My formative years were spent living on Tasmania’s North West Coast, and this set the major characteristics of who I was and how I wanted to live my life. I was a dreamer, a bit of a loner and very independent - my parents left us kids to our own devices with a lot of freedom to explore and play without restrictions.
Much of my adult life has been lived on the West Coast and on the few occasions when I’ve lived elsewhere and then come back it always feels like I’m home. This place is where I feel I should be. It feeds my soul and inspires my curiosity and creativity.
My father’s interests in bushwalking, camping, canoeing and minerals played a part in shaping my interests and I also had a creative side and loved art from an early age. I felt in tune with young children, so it was no surprise that I went on to gain a Diploma of Teaching which included majoring in Art and Geology.
After teaching for a short time, I then moved into the mining industry, starting out as a Geologist’s Assistant, then a Geological Technician and finally gained a position working as an Underground Geologist at a tin mine.
In the mid 1970’s no females worked in traditionally male roles in mines, and the Chief Geologist who was my boss had to write to the Mines Department to seek permission for me to work underground. Fortunately the answer was yes! I loved the job, but did encounter a little resistance from some of the men. You had to go out of your way to prove you were capable. One ore truck driver backed his big rig right up close to my vehicle in an underground tunnel, forcing me to reverse out with only centimetres to spare between the truck and the rock wall while he sat and watched with a smirk but I go the job done!
After leaving the mining industry, I was keen to pursue an art career and eventually opened my own little studio/gallery in Strahan called The Magic Cottage. All the while I continued to explore the natural environment by foot, canoe or four wheel drive, getting inspiration for my art as well as learning the natural and social history of the areas I travelled through.
When my youngest son was almost ready to leave home, and I was still in the grip of a long chronic illness with no end in sight and unable to work, I needed to have a place to live that was low cost with no rent/mortgage. It also wanted it to be a haven that would nurture me and help my creativity. Thus ‘The Magic Gypsy Caravan/ was born. If I had to live on my own with limited income I was going to do it with style!
I drew up a design and plans and then made a model. I took them to a fibreglass manufacturer and asked if they could make the caravan for me. I was involved in all stages of the build. It is a source of much pleasure and I love living in it, especially when I can tow it away to different locations.
One of the toughest periods of my life was when I was struck down with a chronic debilitating illness and for many years there was no medical answer or help for me. It took a total of 9 years before I got a diagnosis and treatment – the culprit being an Australian version of Lyme Disease.
One year after recovery from that, I fell and fractured my spine. I am better, but not 100%. During all my illnesses I still maintained a positive, cheerful spirit and adjusted to life with a disability by walking slower, noticing more and then taking up fungi photography. The most rewarding and special experience in my life has been being Mother to my 2 wonderful sons. I love them to the moon and back!
Photos by Ninna Millikin
This project was assisted by Bellendena Small Grants