Blog thumbnail image Stu & Jim (73, 67), Kerri Ambler

Alongside Family & Community Services (FACS), Art Pharmacy Consulting are in the final stages of preparing for a groundbreaking new photographic exhibition to be shown in NSW Parliament House from March 14th 2018.

Here are just five stories from the thirty amazing people whose portraits will be featured in Parliament House.

"Billiard" Betty Smith (87) Julie Slavin

"Billiard" Betty Smith (87)    Julie Slavin

“They call me ‘Billiard Betty’, which makes me laugh! I’m 87 years old, healthy and fit as a fiddle. Every day is a wonderful day. I love everyone and they all seem to love me in return.

“I have my own room in the low care section at a nursing hostel in Taree and enjoy it here so much. This is where I discovered an unused billiard table. The staff informed me that they’ve never seen a resident ever play on the table before – only visitors and their kids. Well, this has changed! I play up to six or more games a day. I find it great fun and it seems to entertain the other residents who laugh when I tell them or they ask me who’s winning. Of course it’s me as I’m only playing myself.

“My husband (who died three years ago) and my five children all used to play on our table that we had at home, many years ago. But for some reason I never ever had a game with them – I don't know why. But I’m making up for it now, that's for sure. I love my life and enjoy every day and am so grateful for everything.”

Tom Hughes (94), Tina Milson

Tom Hughes (94) Tina Milson

Born in South Sydney in 1923, Tom has been a lawyer, a politician, a serviceman and a farmer. The son of lawyer and aviator Geoffrey Hughes, he was educated at St Ignatius’ College Riverview and graduated in law from the University of Sydney.

Tom served in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War Two and in his time served in 10 Squadron in flying boats. He was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 2005 for his service in France. Tom was called to the Sydney bar in 1949, becoming a Queen’s Counsel barrister in 1962. He then served as the Member for Parkes and then Berowra until 1972, and was also the Commonwealth Attorney General from 1969 to 1971. He was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia in 1988.

Tom is now a full time farmer, devoting most of his time to running his sheep and cattle properties outside of Goulburn. Until he retired in 2013, he was the oldest serving member of the NSW Bar. He has three children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His daughter, Lucy Turnbull, was Lord Mayor of Sydney and is married to the Prime Minister of Australia, The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP.

Helen & Michelle (56, 60), Kerri Ambler

Helen & Michelle (56, 60)    Kerri Ambler

Helen and Michelle own Twisted River Wines in Manildra. It’s a small winery that’s winning big awards. It’s also the only one in the region run by two women.

Helen and Michelle both have backgrounds in palliative care. As well being Twisted River’s self-taught vigneron, Helen works as a nurse at Molong Community Health. Michelle, who looks after sales and marketing for the winery, works as a senior planner for NSW Health. She’s about to retire – something that Helen is very jealous of.

The couple met at a palliative care conference in 1999. Helen soon moved from Sydney to the Central West. Since she was young, her dream had been to own a winery. With enough pestering, Michelle came around and in 2007 they bought Twisted River.

The first year was almost their last. Michelle recalls their first storm, “I was working at home and was looking at all the rain on the terrace. I went to get the camera from the garage,” she says. “This sea of water came at me and straight through the garage.”

When Helen reached home, the destruction was devastating. “Fifty rows of pure chaos. We thought, ‘what have we done?’ We almost gave up. Then in 2011, we won our first trophy and it all felt as if maybe it was worth it.”

Bizar Hasan & Kojr Yousif Salih (65, 56), Tayla Martin

Bizar Hasan & Kojr Yousif Salih (65, 56)  Tayla Martin

Friends Bizar and Kojr immigrated to Australia in 2017 after fleeing their war torn country, Iraq, and escaping to Turkey. The process took over two years. They told me how lucky they were to escape and how thankful they are to be in Australia.

Both Bizar and Kojr are Yazidi, and are incredibly happy, despite everything that has happened to them and their people. Family is the most important factor in their lives and communities. It has been very difficult for Bizar and Kojr to leave some of their family behind. Wagga has welcomed around 40 Iraqi families to the community.

While they speak limited English, both Bizar and Kojr attend adult language classes at the local TAFE where they learn English. Maqboola, a 22-year-old refugee from Iraq who moved to Wagga last year, was able to translate our conversation. “‘We are very happy to be here,” they say. “We hope for the best for Australia.”

Christine Wright (80) Tim White

Christine Wright (80) Tim White

Christine grew up in Sydney and went to art school at age 16 in the 1950s – she always wanted to be an art director but that job description didn’t exist back then! Christine met her husband when she was 23 and he was 19 – they were married a year later.

Christine and her husband frequented the art scene in Sydney in the 50s and 60s, which eventually led to a life of PR, advertising and photography that took them to London and all around Sydney. They moved to Mudgee when Christine was 61, where they started another PR company.

Christine’s husband passed away two years ago, and after so many years of not driving she is now learning! Once Christine has her licence, she plans on putting her social skills to work by visiting older locals who maybe don’t have the same level of contact with other people as they once did.

With a growing ageing population in NSW, this exhibition will aim to challenge the stereotypes surrounding the ageing population, with a series of 30 images by the photographers. It will show the unique and diverse ways in which older people can contribute to, and enhance communities.

Image Credit: Family and Community Services, NSW

Kate Bettes