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.

Matthew Jackman

My mother’s mob is Yamatji from Meekatharra through to Carnarvon and Geraldton. My father’s mob is from Jigalong and Wiluna, but I don’t know as much about his side. I’ve been living in the Wheatbelt for going on twelve years now. I went to Avonvale Primary and then graduated from Northam Senior. That was quite good even though half the time I didn’t show up! When I didn’t show up it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, it was mainly due to medical reasons or family loss. If I could go back I’d like to attend more school and gain more knowledge, but I did quite well with the knowledge I learned. One of my favourite subjects at school was Horticulture and I got to learn a lot about the land and the botanical names of plants. From a young age my Nan always told me that our people were the carers of the land and that if we looked after the land it would look after us. The better you care for the land, the better the animals can feed and that will fatten them up and then feed you. It’s always been a responsibility for me to look after my land and my people. I feel an obligation to do this because of my ancestors. I felt obligated to learn and to teach the younger generation.

I love going fishing and I do that whenever I can, and I also love going out hunting in the bush. Another thing I enjoy is tracking because these days not a lot of people know how to do it. Fortunately, before my grandfather and grandmother passed they took me out bush and showed me. It’s quite easy but there’s an art to it. I was put into foster care from a very young age and being here it’s not my country. Every piece of land is sacred to the different tribes. When I go back to my country I’m happy because I feel that’s where my elders and ancestors are. I definitely feel a stronger connection to country when I go up there. People can definitely learn respect and how to value country and it’s something that you don’t necessarily see as a young person if you haven’t been taught it. Unfortunately a lot of our elders are passing away before they get the chance to pass on their knowledge. In my opinion a lot of the younger generation are too caught up in thinking about the future to value country. When they get older these kids want to learn but it’s very hard if the elders are already gone. I much prefer to look at history and learn from what happened years and years and years ago. From the age of eight I loved studying the frontier wars that happened in Australia. There’s a lot of sadness but together as a country and a nation we’ve moved past that.

My saddest moments spiritually were having to bury my Nan and Pop. Those were the hardest things I’ve ever done. My uncle was the twin brother to my father so I saw him as my father, and when I lost him it broke me for a while, but I looked back on my life and thought ‘you’ve come all this way, you can’t give up now.’ The best moments of my life were when I graduated high school. I looked back on all the times I didn’t want to go and thought it was a waste of time, but I had great mates around me and an awesome community. Now I have a great job and it’s very rewarding, so I’m glad I stuck it out to the end of high school.

When I think about what advice I’d give to my younger self, I see my younger self as being emotionally weak. I wanted to give up a lot and with my depression I basically didn’t want to live. This will sound brutal, but I’d tell my younger self to just toughen up and get through it. When I was very young, my biological mother was told that I was never going to walk. She and my aunties said ‘yes he will’ and they just made me walk. I felt like if I could get through that and prove the doctors wrong then I could get through anything. Even though I’m more mature now, I’m only human and we all make mistakes. Maybe I’d want people to look at me and say ‘if he can do it then I can too’ but I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through the things that I’ve gone through. There was a time in my life even at the age of thirteen when I made terrible choices by choosing to be drunk to handle my pain. I realised over time that the next day the pain would be even more unbearable. Now I’ve quit that and I’ve been good for three or four months. I’m determined not to go back. Now I have a job and something to look forward to. Whenever the dark times do come back I’ll be able to pull this moment out against it and say ‘now you’ve got something better to look forward to.’

Geraldton Meekatharra Northam

Human – Matthew Jackman
Interviewer & photographer - Brenna O'Grady-Tully
Writer – Guy Salvidge

Humans of the Wheatbelt is supported by the State Government through the Wheatbelt Development Commission and managed by Wheatbelt Health Network.

#wheatbelt #inclusion #humans


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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
Open: 8.30am-4.30pm Mon – Thurs

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 – 4.30pm Mon – Fri

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

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