Marion Bruce was a pioneer in bringing autism awareness to New Zealand and improving the situations of autism families and their loved ones by effectively starting the organization presently called Autism New Zealand. Her youngest son Andrew has autism. Marion Bruce was born on June 26, 1925, in Christchurch, New Zealand, and passed away on February 25, 2016, in Wellington, New Zealand, at the age of 90. Marion was predeceased by her husband Dr. Lyell Bruce. She is survived by her children: Evan, Alison, Mary, and Andrew. Her obituary is listed at the New Zealand Herald. Marion Bruce holds the distinction of being the first person from New Zealand to be featured at Autism Light. She will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.
Autism Mother: When Marion Bruce was placed in the role of being an Autism Mother, there was little known about autism in New Zealand. It was written of her that, “Marion Bruce spent her life trying to make a better world for her autistic son. In doing so, she helped scores of other autistic children and their families (Access, Hillary Stace, March 31, 2016).”
Autism New Zealand: Marion Bruce was effectively the founder of what is now Autism New Zealand, an organization she was a lifelong member of. It was her passionate efforts that helped convince the Intellectually Handicapped Children’s Association in New Zealand to recognize autism in New Zealand and set up an autism sub-committee in 1969. This group later became the Autistic Association and then became what it is today known as Autism New Zealand. Visit the Autism New Zealand Website to learn more about their ongoing work.
Tribute from Phillipa Barker: Philippa Barker is the former national secretary of Autism New Zealand. He wrote these words about Marion Bruce’s important contribution to autism in New Zealand.
She was the go-to person for information and advice on autism in New Zealand when no-one knew anything about it, when there were no resources or facilities. In the UK there were schools for autistic children but not here.
She lobbied for facilities and to have autism recognised as a condition. She travelled abroad to conferences, often at her own expense, to learn about the condition and brought back information to parents here (As quoted in Access, Hillary Stace, March 31, 2016).
Conversation with Autism Pioneer: Marion Bruce is mentioned in Adam Feinstein’s important work called A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Adam Feinstein was Autism Light #347.
Education: Marion Bruce earned her BA in languages from the University of New Zealand in 1947.
Queen’s Service Order: Marion Bruce was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Service Order in 1986 for services to the community. Her volunteer efforts included serving as an advisor to Mana Parents Centre.
For more information on Marion Bruce read the tribute article to her in Access on March 31, 2016 by Hillary Stace. This profile at Autism Light is indebted to their understanding of Marion Bruce’s life and background.
Special thanks to Marion Bruce for her leadership to shine a light for autism in New Zealand. The autism community is grateful for her life and work. May the memory of her passion for autism inspire others to give of themselves to make a difference for those who need a voice.
Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.