Humans of the Wheatbelt

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a disability project that celebrates inclusion within the community.

There is always someone in each story that has a disability whether it is the human, interviewer, photographer or writer.

I nearly had second thoughts when I was asked whether or not I would be prepared to talk about my background and why I came to live in the Wheatbelt. Both my parents were English but I was born in India. My father was in the British Army and I was brought up in a totally artificial society created by the Raj, with Victorian rules and prejudices inflicted upon females, I called it living in a fish bowl.

Both my parents came from a little Mill town in Lancashire called Mossley. My mother (one of four children) was orphaned at 8 years old. Went to work at an early age, and worked her way up to become a sample hand in a weaving mill. India must have been a shock for her going from being poor and working hard to a large house with servants and nothing to do. Army families are constantly on the move from the plains to the hills and back again to avoid the heat. When the war came to Burma, my father was in Calcutta and Mum and the children stayed in Ranikhet, a summer hill station and cut off in the winter by snow.

My mother worked out very early on that it was easier to keep the same servants rather than going through the employment hoops every six months or so. The upside to this arrangement is that the servants are very good at organising constant relocations from packing, travel arrangement (accommodation and food) to unpacking when the destination is reached. The down side being that my mother took on total responsibility to house, feed and provide a doctor (if required) not only for the servants but also their families.

My mother was a great one for embracing everybody’s culture. We had Hindu’s, Muslims, Gurkhas and Sikhs amongst our servants. We celebrated all the festivals and it makes you more tolerant. My mother was absolutely horrified when one of the servants had a baby girl and just left her. A boy brings in money, whereas a girl needed a dowry. If a woman had a girl it was considered her fault. That was the culture. We lived in India until 1948. I think a lot of people don’t realise that is you’re born in another country and you can’t go back, you are virtually a displaced person.

As a woman in an Army culture you have to protect your reputation. My brothers would do whatever they liked. The first time I was allowed to go out on my own without a male family escort, was when I was nineteen. I went to the New Years Ball at Raffles Hotel in Singapore and my partner was gay, so he was considered safe! My mother believed it wasn’t a lifestyle choice, but that you were born that way.

I moved to York for the arts, craft and festival that used to be here. The days of the Jazz Festival have long gone but one hopes that it will come back. York has tourist potential in spades, having most of the attractions that Margaret River has but only one hour from Perth. Olive oil, bread, olives, beef, lamb, pork, macadamia nuts and Motor Museum, yet York isn’t promoted in the same way.

I have served as a Councillor in York on two occasions, and whilst Local Government is a business I believe that in order to serve their community Councillors need to learn about the business. It is not just roads, drainage and footpaths but understanding if businesses are not viable they cannot pay rates. In the current economic climate rural towns have to not only contend with financial decline but an ageing population.

Although York has an ageing population it currently has good services through HACC, the Hospital as well as allied services. However, the Federal Government in its wisdom has provided funding through My Aged Care (based in Queensland) but this is only available through a private provider. You can lose access to the funding not because you don’t need it, but because there is no local provider in your town. The funding model should be different for rural areas and there are a lot of issues that needs to be sorted out. There is an assumption that people will be able to access services on line through www., which isn’t always the case.

The worst moments in life teach you to be humble. I had a bad accident and broke my back in three places, but since my glass has always been half full. I’m allowed to feel sorry for myself for a short period of time, but if this had happened in a third world country I would probably be dead.

My advice to a young person would be to find a job you really love and do it. You don’t need a house with six bedrooms, so have reasonable achievable expectations.

What do I love about Australia, other than the freedom of thought. Have you ever considered the quality of light and colours in Australia? We all want different things and it depends on what you require emotionally. The white sand and turquoise water, absolutely stunning. After it rains the whole country burst into colour. Now who couldn’t be happy and love that?

Human - Patricia Walters
Human & photographer – Anna Cornish
Writer – Guy Salvidge

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a Wheatbelt Health Network project supported by the Department of Communities.

Shire of York York Community Resource Centre

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The Wheatbelt Health Network offers support including General Practice, Nursing, Mental Health, Allied Health and Visiting Specialists.

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Wheatbelt Health Centre
25 Holtfreter Avenue, Northam
Phone: 08 9621 4444
Open: 8am-6pm Mon – Fri

Aboriginal Health - Northam
65 Wellington Street, Northam
Phone: 08 9690 2824


Alma Beard Medical Centre
81 Stirling Tce, Toodyay
Phone: 08 9578 2500
Open: 8.30am – 5pm Mon – Fri


Wundowie Health Centre
GP Services
283 Boronia Ave, Wundowie
Phone: 08 9621 4444
Open: 8.30am – 4pm Wednesdays


Aboriginal Health - Narrogin
Williams Road, Narrogin
Phone: 08 9881 0385
Open: 8.30am – 4.30pm Mon – Tues

After hours medical assistance: In an emergency call 000 or present to your nearest Regional Hospital emergency department. If you have a non- emergency and would like to consult with a GP then call Telstra Health on 1800 225 523. The service is free to access for Australian residents who reside in the wheatbelt or who are temporarily residing in the Wheatbelt. This service can be accessed before 8am and after 6pm Monday-Friday, before 8am and after 12pm Saturday and all day Sunday and any Public Holidays. Thank you to Western Australia Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) for funding this service.

  • 25 Holtfreter Avenue, Northam

  • 81 Stirling Tce, Toodyay

  • 65 Wellington Street, Northam

  • Williams Road, Narrogin

  • 283 Boronia Ave, Wundowie

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