Finding Inspiration in Every Day

Finding Inspiration in Every Day
Retirement Living

Retirement living resident Shirley Barnes shares her time traveling around WA, being president of SwanCare's Writing Club and recently receiving a Deed of Gift certificate from the Library Board of WA.

For Shirley Barnes, writing and teaching has always been a vocation and one that she’s happy to share with others. 

Shirley has lived at SwanCare for the past 13 years and has been guiding its writing group for the past two. 
She’s also recently had some journals that she kept of life with her former husband, dating back to 1959, donated to the State Library of Western Australia. 

Shirley said it was an honour to be able to donate her papers to the library and believes it’s important to record the everyday history of our state. 

“I was married to a country cop, we moved five times in 13 years to different posts over the Western Australian goldfields including Coolgardie, Kellerberrin, Norseman, Laverton and Waroona. I wanted to document how our life was back then, mostly for the kids, so they could remember it,” she said. 

“We didn’t have computers back in those days, sometimes we didn’t even have electricity, so writing was a way to keep track of it all and remember what happened week to week,” Shirley explained, “It ended up becoming sort of a journal, a first-hand account of what life was like in those towns, and I’m honoured that the State Library included it in their collection.” 

Shirley’s papers will now be turned into a book by the State Library, a document that acknowledges those towns and their histories, for future generations to enjoy. 

To say thank you for her contribution, Shirley was recently sent a Deed of Gift from the Library Board of WA but remains incredibly humble about it all, “I’m glad that other people will be able to see what life was like in those towns at that time and that it can be kept for prosperity.” 

When asked about her travels around Western Australia, two towns came to mind. “To me, Laverton and Coolgardie were the most interesting places, because of the way the people looked after each other and the people that I met when I lived there,” she said.

In the year of 1990 Shirley headed to the Pilbra for her solo adventure where she worked as a Senior Regional Officer for the Department of Sport and Recreation. 

Passionate about combatting women’s issues and stereotypes within the community, Shirley recognised her role would stretch beyond just sport. “On taking up the position, I slightly changed the emphasis in the way of working, extending into women’s interests and including workshops on healthy lifestyle, stress management and ‘a positive image’, as well as sport.” 

“I also saw a real need for Aboriginal people to be involved in sport and recreation to counteract the effects of unemployment and other social problems, plus providing role models and acceptance of social responsibilities,” she said. 

Shirley was pleased that upon returning to Perth, her work would be willingly taken over by community members with support from multiple local Councils. 

Shirley’s love for writing continues through her writing group at SwanCare. Every year she looks forward to working with a passionate group of dedicated writers who enjoy not only the process, but also coming together to share their stories and ideas.

“I think that writing something down is one of life’s simple pleasures and I’m happy to help other people discover that joy,” she said. 

“We come together to share stories. I give members topics to write on every fortnight, and it could be something as simple as “What did you want to be when you were at school? How did that turn out for you and why?” or “You have a new next-door neighbour, what do you think of them?” The point is to be consistent; I tell them that to be a writer you have to write every week, every day if you can,” she said. 

“I think writing is also about staying curious, there’s beauty in everyday moments if you look for them. You don’t have to use fancy language or write about glamorous things; inspiration really is everywhere.” 

While Shirley didn’t train as a teacher formally until later in life, gaining a Bachelor of Applied Science in Recreation, she is also skilled at understanding people and playing to their strengths. 

“I think if you’re going to teach people, the first thing you have to understand is how they learn, what they respond to,” she said, “you have to let people see where they fit.” 

Shirley said she enjoys living at SwanCare and being part of its vibrant community, “People really do look out for and look after one another here,” she said. 

“I enjoy teaching the writing group, and I hope there’s many more stories and years to come.” 

Thank you for sharing your passion for writing with us, Shirley, and congratulations on your contribution to our State’s history!

Share This Page

back to all news
Back to Top of the page