FINDING MEANING: As Gary’s mental health improved he returned to painting surfboards.
FINDING MEANING: As Gary’s mental health improved he returned to painting surfboards.

Gary returns to swell craft

GARY Roberts has always loved drawing.

Even as a boy he was always putting his ideas down on paper as illustrations.

He's also long had an affinity for the ocean and everything to do with the water.

This led naturally to a love of surfing, and after he moved to Coffs Harbour years ago, it gave him the perfect opportunity to indulge in his favourite pursuits of art and surfing.

When Gary's work in various electrical businesses dried up his marriage also hit the rocks.

Not long afterwards, he moved to a remote area at Halfway Creek and spent several years living alone.

It was during this time that he first experienced depression and anxiety.

"I had distanced myself from family and friends," he said.

"This sometimes made my depression and sense of isolation worse."

Gary had developed his own particular style of airbrush artwork for surfboards over the years, however when he was experiencing his mental illness at its strongest his dedication to the art dropped away.

When Gary went to Ostara Australia in Coffs Harbour, he had moved to Sapphire Beach and just started his artwork again after several years of not touching an airbrush.

Based in Coffs Harbour, Ostara Australia is Australia's largest mental health specialist in disability employment.

Although Gary was still experiencing episodes of mental illness, he was keen to regain meaningful employment.

Gary's Ostara Australia consultant Peter Wild worked with Gary to build his confidence and help him address his mental illness.

While he can make some money from his artwork, he is committed to using his trade-related skills and his background working as a painter and decorator to find sustainable employment.

As part of Mental Health Week, Ostara Australia is participating in We Care Day this Saturday with a stall where some of Gary's work will be on display.

Ostara Australia will also be hosting a Move for Mental Health four kilometre fundraising walk from Fitzroy Oval to Brelsford Park at 8am to support those living with mental illness.

To register email


FINDING MEANING: As Gary's mental health improved he returned to painting surfboards.