‘I’d broken up with my fiancée and suddenly realised I was by myself. It was just me and I thought, well, I don’t need much. At the same time I was also dealing with stress anxiety from working a lot and the lifestyle that comes with that. Even though nobody was pressuring me in the slightest, I felt that way. I felt that you’ve got to live a certain way to make your parents proud and your friends happy.
‘I studied a bit of art when I was a teenager and had left it for about 20 years. When I started it again about two years ago, I found it very meditative and felt very stress free. I realised how much I missed it and that this is my real love.
‘I left all my jobs. One of the biggest challenges of doing that was the fear of whether I would be good enough as an artist because you honestly don’t know. It’s not always about skill level in art either – it’s about finding your own voice and your own style and telling a story through it.
‘At my age, it’s hard to get back in to paid employment – trying to apply for a job when you’ve left it for two years – they’ll take someone who’s currently working in the field and a younger person as well. There was always that risk. If I had kids and a mortgage I wouldn’t do it because you do it for your kids – you work. I can be a little bit selfish because it’s just me. I can’t go out every night with friends and go to fancy restaurants but I get to do what I love every day.’
‘I was born in Tanzania but Newtown was where I landed with my family when I was 8. It was our first encounter of Sydney and shaped our idea of Australia being this multicultural society and had a very positive impact. Newtown is a bubble but it shows that we have capacity to be that way as a whole. I feel like it reflects our best side and what we could be on a wider scale.
‘I came from a country where you just see one face so to speak which was my brownness. That didn’t really mean anything until I came here. When I came here I was different but there were just so many other differences that it was cool to be different. Newtown is a melting pot of cultures and demographics where we celebrate uniqueness and just being who you are.
‘I really believe in following my intuition and to follow what lights up my heart in whatever I do.
‘Follow your joy – go where you glow; go where you grow.’
Spotted at Newtown Festival.
Spotted at Newtown Festival.
‘When I started out, I was just a really enthusiastic person that saw they needed help wrangling zombies. Seven years later I’m the head zombie of it all. I’m a bit of a horror buff so I love the gore but I also love the fact that it does raise money for a good cause – The Brain Foundation.
‘The Brain Foundation studies brain and neurological disorders and illnesses and so it covers things like brain cancer and stuff like that but they also look in to things like dementia and that sort of thing so it’s quite broad. I’ve had friends who’ve been affected and I’ve seen how much it can impact a family.
‘Every year the number of zombies doubles so we need as many zombie wranglers as possible. When it started out around 7 years ago we had about 100 zombies and it basically just multiplied every year and so now we’re one of the biggest walks in Australia for it. It’s really cool. Being a zombie wrangler is not a difficult job but we need all the help we can get.
‘Zombie Walks take place all over the world. Some of the earlier ones started in San Francisco but not all of them are fundraisers. I think that we’re the main one in Australia that does fundraising but the rest of them are more for horror buffs and for people who want to just get bloody and messy and scare the general public.’
www.sydneyzombiewalk.com on Saturday 31st October.
Email email@example.com to help wrangle zombies.
‘I feel scared. Who’s going to protect me at the end of the night? I don’t know if they’re watching me, or not. My family gets scared when they see things like this. They don’t want me to work anymore. They said what if they come next time and you’re there and they know I will defend myself and things will be worse.
‘Last night about half an hour after I finished work I received a call from security. They told me you have a break in or something through your windows. I was at the city with my friend having a cup of coffee and relaxing after work so I had to come straight back and found the police here. I saw my whole front door is smashed and I was surprised and shocked and really, really upset about it.
‘Also on the Friday my window cleaner told me to come and see what they’d scratched on the window. They’d written “F*** Arabs”.
‘I don’t know why this guy or guys think I’m the leader for Arab people or I’m the leader for Muslims – they’re calling me to abuse me about what’s happening overseas or something like that which is not my fault. I’m not doing nothing wrong here.
‘This is not the first time. For the last 7-8 months, every month, 2-3 calls were received threatening and swearing – talking in a racist way. I’ve been here 14 years. I’ve never had problems like this before.
‘I don’t want to know who did it. God will forgive them one day. I will forgive them if they stop doing this but I’m a bit surprised about the media. Usually if a Muslim guy does something, they put it on the TV next half an hour but if something happens to a Muslim guy, they’ll think about it a hundred times before they put it on.
‘I need the police this time to take it more seriously. It’s happened before, (they take a) statement, things happen but they never come back to me. I never heard from them again.
‘The whole community (here in Newtown) – the people, they’re really nice. They’ve been supporting me all day today – calling me, saying sorry – I love Newtown, it’s a beautiful place.’
‘Creativity means coming up with something from almost nothing. If you want something original then some of that is going to happen with you being an ordinary person working with unusual concepts. But some of that is also going to come from your own individuality – you will look at an ordinary thing but bring your own perspective to that – the way you formulate the story for example because of your background. I think we all need to embrace our inner weirdness. We need to keep it weird.’
Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.
‘Most of the women I see have this desire to be the perfect mother which is one of the drivers for them getting depressed and anxious. I’m a Professor of Psychiatry specialising in women’s mental health – in particular perinatal mental health. We now have screening for post-natal depression but now we need to help the child and help her parent the child so the inter-generational transmission isn’t happening.
‘The primary carer, which is quite often the mother, is the prototype for every future relationship that this child is going to have. This is where you learn trust and where you learn how to interact. If someone is depressed or so withdrawn because they’ve got psychotic illness, then it makes it really hard.
‘Unfortunately these days we’re trying to be so many things and the result for some people sadly is that they’re not doing any of them well. Guilt keeps coming up again and again – that’s a recurring theme.
‘The reality is kids will suckle the good stuff – anything you’re able to give them. Basically you’ve only got to get it right 30% of the time, try to get it right another 30% and the rest of the time, well the kids will cope!
‘Be bigger, stronger wiser and kind no matter how little you know about parenting – you know more than your child. If you don’t know it, you can find out – ask someone about it.’
For help, visit www.beyondblue.org.au.
‘I spent 3½ years photo-documenting enslaved prostitutes in Cambodia – Vietnamese women who were trafficked across the border.
‘These women were being raped repeatedly. One of the women’s wrists was covered in suicide marks and she was one of the women who knew what she was going in to. The state of mind, the cultural beliefs that are engrained in to these women or young girls, I can’t grasp it. It was a big hurdle for me to get over and I realised I can’t; it’s not a hurdle for me to jump.
‘I was back in Sydney and got an email from the NGO I’d been working with over there saying the raid had been performed and the women had been rescued as a result of my work. Up until that point, I had very little faith in what was happening from the NGO point of view. I got the impression that they were only investigating the shacks (brothels) while I was over there. Unfortunately it took a 9 year old child’s presence in that brothel to perform the rescue. Human trafficking is illegal and the police knew there were women in there that had been trafficked. I asked them what it took to perform a raid and the Cambodian police said to me they had a thousand other brothels like this one, why should they choose this one?
‘This whole experience has definitely challenged me. I had to see two psychiatrists while I was away. It centred me a lot as a person but it’s made me sad. I’ll never forget those women – especially the first girl I photographed – she was crying and curled up in a foetal position.
‘I feel proud now about what I’ve done – knowing that the 9 year old girl is now being educated and the NGO will give her a job when she finishes school as they will with the other women that were rescued in the raid. It’s a breaking of the chain. When the girl grows up, her children will then know they can get an education and get a job.
‘One of my favourite quotes is, “Every waterfall starts with a drop of water”. If I can help someone or inspire someone to do what I did or help in some way, I know I’ve succeeded.’