Photographer – Julie Slavin
Angela and Paul Bell b. 1961
We recently celebrated 32 years of marriage! We met in a bridal party when we were twenty years old. For three years we kept in touch by mail as we were living in different cities and states for work, me as a teacher and Paul as a clerk in rail freight. Eventually we moved in together in an idyllic beach shack on the top of a headland on the Mid North Coast of NSW.
During our years together, we’ve travelled, built houses, bought our children into our happy home, surfed and had many amazing adventures.
We’ve taken every opportunity to travel. We’ve trekked in Nepal, ridden elephants in northern India to search for black rhinoceros, and sailed in the Maldives. We’ve lived in Yorkshire, ferry hopped in the Outer Hebrides, and surfed in Indonesia.
Before our daughter and son were born we settled on a 'bush block' and owner-built a small, warm mud-brick home. It was a perfect, simple country existence. When we decided to make the sea change, we bought and renovated the old beach shack and became very involved in the local surfing community. Surfing became a way of life for our family.
Now we feel so excited, privileged and grateful for the new chapter in our lives: we are grandparents to twin girls!! We intend to shower them with love and a sense of fun and adventure. We want to instil our love of travel in our grandchildren. It is so exciting.
Eve Grzybowski b. 1944
I’ve been a yoga teacher for almost 40 years. For 18 years during this time, I suffered from osteoarthritis in both hips. Yoga postures, breathing, relaxation and meditation helped me through a painful period.
Arthritis taught me to be more compassionate towards unwell and ageing individuals. I learned to use yoga to help people with physical problems as I worked with my own limitations.
It’s true what they say, that having hip replacements can give you your life back. I had double hip surgery 10 years ago and had to learn to walk all over again. Yoga helped me rehabilitate; I was back to teaching in just a few months.
Around 2003, my husband and I joined with two other couples to create our vision of communal living. Now we live under the same roof, supporting each other in our endeavours. Co-habiting is a clear expression of who I am: a person who builds communities.
When my yoga teacher died and my sister passed away, this had a profound effect on me. I started to see that death was every bit as important a stage as birth. And maybe not to be feared. I’ve been working as a palliative care volunteer in our Manning Valley region. I visit people who are at the end of life, listen to their stories, learn about their families and hear their concerns.
Life is still full of surprises. I haven’t become obsessed with death. Two new grandchildren have appeared in the last couple of years and, with any luck, there will be more.
Graham Gibbons b. 1944
I’ve lived in Taree all my married life except for 12 years when we left for work. Taree is a great place to live.
About 10 years ago, I discovered that my grandmother was Indigenous. This was a great revelation and opened up a whole area of life to explore. I’m a Murrawari man and my Indigenous family came from around Goodooga/Brewarrina. I’ve met a lot of relatives over the last few years and we’re always catching up for special occasions.
I’m a keen fisherman and there’s plenty of opportunity to fish around Taree, although there are fewer fish now. I like the bush and when our children, Rachel and Andrew, were young, Christine and I took them camping as much as we could.
I’ve done lots of jobs – as diverse as an accounts clerk. I’ve worked in Sydney, Lismore and Cairns. I hated Sydney and couldn't wait to leave, although I had the best job: looking after heritage gardens in Concord for the Health Department. The gardens were beautiful and went right down to the Parramatta River. It was a haven for me in amongst the busyness of Sydney.
We also owned a mixed orchard in Lismore. We grew avocados, mangos, lychees, grapes and mandarins. We enjoyed this lifestyle, but then we moved to Cairns where we renovated a house and I worked as a maintenance person in a large resort.
Now, Chris and I travel a lot, but when I'm home I enjoy seeing my children and grandchildren, making walking sticks from wood collected from the bush, gardening, and looking for gold with my metal detector.
Marion Hosking b. 1926
I was born in Burwood, NSW, attended many schools during difficult economic times, and left when I was 13 to work in a shop. My lifelong thirst for knowledge saw me complete a BA at University of New England, Armidale – when I was 74.
After this, I wrote a book, Why Doesn’t She Leave?: The Story of a Women’s Refuge, inspired by many years as a volunteer at Lyn’s Place (Taree Women's Refuge). I was overcome when I was awarded the Centenary Medal, followed by an OAM nomination for Australian of the Year, and Volunteer of the Year.
Feminism, atheism and left-wing politics have always been part of my makeup. My views were confirmed by Upton Sinclair, Dickens, and then Germaine Greer, who espoused views I always held: that women had every right to the same advantages as males. In the 1970s the NSW Humanist Society required a Secretary. To my great joy, I was asked to fill that role. The society had wonderful speakers espousing freedom of speech, civil liberties, abortion law reform, Family Law changes and, of course, opposition to the Vietnam war.
So, my pleasures? Hearing the footsteps of my kids and my kids’ kids arriving. Politics remains an interest I share with women friends in a group we call, Socialist Women for Justice. Discussing politics is particularly satisfying with a few extra years under my belt. Sometimes, just sometimes, my age gives me the edge in political discussions. People think I know more than I really do – that because of my age I am wise. However, it is pleasing to be thought wise, at least not a fool!
Pastor Russell Saunders OAM b. 1955
All those who know Russell speak of his warmth and humility. He is an artist, teacher, gallery owner, fisherman and Pastor of the Purfleet Church, but more than that he is a family man and deeply rooted in his Biripi Aboriginal heritage.
His life, he knows, is much busier than he can remember. His monumental sculptures made from huge gnarled trees bearing Aboriginal people and native animals can be found in public and private collections throughout the region. His beautiful paintings, with a mixture of ancient, spiritual and modern imagery, show the Aboriginal heritage of the Biripi. They adorn schools, council buildings and libraries in the Manning.
Russell's connection with schools is deep and demanding. His unhappy experiences with school when he was young have given him the passion to help the children. He returns to schools several days a week as the Elder in Residence, sharing his knowledge and art. In 2017, he won an Education Worker Award at the NAIDOC Awards ceremony. He has also been awarded the Manning Valley Visual Arts Award and an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).
Russell's Welcome to Country addresses at civic functions are not only accompanied by his didjeridoo performance, but also by his wisdom about his people and their ancient and enduring connection to country.
Julie Slavin (b. 1949) was born and raised in Gosford before moving to Sydney. She spent three formative years in San Francisco in the early 70s and returned to Sydney, where she got involved in the art scene. Then, being pregnant, Julie went 'bush' to live an alternative lifestyle in Elands. She had two daughters and several husbands, built homes, delivered babies, and worked with a leatherworker, all while continuing to paint. Since 2001, Julie has worked as a press photographer for the Manning River Times and for the Manning Regional Art Gallery. She has also photographed the portraits of local Elders for a book, and worked with Djon Mundine (Aboriginal artist, curator, writer and activist) on a project of inclusion with local Aboriginal families. Today she supports local artists and musicians with her photography, along with ongoing projects at the Manning Regional Art Gallery. The latest of these being "Packed, Lost, Found", a documentation of images and stories of fire effected people of the Manning region.