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.

Part 1

I’m from Alberta, Canada and I grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Lots of snow, cold, skiing—that was where I grew up. Everyone plays hockey on the frozen lakes but I preferred to ski. There are five of us children in total, as our parents divorced and remarried.

I moved to Australia in 2009. First, I lived in Adelaide, then Melbourne and finally up to Broome. I was in Broome for about ten years and it was hard to leave—I loved it up there. I had a feeling of home similar to how I felt growing up in the Rocky Mountains. It has a lot to do with a sense of nature’s vastness and the idea that we are living in the world, not apart from it. Mother Nature is right there.

I’ve been with my current partner for four years and we have four fur babies—a cat and three dogs. I’m the indulgent dad; I’m all like puppies in the bed, extra treats, you get the idea. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, you want to come back as a pet to a gay couple!

When I was coming out, there was no such thing as the internet. What we had instead was the community noticeboard at the back of the bookstore.

When I moved to the big city, I went to the gay bar still thinking I’m the only one in the world. This was the tail-end of the Aids epidemic. The bars were these slightly-underground but very protected spaces. You’d walk through one door and there’d be this old queen looking like Quentin Crisp smoking a cigarette and saying, ‘oh you’re cute you don’t have to pay.’ I remember in the corner of one bar there was a counter with pictures of the people who had been lost to Aids and people would be setting drinks to remember them. We have an obligation to live our lives for those who can no longer live theirs.

Coming out about your sexuality doesn’t need to be a gigantic public declaration. The most important person you need to come out to is yourself. There’s this huge pressure of thinking you need to come out because otherwise you’re in the closet and if you’re in the closet it means you’re ashamed. You don’t have to buy into that. It’s okay to have privacy. You’re the only person who needs to accept who you are.

I grew up with a brother and sister who are First Nation Canadians, so I was very much aware of colonisation and the negative impacts on health. I could see it happening to marginalised groups struggling with their mental health. I’ve seen it in Australia with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQIA people. I’ve learned that if we can provide people with support sooner when they are younger, they’re going to get back on track much sooner. That is my passion and what I enjoy doing most.

If we invest in young people, they aren’t just going to have better outcomes themselves, they are also going to be the ones looking after us when we’re older. As a health care professional, I’m helping young people to ‘discover’ their own advice rather than them being passive recipients. I like that idea of being more of a coach and an advocate. Mental wellbeing is a collection of multiple wellbeings. There’s physical and mental wellbeing, but also vocational wellbeing too.

As for my hobbies, I love gardening and I love cooking. I’m a stress-maker so when I come home on the weekend I love to cook. I’ll do meal prep for myself and my partner for the whole week. I love my puppies and they’re a huge part of my life. If I don’t have to put on pants on Saturday, then that’s a successful day!

There are a lot of things I love about Northam, for instance the hills. It reminds me of what it was like driving back to the farm in Canada. I love being close to the river, as I grew up next to a river too.

After all my years in the Kimberley I have to say I’m a freshwater man! I know that everywhere you go in the water up there, something can eat you. Whereas here, if I’m having a difficult day, I can sneak out the back door, go across the park and just watch the river. This is my home away from home.

Human - Darren Grassick
Interviewer - Shannon Boundry
Photographer - Robert Pampling Photography
Writer - Guy Salvidge

Humans of Wheatbelt is a Wheatbelt Health Network project.

Part 2 will be released tomorrow.

#wheatbelt #community #inclusion

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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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NORTHAM

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

Therapy Plus
104 Wellington Street, Northam
Phone: 08 9621 4444

TOODYAY

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

WUNDOWIE

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

NARROGIN

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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