In 2015 I have an amazing year. I had launched Pop Up Office and started to create a little community of micro business people to share knowledge and network.

I also organised a wonderfully fun event called the #VisitQueanbeyan Progressive Dinner Party, which was highly successful and raised funds for the Queanbeyan Treehouse Group for Special Needs Children.

At the beginning of 2016, I was asked on the back of al that, if I’d like to help organize the The Canberra Small Business Expo. I said yes. However, there was a very small element of doubt about whether I should do it.

We started organizing it when the political climate in Canberra changed, and an election was called. At the same time my father who had had Parkinson’s for about eight years developed dementia and his health was in rapid decline.

I have run a business for 20 years, I’ve given birth to a wonderful child in that time and going through divorce, whilst always maintaining a viable and successful business.

Businesses do tend to fluctuate but I feel that at this point in my career I had very little energy left. At the beginning of 2016, I noticed that my mental health was suffering. By June I was diagnosed with an acute mental health episode, and I found it extremely difficult to see light in anything.

The day-to-day running of my business suffered (hugely!) and because of the political climate and the type of work I do come up which is mainly corporate and event work these days, meant that I had far too much time on my hands to think.

My Mum, sister and I in the meantime were caring for my dad at home. To see my father who is a renowned entomologist, succumb to this dreadful disease was and is heartbreaking. Our family are very close and we are a great team, but it was relentless. It takes a whole family to tackle dementia!

Dad has a type of dementia called Lewy Body Dementia which is often associated with Parkinson’s disease. It is associated with paranoia, hallucinations and anxiety. If you’re going to get dementia it’s not A nice one to have.

People ask me does your dad still recognize you? Yes, he does. Most of the time. The neural pathways in his brain however cannot allow him to make a constructive conversation. He is often agitated especially with my mother and I don’t know how she manages to keep on going at times. He seems to have much resentment towards her and you cannot reason with him or tell him he’s wrong. We spent all of 2016 attending to his every need, often with very  little thanks from him. 

Eventually after some other health issues he was admitted to hospital and from there and it up in a nursing home.

There was a palpable relief within our family. Short-lived. Dealing with a family member in a nursing home is horrible as you know that you can care for your family member far better than the staff at any nursing home. However, most of the time we absolutely love going into the home and we always say hello and engage in conversation with all of the people living in the home. Dementia is associated with loneliness, and if we can engage with other human beings in a similar situation to give them a little bit of light in the day, then it makes for a happier life for everyone.

We were determined to find out what type of dementia dad had at the beginning, but it really doesn’t matter? When you see all the people in the dementia wing of the nursing home all you need to do is be nice to them, because and talk to them, hold they hand, take them for a walk and smile at them. They all respond the same way to kindness.

I often talk to my sister about the dementia wing of the nursing home, saying that it is like a holding zone, people waiting to die. It sounds awful, but sadly seems true.

I digress here for minute the aged care industry needs a good shake up!  Staff are underpaid, and often under trained. Most of the staff in the nursing home that we are associated with, come from overseas. They are lovely but it does reflects the attitudes of many Australians who are unwilling to work within this industry.

As with anything, it can be highly rewarding especially if there’s a good background knowledge of dementia when caring for people.

Anyway as I said I digress.

This image was taken by Nathalie Hicks of Nathalie Hicks photography she was the AIPP professional photographer photographing the AIPP ACT AWARDS PRESENTATION last week.

I look at this image and it says so much. I entered the category of documentary photography. With documentary photography you are required to present images that have no Photoshop.

There was much criticism of theAIPP Australian Professional Print Awards in 2016, saying it was more like the Photoshop awards. 

This post is not a told-you-so moment. As you can see in this image I am absolutely shocked that I won.

I am extremely happy that I won the ACT Documentary Photographer of the Year with my images. No photoshop, just a captured moment.

My images are a reflection of my year, last year. They have a somber mood, and they make mention of topical issues and highlight human frailty. They are images that don’t necessarily have a wow impact, but sneak up on you. They are real images, with heart.

So I am exceedingly grateful for the recognition and for the fact that the craft of capturing an image has been recognized.

So once again thank you to Nathalie Hicks for capturing all of that in one image!