I first met our latest Platform Storyteller when I was working on a project to share stories of people with disability living in regional Western Australia. Naomi Lake was kind and welcoming, she showed me around her community and gave me an insight into her life in a small town. Naomi has a passion for acting and dancing, a love of all things ABBA and is warm hearted, full of energy, and shares her story to raise awareness about what it is like to live with Down Syndrome. She tells of how important is has been for her to keep her dreams front and centre, as she achieves many things that others have not thought possible for her. She is a published author of 4 books, an actress and a Health Ambassador for Down Syndrome WA and Down Syndrome Australia.
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Tell us about yourself
I have an extra chromosome which means I have Down syndrome. I have 3 sisters who are very supportive and have passed down the love of books to me. I also have 8 nieces and nephews. I live in Albany W.A. I’m 31 years old.
How was the experience of being a person with a disability in the education system for you?
I enjoyed school because I love learning and I was hoping to make friends, but that didn’t happen. It was very lonely for me. I spent all my spare time in in the library reading and writing. I was often excluded from activities. I was not invited to birthday parties or other events. I was withdrawn from the classroom and had minimum aide time. I struggled to fit in especially at high school and there was a quite a lot of bullying.
Did you experience anything in particular growing up in the country that made an impact on how you feel about yourself?
I felt isolated and lonely but also I felt safe and comfortable
What messages are important to you that you would like people to know about living with Down syndrome?
Life can be a bit tricky but with support, obstacles and challenges can be overcome and I want people to treat me as a Individual, to respect and accept me for who I am.
“Life can be a bit tricky but with support, obstacles and challenges can be overcome and I want people to treat me as a Individual, to respect and accept me for who I am.”
What are your favourite things to do?
Reading, writing, its how I first got started in my life. Also I love performing on stage it gives me freedom to be my self. It makes people happy to watch me perform and I like making people happy. I like sewing, swimming and going to the gym because I like to be keep fit. I like cooking and trying out new dishes.
I love my chickens and clean them out every day. They follow me around and talk to me when I sit on the step.
What have you been doing since you left school?
When I first left school, mum got me a job at good Samaritans op shop. I was there for about 18 months and then I started to work at local café, as a waitress. I was there for 10 years. Next I applied for the position of Health Ambassador D.S.W.A. then a few months later I applied for Health Ambassador Australia. I enjoy this role because I like to help and speak up for those who don’t have voice for themselves. I have travelled into the Midwest of Western Australia speaking to school children about my books and my life as a person living with Down Syndrome.
Can you tell us about how you came to be a published author?
I have always enjoyed writing and I loved chickens. My sister Paula stepped in and said to mum give one of Naomi’s stories and I will ask my friend Dave McCleery to illustrate it for her. Paula gave it to me as a surprise Christmas present. She said here you are, now you are a children’s author. She touched my heart. It has opened up the world for me. I have since published a total of 4 books!
What are some of your hopes and dreams for your future!?
I still keep my life behind books and cameras, but I also would like to get married one day and have my own home, so I can invite my family and friends over.
What would you say is your greatest strength?
I think it is my positive outlook on life. Its always good if you look for the good in the world. My determination is not to give up on my dreams.
Are there things about you that people misunderstand because of your disability?
Yes, they assume I’m less capable than I really am. I have hopes and dreams like everyone else. I am not stupid and I do not need to be treated like a child.
“I have hopes and dreams like everyone else. I am not stupid and I do not need to be treated like a child”
What is one thing, experience or person that has completely changed or impacted on your life?
The biggest thing was publishing my first book thanks to my sister Paula and my mother, who always believed in me. It has been having a loving, supportive and encouraging family.
Is there any technology that makes your life easier?
The computer and iPad make my life easier because it connects me to the world full of magic.
What’s one thing about you that surprises people?
That I’m an author and I make my own decisions.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Life is fun, just get out there and enjoy it. You just need to get out to explore the world because the world won’t come to you, and remember that Anything is Possible.
Is there something that you would like people to know about you or about people with disability that they might not know?
You should assume capability until proven they can’t make they own decisions.
What is your best advice that you would like to share with other women with disabilities?
Speak up for yourself and don’t give up. Believe in yourself. You can’t feel good about other people if you don’t feel good about yourself.
Do you have a way for people to connect or follow you?
facebook.com/harmony the forgetful hen
and people can see my story at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-14/author-disability-advocate-naomi-lake-says-anything-is-possible/100166514