When Bill Burns was elected inaugural President of the Mentally Incurable Children’s Association, he threw himself into the role with great dedication and energy. He held this position until 1975, apart from a few months in 1956 when Frank Anderson replaced him.
He and his wife Ena were the first to respond to Frank Anderson’s call in the Daily News and he worked with Frank to organise the meeting at which the Mentally Incurable Children’s Association came into being.
The Burns were the parents of a son with severe intellectual disabilities. They, like the Andersons, had been faced with the choice between family relationship and health breakdowns, and placing their son Ronald in the Claremont Mental Hospital, which they were determined not to do.
Throughout the 20 years of his presidency Bill Burns negotiated with and lobbied bureaucrats and parliamentarians for funds, organised busy bees for parents, took part in fundraising drives and kept an eye on the day-to-day functioning of Nulsen Haven.
His wife Ena put the same tireless energy into running the Ladies’ Auxiliary, of which she was president for 21 years.
In 1973 Bill and Ena Burns received 6IX Golden Community Award Certificates in recognition of the work they had done for Nulsen Haven, but their major awards were still to come. In 1978 in the New Year’s Honours List, Bill was nominated for the MBE and Ena a BEM. They were the first married couple in Western Australia to receive Imperial Honours at the same time.