Why I miss my mate John

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Graham Byatt can often be found skateboarding down Geraldton Foreshore.
Camera IconGraham Byatt can often be found skateboarding down Geraldton Foreshore. Credit: Tamra Carr The Geraldton Guardian

Geraldton live-in carer Graham Byatt misses his best friend John Hanstrum terribly — even though Mr Hanstrum has never spoken a word to him.

Mr Hanstrum was born with severe autism — rendering him non-verbal and forever in need of the care a parent would give a pre-schooler.

After his mother Marion Hanstrum passed away, Mr Byatt interviewed for her live-in carer position in Dongara and stayed there until Mr Hanstrum died from cancer in February 2018.

At the time, Mr Byatt was the only family he had left.

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“His mother died and then his sister died shortly after I came to live with him,” Mr Byatt said. “Soon after that, his father passed away.

“They kind of all disappeared at once.”

Mr Byatt said while professionally he was similar to a parent, personally he considered the late Dongara resident to be his best buddy.

“I miss him terribly,” Mr Byatt said. “I often thought, even if I leave disability support work in Dongara, I’d take John with me.”

After Mr Hanstrum died, Mr Byatt was handed a few casual Geraldton-based clients through Midwest Community Living Association.

The 59-year-old said he felt as if he was “living the dream” with his occupation.

“People always say you must be so tired, you must be so worn out, helping people with challenging behaviours and so on,” Mr Byatt said.

“But no, actually, I still do my kayaking during the day and my surfing and I’m on my electric skateboard.

“I do whatever I like, it’s liberating. I feel free.”

People such as Mr Byatt were celebrated at the City of Greater Geraldton’s Disability Support Awards yesterday .

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