Photographer – Tayla Martin
Bizar and Kojr
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.'
Meet Gavin. In his retirement village, he's also known as Elvis. Growing up in the small town of Tallimba in Western NSW, Gavin's love for Elvis Presley began when he received his first record at 10 years of age. 'I started collecting from then ... I prefer the earlier Elvis music before the 60s.'
When Gavin was 15 years old he moved to Wagga Wagga and went door knocking until he found a job. He has since worked in various industries, including roof tiling and concreting, and he has been involved in many different unions.
You will often see Gavin driving the streets of Wagga in his red Chevrolet. He takes his car to the annual Elvis Festival in Parkes, where he has won the best Elvis Era Car on show for the past five years. Gavin and his wife, Marilyn, have even travelled to Graceland in the USA to see where it all began for the King of Rock and Roll.
Janine lost her mum to dementia, so she believes in fitting as much into life as possible.
She recently shaved off her hair to raise awareness of depression and suicide prevention as part of the 'Black Dog Ride', an annual fund-raising initiative involving thousands of Australian motorcycle riders each year. Janine has been involved in the ride for five years. She and her partner will be riding their motorcycles to Tasmania in the coming months.
Battling through her life with depression, Janine is a strong believer in starting the conversation on mental health and a passionate advocate for spreading awareness about depression. She is semi-retired and works at the Department of Justice.
Born in Wagga Wagga in 1941, Lola has lived there throughout her life.
Lola started her family of three children in Wagga, and her family has now expanded to three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
At 76, Lola continues to work at the Wagga Ronald McDonald House as a caretaker. She has worked there since it opened 12 years ago. When speaking with Lola, she discussed how important physical activity and keeping active is. 'I usually come to the pool around four times a week. In my other spare time I look after my veggie gardens at home.'
Born in Nyngan in 1925, Marjorie moved to Sydney in search of work during the war. She found work in a textile factory that produced towels, which were sent overseas to the Australian soldiers.
It was while living in Parramatta that Marjorie became a die-hard Parramatta Eels fan. She started following the Eels when they were founded in 1947. The club marked its seventieth anniversary in 2017, so it called for a little celebration.
'I used to go to the games as much as I could,' she says. 'My favourite players were Ken Thornett and Mick Cronin during the 1980s. I remember going to one game with my sister and it was the only time Cronin was sent off the field.'
Returning to Nyngan at 34 years of age, Marjorie married and started a family, and has lived there ever since. She continues to follow the football and hopes to see another premiership for the Eels in the near future.
Nabiha was born in 1940 in a small village in Southern Lebanon. Born during the second world war, Nahiba's family had to flee their village. They crossed the mountains by donkey in the winter and stayed in a small town until it was safe to return. 'I had a dream about living in Australia,' she says.
In 1968, this dream came true when Nabiha came to Australia with her husband and children to live in Melbourne. 'When we came to Australia we didn't speak any English,' Nabiha says. 'I taught myself through watching the cartoon show, Sesame Street.'
Nabiha started cooking when she was only eight years old after her mother passed away. In 1973, Nabiha and her family moved to Wagga Wagga, where she later began her cooking career.
Nabiha bought her store in 1989, and that was the birth of 'Nabiha's Kitchen'. Nabiha showed me around her garden with its impressive array of vegetables, fruits and herbs. She gets up every morning at five to take care of it all. The garden supplies the fresh produce used in her shop. In 2013, Nabiha published her first cookbook, Lebanese Recipe of My Life, documenting her favourite recipes as well as her own life story.
21, Wagga Wagga
Tayla is a young regional artist who grew up in the small community of Nyngan in rural NSW. Tayla relocated to Wagga Wagga in 2014 to study a Bachelor of Creative Arts and Design (Photography and Graphic Design) at Charles Sturt University. In 2017, she was selected as one of the top 10 student photographers in the world, and travelled to London for the Sony World Photography Awards. Now in the final semester of her degree, Tayla plans to continue on to postgraduate study and further advocate for the arts throughout regional NSW.