500m.
These days she's not competing quite as hard but still loves to keep fit.
Up until last year she worked as a dietary maid at Calvary John James Private Hospital. Mr Price said her "gentle and caring qualities, along with her conscientious work ethic," were recognised with several staff awards over more than 20 years of "dedicated service."
Soon she'll be turning her hand to tending the rose gardens at Old Parliament House.
Ms Walsh thanked her family and L'Arche for their encouragement and support.
Her sister, Jean-Maree said Anne was the eldest of seven children and an inspiration to the family.
"Mum and Dad's attitude helped in that she was not treated in a special way. She was responsible for her own behaviour and she's adopted that inclusive attitude that has got her to where she is today," she said.
Her family will be front and centre when Anne receives her OAM at Government House in September.
As for her advice to others living with a disabililty:
"I encourage people to enjoy life, spend time with each other and encourage one another," Ms Walsh said.
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