Over 60 years of drive for change
MS is a complex autoimmune condition that’s historically been poorly understood.
MS Plus was first known as the MS Society of Australia. The MS Society of Australia was founded in 1956 to drive public awareness and find the cause of and cure for MS. It was the first MS society in Australia and the fourth in the world – only eight years after the first society started in New York, USA.
In its first decade, the organisation was run from the home of founder Ron Phillips. Through the tireless efforts of many, public awareness of MS increased, and fundraising paved the way for new offices and treatment facilities.
Fast forward to today and MS Plus has become a leading source of information, advice and support for people affected by MS and other neurological conditions. Now a combined entity of the ACT, New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, we offer vital support and services including allied health, employment support, NDIS services, expert advice, wellbeing programs and peer support. We also fundraise for research into better treatments and ultimately one-day a cure for MS
About our pioneer: Ron Phillips
Ronald Alfred Phillips’ remarkable life was marked by two primary interests. The first was the Australian Navy, which he joined at the age of 13. The second was the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, which he helped form in 1956, and where he worked strenuously until his death ten years later.
After entering the navy as a cadet in 1922 and studying engineering, Phillips trained as an engineer in England, where he met his wife, Florence Beatrice Lyle. Here, he would also be appointed as a Sub-Lieutenant. Upon returning to Australia, he joined HMAS Canberra, spent three years at the Flinders Naval Depot, and did a tour on duty on the cruiser HMAS Sydney.
Phillips’ journey with MS
Phillips first experienced symptoms of MS when little was known about the condition. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he was engaged in Sydney dockyard duties as a Lieutenant and Third Assistant to the Engineer Manager. He worked night and day, converting merchant ships to fighting ships and doing repairs and alterations to warships. It was under this enormous pressure that Phillips first experienced double vision – a common symptom of MS.
Assuming it was due to overwork, Phillips ignored this symptom and continued dedicating himself to his duties. In July 1940, he joined the HMAS Australia as Lieutenant-Commander – a ship he actively served on until 1944. He was then appointed to HMAS Adelaide as Acting Commander, before shortly being promoted to Commander a few short months later. Phillips was reportedly the youngest in the Navy at the time. At the end of 1945, he was Base Engineer Officer in Darwin.
While his episodes of double vision increased, other alarming symptoms appeared, causing distress and misunderstanding. With the loss of balance and muscle spasms in his legs, rumours circulated about his sobriety, revealing the lack of understanding around this condition at the time. In spite of his symptoms, Phillips continued to serve in the Navy.
From diagnosis to establishing the MS Society of Australia
It wasn’t until late 1956 when Phillips was formally diagnosed with MS. In January 1957, he was invalided out of the Navy.