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Having a disabled son taught me about love

Ann Sherry and her son Nicholas. Photography by Nick Cubbin. Styling by Jamela Duncan.

Ann Sherry and her son Nicholas. Photography by Nick Cubbin. Styling by Jamela Duncan.

Ann Sherry – head of cruise line Carnival Australia – is one of Australia’s most respected CEOs.

She is the woman credited with introducing maternity leave to corporate Australia in the mid-’90s  when she was an executive at Westpac, the former head of the Bank of Melbourne and the first woman to run a bank in New Zealand.

But her greatest achievement is seeing her son, Nicholas, flourish.

Nick, 37, is Ann and her husband Michael’s only son and he has Down syndrome. He also has his own apartment alongside Anna and Michael’s home, west of Sydney, and a growing independence.

“Having Nicholas in our lives is one of the most important, wonderful things that has ever happened to us,” Ann tells The Weekly.

“He has taught us so much, not just about disability and what it is to live with it, but also about ourselves, about love.”

Having grown up in a world she describes as “neat”, Ann says welcoming g Nicholas was “probably the greatest wake-up call of my life”.

When Nick was born in September 1976, with what doctors said was an “unidentifiable disability”, Ann was devastated. She was 21 didn’t know what to do. She went through 24 hours of deep mourning. But a ward sister who came to her bedside shocked Ann back to reality.

“She sat down with Ann and said, ‘You have a baby. You are a mother. He has a disability. He needs you. And you need him. Get on with it’,” her husband Michael tells The Weekly.

From the time she brought home the baby, Ann was determined that Nick’s disability would not stop him having a wonderful life.

“I want to tell you something about my mum,” says Nick, 37.

“She loves hugs. She loves Christmas. She loves her mum. She loves big family get-togethers and she loves telling jokes. But most of all, she loves hugs, which is just fine by me because I love hugs, too.”

Read more of this story in the January issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

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