Living with a significant mental health disability has taken Mary Anne Beebe to dark places she never imagined.
“I ended up in Graylands twice, a mental institution in Perth,” Mary Anne says. “And I thought, oh God, what do I do in a mental institution, you know? I’m in a mental institution, that’s not for me!”
After experiencing a ‘breakdown’ at 27, Mary Anne found herself in deep despair and far from her people in Miriwoong country, in the East Kimberley of Western Australia.
But today, the proud Jaru woman is happy and living on her family’s property in the remote town of Kununurra where she first moved as a child.
Mary Anne, now 55, says she’s feeling healthier, stronger, and more confident than ever before.
Thanks to her positive mindset and specialised supports through the NDIS and local NDIS provider, Patches, Mary Anne has increased her independence and is enjoying life.
She recently achieved one of her greatest goals – to find and secure a job. She now teaches art to young children at Kununurra’s Ewin Early Learning Centre.
‘That did take some determination, but anything is possible,” she says. “The support I’ve been getting is just awesome. With the NDIS I’ve got a job, and I can’t even believe it, in a way, I can’t believe it, but I’ve got a job! The good thing about it is I feel like I’m independent.”
Mary Anne is enjoying passing on her country’s art and cultural traditions.
“I like the job because it’s your own development along the journey and I can teach the kids some of what I learned from my elders,” she says.
Mary Anne has also been pursuing a passion for photography after discovering it could help her – both on her journey to improved mental health, and as a pathway to create her own business.
“Photography for someone with a mental health problem is so easy because you get satisfaction, so that’s the good thing about it,” she says.
Mary Anne has turned her eye for spectacular sunsets, magnificent landscapes, and the Kimberley’s diverse flora and fauna into a rewarding small enterprise, Beebe’s Photos.
Every week, she engages with locals and tourists, selling original photographs and prints at the Kununurra Markets. She has self-published a book and markets her work through social media.
“When you look at that book, when you do a book on it, it just shocks you, you know, where the journey has been,” she says.
Mary Anne heads out regularly on country with support workers to capture her unique images.
“This weekend past, when we went out to Keep River on the border edge of the Kimberley and Northern Territory, and everything just came alive, the hawks, the birds, the crocodiles, the river, the fish – the fish started jumping out of the river!
“I told Marie, ‘Thank you for taking me’, because all of a sudden everything just came up large and you just see what it is. It helps my mental health because I’ve learned to trust myself.”
As well as building her own business, Mary Anne is also using her skills to teach and support others in her community, including her sister Margaret who is now selling her artwork alongside Mary Anne’s photos at the markets.
“I like to help others, you know. I have a dream that Beebe’s Photos could be a company one day and I’d love to give young people a job,” she says. “I’m just thinking to open up a little shop at our property and give one or two people a job.”
Mary Anne’s NDIS plan also includes psychology supports to help keep her mental health on track.
“They’re always there and can say ‘Hi’ to me and ‘How you going?’, just lift you up,” she says. “If something fails, you know you can go back to the NDIS and say, ‘Hey, you know, give me direction.’”