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.

My parents are Bob and Nancy Freebairn. I am the 2nd eldest of 8 kids (3 boys and 5 girls). I was born and raised up in Morawa.

I learnt on how to drive on the farm dad shared farm with Colin Noble and his sister Beryl Mauritz. Dad would tow a car behind the tractor and I had to steer it. I then would drive tractors after school. Dad also taught me on how to drive a truck. My older brother Mark, and my sister Dot, we would help dad with the ploughing up the paddocks, ready for dad to put the seeder through.

I’ve been in the Wheatbelt most of my life and recently I’ve been settling into life here in Wundowie. I have two kids. My son’s thirty-nine and my daughter is thirty-seven. Between them I have nine grandchildren ranging in age from nineteen to three. Having my kids were the best moments of my life because they are wonderful, but another was meeting my partner John. We met on a blind coffee date in Kelmscott and now we’ve been together for five years.

I’ve studied Certificates II and III in Business Administration. I’ve also spent time working as a cleaner in shopping centres and collecting sanitary bins. I did that for five years, until I started suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in 2005. Arthritis runs in the family. There’s a lack of support for people with chronic illnesses such as mine and it’s worse in rural areas.

We started a group about five years ago called Fibro and Us Support Group. We are now called Invisible Illnesses Inc. Sufferers of fibromyalgia, but then decided to change the focus of the group to cover all chronic illnesses. If you’ve got a deadly illness that’s incurable, come in and join us!

The main group is located in Rockingham and there’s around two thousand members. We’ve also started up a Geraldton and Midwest chapter and there’s also one here in the Wheatbelt. We have a committee meeting once a month over Zoom or Facetime. The technology is brilliant if you know how to source your material. We’re accepting around one hundred people a day on Facebook. We also have a face-to-face meeting once a month. If you want to talk about your pain go ahead, but most of us are here for a chat.

One of the barriers here in the Wheatbelt is that I’ve struggled to find people to help at the moment. Another barrier is distance because we are spread right out across the region. One of the questions we might ask is, ‘do you want to come to Wundowie for a coffee or should we have it in York?’ If local people want to volunteer, they can get in touch with me or they can go through the main group, Invisible Illness Inc, which is located in Rockingham.

I had a big accident in 2016, a real blonde moment. I got out of a car without putting it in park or putting on the handbrake. The front door knocked me down and the front wheel ran over my leg. I ended up spending three months in and out of hospital. I had a big haematoma on my leg and the doctor said when it popped I was to come straight to Royal Perth Hospital. It hurt but nowhere near as much as the pain from my rheumatoid arthritis. Luckily I’ve had my knight in shining armour looking after me!

I have good days and bad days, but winter is the worst time. If it rains it’s terrible, but the heat is also terrible. My thermostat’s gone so it’s like I can’t adjust the temperature in my body. I find that some people are more helpful than others. If you’re in a wheelchair or a mobility scooter, people will move out of the way for you, but if you’re on crutches some people are blasé about it.

One of my hobbies is diamond art, which if you don’t know is beading by colour. I’ve been doing it for about two years now and I’m a mad fanatic. I was told many years ago not to stopping knitting or crocheting, because it’s the only way you’ll be able to have a positive effect on your joints. Having rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis with fibro isn’t much fun. My body’s getting worse but I’m hanging in there.

If I knew what I know now when I was young, there would be a lot of things I’d tell my younger self. The most important piece of advice I have is to get your health checked out properly. Do your research and look into your family tree to find out what conditions you might have inherited. Also, remember that the best thing about life is meeting people. I’ve met some wonderful people through the Invisible Illness Inc group and also in setting up the group out here. I just need to expand it. If we can get the word out, we’ll be fine.

Human - Ann Clarke
Interviewers - Anna Cornish & Shannon Boundary
Photographer - Anna Cornish
Writer - Guy Salvidge

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a Wheatbelt Health Network project.

Fybromyalgia and me Fybro Shire of Northam Invisible Illness Awareness Week Invisible Illnesses Inc Invisible Illness Inc.

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We are here to help

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

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


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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