Mt Barker woman earns UWA scholarship to pursue passions

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Camera IconCredit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Eleanor Beidatsch wants to use her knowledge of science and her love of writing to carve out a meaningful career — and she has just received a helping hand from the University of WA.

Last week, Ms Beidatsch, pictured, received the Friends of UWA Albany Verna Rowbotham Scholarship to help fund her studies at the university’s Albany campus.

The 26-year-old is living with spinal muscular atrophy and although her mobility is limited, she has found ways to tackle her studies while living in Mt Barker.

The marine biology student has extended her degree to a series of distance education units, including palaeontology at the University of New England, and journalism at Deakin University.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


“Ican have a lot of difficulties financially in accessing my university units so this is a very good outcome and I didn’t think that I would get it,” she said. “SMA is a generic condition which affects your motor neurons, so I have very extreme muscle weakness and it is a neurological condition so it affects my nerve and muscle systems.

“It means that I have to use a wheelchair and my mobility is very limited. It has been hard to study, from the rural perspective. I find the hardest aspect is writing up a timeline where I can drive in, because I live an hour out of Albany. From a disabled perspective, it takes me so long to get ready and I can only do units in the afternoon.”

Ms Beidatsch said she hoped to make science more accessible to the public with her combination of studies.

In her spare time, she volunteers with the Mt Barker State Emergency Service as a community engagement officer, supports the Mt Barker Community Garden as a media liaison, and sits on the Shire of Plantagenet’s disability access committee.

She said she wanted to squeeze in as many units in as she could, even if it meant studying over the summer.

“While on lockdown I completed two online certificate courses,” she said. “I studied forensic archaeology and anthropology through the University of Durham and intend to deliver SES training in forensic field techniques this year. I also studied anthropology and business of fashion through the Institute Francais de la Mode, which will help my blog Accessible4me.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails