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.

Ieva Tomsons

Part 1 -

Part 2...

In 1978 I was living with my ‘cousin’ in New York. Not a real cousin as many Latvians don’t have any relatives so they have to make them up.

My ambition was to get into Studio 54 which was the hardest nightclub in the world to get into. I had a floor-length silver Pierre Cardin coat, a mini skirt and a boob tube. The police had roped off 54th Street and there were mounted police controlling the crowd. An 84-four-year-old woman called Disco Sally and was carried in on a litter by oiled-up musclemen in tiny golden jockstraps. Everyone was screaming at owner Steve Rubell to let them in. So I yelled out in my Aussie accent –“Is this the way I’m meant to die, crushed by a million trendies. Let me in this dive!” We were in.

During the 11 months I spent in Manhatten I met Andy Warhol and Truman Capote (twice) and Sid Vicious the bass player from the Sex Pistols – they were my heroes. I tried to buy Sid Vicious a drink but because he was on parole all he’d have was a Perrier water. Not long after that he was dead.

While I was in New York a friend of mine wrote me a letter saying he was a proof reader at the Sydney Morning Herald. He was making great money and he only worked about four hours a night. “Pity women couldn’t get in,” he said. So I thought, “right, that’s what I’m going to do”. I went straight over to Sydney and me and another girl were the first female proof readers they’d had in 150 years.

I was on the evening shift which went until 11 o’clock at night. It was an amazing place, many gay guys and crossdressers on the late-late show and we were paid extraordinary money. During my first shift, two men threw me off my chair and asked me what I was going to do about it. I said I was going to sit back on my chair and get paid four hundred dollars a week just like you blokes, and that’s what I did.

In 1980 I enrolled at the University of Technology, Sydney. I got accepted into the BA Communications and I did majors in journalism and politics and edited the student newspaper in my final year. I’d been proof reading for three years, eight months and thirteen days when Fairfax retrenched the lot of us. I was offered a cadetship on The Sydney Morning Herald but they were offering generous redundancy payouts so I took the money and ran.

Back in WA, I bought an old XB Falcon station wagon and fixed it up and headed north to Broome with an old friend. We got bogged on the way to Millstream and spent a day walking in searing heat to get help.

There was no newspaper in Broome so I thought I’d start one. The Broome News started off as a little stapled-together job and then we used to put out a quarto, like a magazine, every month. I’d do it on themes. One month might be tourism, another month kids or alcohol. I didn’t call myself an editor but a coordinator and would write the editorial under my dog’s name, Uncle Tom. It was a full-on five years of living and breathing the paper and I was burnt out after taking on Lord Alistair McAlpine who was developing the town at a rate of knots.

Returning to Perth I sub edited for the Subiaco Post for eighteen months before deciding to do something physical.

There was an ad for a roustabout in Three Springs and I got the job. I rocked up at the shearing shed in a dress and no idea what I was doing. By the third day I was devastated physically and very bone in my body was screaming.

My partner of 30-odd years Jim Higgins was one of the shearers and we worked in New Zealand together and travelled to America illegally during the first Gulf War. We worked seventy-two days straight through Texas, New Mexico and Missouri and it’s the hardest thing I have ever done physically. The next year we returned on temporary visas. Between jobs we have travelled in Mexico, Belize, Russia, Latvia, Ireland, Timor Leste and Sri Lanka to name a few places.

In Australia I have been the only woman on a nine-stand shearing team up north – bloody tough. In the Wheatbelt, I’ve worked from Wongan Hills down to Lake Grace and everywhere in between. Woolclassing and shearing have been very good to us.

In 2005-2006 I went back to uni to complete a post-grad degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at Curtin. I was pushing fifty and the other students were in their mid-twenties. It was a lot of fun.

It’s great to be able to go back to your earlier career when you’re nearly sixty. I’ve been at The Toodyay Herald since 2014 writing eleven profiles a year, which I really enjoy. We’ve got the dream team. Everyone that’s here, including the secretary and treasurer, are all ex-industry professionals. It’s a pleasure working there and all we have a good laugh.

If I could speak to my sixteen-year-old self? My advice would be – “ to do it all again”.

Human - Ieva Tomsons
Interviewer & Photographer - Anna Cornish
Writer - Guy Salvidge

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a Wheatbelt Health Network project.

Shire of Toodyay ABC Midwest and Wheatbelt Curtin University Three Springs Subiaco Post Broome Advertiser The Sydney Morning Herald Studio 54, New York

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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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